We’ve come to the end of this Sikh-Punjabi weddings series with the final part – the Anand Karaj. You can catch up with the first post here and the second post here.
The Wedding Day
Sikh Weddings take place in a Gurudwara, with the couple taking four rounds of the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Upon the fourth round, their blessed union is complete. But some cultural practices are still observed in the faith-based ceremony.
Milni – meeting of two families (Punjabi Cultural Practise)
The term ‘Baraat’ is used when the Groom and his family arrive at the Gurudwara.
The Bride is seated in a separate room away from the guests, to create anticipation about what she’s wearing and what she looks like, etc. A sister or close relative accompanies the Bride until she is called in to begin the ceremony.
The Milni takes place either in the grounds of the Gurudwara or the Gurudwara foyer. Essentially, key members of both the Bride and Groom’s family are called forward to meet and place auspicious garlands around one another’s necks. A short prayer (Ardaas) is recited before the start of the Milni, to bless the ceremony.
More often than not, it is usually the male members who meet and partake in the Milni ceremony. But we are beginning to see female relatives being included in this ceremony; in my own wedding, my Mum did a Milni with the Groom’s father, as did my sister and my sister-in-law.
Once the Milni is over, the guests make their way into the Langar (communal kitchen) for some vegetarian snacks and refreshments, provided by the Bride’s family.
Anand Kaaraj – the Blissful Union
After the Langar, the guests make their way to Darbar (the Court of Guru Granth Sahib Ji). At this point, the Bride is still seated in a separate room. The Groom then is seated on the floor in front of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, after making an offering of a Rumalla (auspicious fabric for Guru Granth Sahib Ji)
Her father and brothers (and other close family members behind) then bring in the Bride. For my wedding, I chose to only have my twin sister and Mum walk in with me, My elder sisters and rest of the family were already seated in Darbar beforehand. At my eldest sister’s weddings, they were also walked in by our Mum.
The Bride also makes an offering of a Rumalla and then is then seated beside her Groom.
Another prayer is offered by a Gyani (a priest), where the Bride and Groom’s parents and the Bride and Groom themselves stand for the prayer whilst the rest of the congregation remain seated. This is to bless the families for the ceremony about to begin.
The Raagi (Priest singing devotional hymns) sings a Shabad (Devotional Hymn) to mark the Palla custom, where one end of the Groom’s ceremonial sash is placed into the Bride’s hands. This custom is often incorrectly likened to the Father ‘giving away’ his daughter. Since the Anand Kaaraj is a spiritual ceremony, the Palla custom is intended to symbolise the lasting spiritual union of the Bride and Groom, with the Almighty Creator.
It’s important to note that the message of equality between men and women is at the heart of the Sikh faith. Therefore, if we look at the context of a Sikh wedding from an historically cultural viewpoint, it was traditionally the male members of the Bride’s family who would escort her to the Gurudwara and subsequently witness her marriage. Thus, the Father would then perform the Palla custom. In theory, there is no gender discrimination in the Sikh faith; therefore women are more than welcome to perform the Palla custom, as my Mum did for me and my elder sister when she was married five years ago.
The Anand Kaaraj consists of four Laavan (nuptial rounds) of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The Laavan were written by Guru Ram Das Ji, in Raag Suhi (an Indian Classical Melody) and each of the four Laav (singular term) impart deep spiritual wisdom.
The Laavan is read by a Gyani and then immediately sung by the Raagi. One Laav is read, and then the Laav is sung; this is when the couple make one round of Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The First Laav symbolises a new beginning and the importance of a spiritual union.
The Second Laav advises for a blissful wedded life, placing the Guru at the heart of the marriage.
The Third Laav instructs spending time in the company of Sangat (holy/good congregation).
The Fourth Laav describes the union of the couple with the Creator, and completes the marriage ceremony.
After the Laavan, the Raagi sings some stanzas from the Anand Sahib prayer to conclude the Anand Kaaraj. A sweet edible offering called Parshaad (made from flour, sugar and ghee) is distributed to the Bride, Groom and rest of the congregation.
The Laavan is more than just the Sikh wedding ‘vows’. It’s actually a poetic metaphor in attempting to make us mere human beings understand the attachment between a faithful Disciple and their love for the Beloved (Almighty Creator). The Bride is likened to the Disciple, and the Almighty Creator is likened to the Groom. Which is why the marriage is not just a physical union, but a spiritual one – a union of one light (or soul) in two bodies. The idea is one of a ‘Soul Bride’, and that all of humankind is personified as genderless Brides, i.e. both the bride and groom are the Soul Bride. The disciples are both the human Bride and Groom who form a union together as a couple with the Almighty Creator.
The Anand Kaaraj is then followed by Langar, courtesy of the Bride’s family, and consists of a hearty Vegetarian meal. This is where the Sikh Wedding Ceremony concludes.
Doli (Bride bids farewell to her maternal home)
This is by far the most emotional part of the wedding, or at least it was for me and my sisters!
The Punjabi cultural practise of bidding the Bride farewell from her parental home follows immediately after the Anand Kaaraj or after the post-wedding party. This is called the ‘Doli’, as traditionally the Bride would be carried in a palanquin (Doli) carried by her brothers and male members of her family as a procession takes her from her own village to her husband’s village. Her husband would accompany her on horse at the front of the procession, keeping his sword at hand should he need it to fight away those pesky bandits. This is why you will see a Sikh groom carrying a Kirpan (a sword) as part of his wedding day attire – another example of a cultural practise finding it’s way into a faith-based ceremony.
The Groom and his family will make their way to the Bride’s home (if the Doli is taking place from her home) and be met by the Bride’s sisters and other female relatives at the front door, who will only allow the Groom and his family into their home when their financial demands are met by the Groom! Essentially, this is just a form of Punjabi banter where the Groom has to pay his way into the home. Once he is out of pocket (!) the Groom and his family are welcomed into the home and offered refreshments. This is a bittersweet moment as the Bride’s family comes to terms with the fact that their sister, daughter, cousins, aunt is now officially leaving her home, but ready to start her life with her husband and his family. The Bride is brought into the room where the Groom and his family are waiting, and the couple are fed more auspicious Ladoo’s and sometimes given gifts in the form of money.
Nowadays, Bride’s leave their homes in a car and not a traditional palanquin. As the couple exit the room and make their way to the threshold of the Bride’s home, the Bride will take fistfuls of uncooked rice from a bowl and throw it over her shoulders This is done all the while as she makes her way to the car that will take her to her new home. This custom of throwing rice symbolises the Bride’s way of ensuring that her parental home will forever be prosperous after spending all that money on the wedding!
As the Bride is seated in the car, her family members and loved ones take it in turns to say their goodbyes. This was absolutely heart-breaking for my sisters, and me, and nothing could prepare me for this moment especially having to say goodbye to my twin sister!
If the family chooses to have a post-wedding party or reception, then the guests would make their way over to the party venue.
A big thank you once again for Hernoor and Sukhman for writing these posts exclusively for Secret Wedding Blog.