The Sikh Wedding Ceremony – Anand Karaj
The Sikh wedding ceremony is known as the anand karaj, which translates as ‘ceremony of bliss’. In Sikhism the ultimate goal of life is the realisation of God and this union with God is believed to be more easily attained through marriage. The anand karaj is symbolically representative of the joining of the individual soul to, the supreme soul, God.
The beauty of the anand karaj is in its simplicity. The ceremonial elements can vary ever so slightly between different regional communities but the prescribed methods generally leave very little room for confusion. Most Sikh weddings nowadays take place within the Gurudwara (Sikh temple) and it is customary for the wedding to be held in the bride’s home town or city.
The significance of the milni is to celebrate the alliance between two families. Usually, the groom’s party will arrive and assemble outside the Gurudwara where they will be welcomed by the bride’s side. A short prayer is recited to bless the joining of the two families. The fathers of the bride and groom will start by exchanging garlands with one another, after which point other key members of the both the bride and groom’s families would do the same. Sometimes there is also an exchange of gifts at the milni.
As most Sikh weddings take place in the morning, the milni is usually followed by breakfast served inside the temple …but this is not a part of the ceremony!
Entering the prayer room
All guests assemble in a long room facing the altar where the sacred Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh scripture) is positioned. Women will be seated to the left and men to the right. Welcoming hymns about the auspicious occasion are sung by the raagis (singers at the Gurudwara) as the groom enters. He presents a new rumala (silk covering) for the Guru Granth Sahib and bows before it, touching his forehead to the ground.
As the groom, it is important that you remember to sit on the right-hand side facing the Guru Granth Sahib.
The bride enters
The bride also presents a rumala as an offering and pays her respects to the Guru Granth Sahib. She will then take seat to the left of her groom ready for the actual ceremony to commence.
After a short prayer, involving the couple and their parents, the bride and groom bow before the altar to indicate that they agree to their duties and obligations to one another as equal partners. The father of the bride will then take the end of a ceremonial stole worn by the groom and places it in the hands of his daughter to signify that she is now in her husband’s care.
The granthi (priest) will now read the first of four verses known as lavan. The same verse is then sung by the raagis while the bride and groom bow to the Guru Granth Sahib and rise to complete their first nuptial round or phera. You will lead your bride in a clockwise motion around the altar. By the time the raagis have completed the verse you will have returned to your place before the altar. You will rise again to complete phere in exactly the same way for the next three Iavans.
- In the first lavan the Lord sets out his instructions for performing the daily duties of married life.
- In the second lavan the Lord guides you to meet the true guru – the primal teacher.
- In the third round of the marriage ceremony your heart is filled with divine love.
- In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, the mind becomes peaceful having found the Lord.
As the couple take their phere, it is customary for the bride’s brothers and cousins to assist her as a way of showing their support as she enters into a new family.
Everyone rises as a final prayer is recited to conclude the marriage ceremony. Karah prasad (blessed semolina pudding) is then distributed among the guests followed by congratulatory hugs and handshakes exchanged amongst the congregation.
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