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Ceremonies & Rituals

Sikh Wedding Ceremony

 "They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together. Rather they alone are called husband and wife, who have one soul in two bodies." (Guru Amar Das, Pauri, pg. 788)

The Sikh wedding ceremony is known as "Anand Karaj" which means 'Blissful Union". The Sikh marriage is a very special ceremony in which two individuals are joined in an equal partnership. It is not merely a physical and legal contract but a sacrament - a holy union between two souls. The spiritual goal of any Sikh is to merge his or her soul (atma) with God (Parmatma) and in marriage, the couple vow to help each other towards this goal.

The Reht Maryada, the official Sikh code of conduct states that no thought should be given to the prospective spouse's caste, race or lineage. As long as both the boy and girl profess the Sikh faith, they may be joined in wedlock. This code also forbids any sort of dowry arrangement and discouraged any horoscope matching or superstitions to determine a wedding date or time.

The Anand Karaj ceremony can be performed in any Gurdwara (Sikh temple) or home where the holy book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib has been respectfully installed. The ceremony takes place in the presence of parents, relatives and friends. The ceremony is usually performed in the morning and generally takes no more than a few hours.

Each ritual of the Anand Karaj ceremony represents timeless sentiments and traditional values. The festivities and ceremonies are invariably performed in the following sequence

As in many Asian marriages, a formal engagement takes place before the wedding. The engagement ceremony called the Kurmai or Shagun is usually performed one week before the wedding in the Gurdwara or at the home of the boy. It involves Ardas (the common Sikh prayer), Kirtan (hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib) and Langar (traditional meal) if performed in the Gurdwara. Both families come together exchanging gifts and mutual promises of marriage. The bride and groom will exchange rings.
If performed at home, the bride's family visits the house of the groom for a short time. The groom is presented a gold ring, sweets and a "kara" (bangle) with a minimum of eleven gold mohra (sovereigns). These are later strung in to a black thread and put around the girl's neck after the wedding.

After the "shagun" the groom's family (usually close female relatives) visit the girl's house and present her with a wedding "chunni" (veil), traditional suit, gold ring and other jewellery. The boy's mother puts a little mehendi (henna) on the girl's palms to declare her engaged.

Three days before the wedding, the 'Akhand paath' and the 'myah' ritual are begun. Both practices last until the wedding day. Akhand paath is a three-day reading of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In the myah ritual, the bride and groom are both cleansed by their respective families each morning and night. Their hands, feet and faces are massaged with flour, oil and tamarind powder to purify them for their rapidly approaching married life.

A couple of days prior to the wedding vatna, a scented powder consisting of barley flour, turmeric and mustard oil is applied to bride's and groom's bodies to be followed by a ritual bath.

On the eve of the wedding, called mehndi ki raat, the hands and feet of the bride are intricately patterned with a paste of henna, oil, lemon juice and water steeped in tea leaves. Mehndi is supposed to symbolise the strength of love in a marriage. Hence the darker the designs, the stronger the love This event is celebrated with lots of fun and frolic by all the girls of the family and the bride's friends amidst much music and dancing. Every guest is given traditional sweets as a take-away gift.

The Chooda ceremony is an important ceremony, whereby the bride is made to wear 21 red and cream ivory bangles. Kalira (ornaments) are then tied to the bangles by the bride's maternal aunt and uncle. The purpose of kalira is to make housework impossible. The bangles and kalira are worn throughout the wedding ceremony and for 40 days afterwards. Unlike traditional Hindu conditions where the bride was requested to cook for her new family as soon as she entered the house, Sikh brides are given time to acclimatize to their new families.

The morning of the wedding starts with this ritual of applying paste of turmeric, sandalwood paste, cream and rosewater to both the bride as well as the groom. The bride and groom are scrubbed clean. Both the bride and groom get ready in their respective homes. In the groom's house, gharoli ceremony is performed. The groom's sister-in law accompanied by other female relatives go to a nearby well or Gurudwara to fill an earthen pitcher or gharoli with water which is later used to bath the bridegroom.

The bride usually dresses in a heavily embroidered "salwaar-kameez" or "lehenga-chunni". She also wears a traditional 'nath', nose ring presented by her maternal uncle. The nose ring compliments her salwar-kameez, dupatta and jewellery. The bride wears a full veil, hiding her face from the groom until after the ceremony. The groom may wear Indian or western dress provided his outfit maintains, the 5 Ks of traditional Sikh dress: Kangha (comb), Kesh (hair, unshorn), Kaccha (shorts), Kirpan (sabre) and Kara (bracelet).

Relatives and friends dress up in vibrant coloured attires and avoid white colour as it is considered unlucky. The male members of the family also wear pink turbans.


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