These series of posts have been in the works for a while now and I’m glad that I can finally share with you all. I have wanted to share the traditions and customs that go into Punjabi and Sikh weddings, but felt I wasn’t qualified to write it. Which is why I reached out to the Grewal Twins after connecting with them after ‘that’ photo went viral. They are so lovely and we instantly connected, probably helps as we’re all twins! Over to Grewal Twins now…
Sikh-Punjabi weddings are synonymous the world over for being grand affairs with plenty of colour, plenty of festivities and plenty of guests!
In order to understand the intricacies and significance behind each custom and tradition, it’s important to note the differences between the terms ‘Sikh’ and ‘Punjabi’; one is a spiritual way of life and a major world faith, the other is a region in India with it’s own cultural beliefs and social customs.
The two terms are (excuse the pun) often ‘married’ together, simply because the Sikh faith originated in the land of Punjab, India.
Sikhi (official term) or Sikhism (Western term) is one of the world’s youngest faiths, having emerged in the 15th Century in the agricultural state of Punjab, in the north-west of India. Sikhi is a faith that was ‘born’ as a response to the social injustices and religious hypocrisies prevalent at the time, which were practised and condoned by some faith leaders, priests and the community at large.
The word ‘Sikh’ is a Punjabi language word meaning ‘Learner’, and is someone who believes in One Immortal Creator, recognises the entire human race as One, and believes in social equality; therefore refraining from discriminating between gender, caste, race, ethnicity or any other means of identification.
A Punjabi is someone who can trace his or her ancestry, heritage or roots to India’s agricultural north-western state, Punjab (which means, ‘Land of the Five Rivers’).
The actual term for the Sikh wedding ceremony is ‘Anand Kaaraj’ (explained below). Nowadays, many Punjabi customs and traditions have found their way into the Sikh wedding ceremony, and so blurring the lines between culture and faith.
Please note that traditions can also differ from one family to another, in terms of which cultural practices they choose to include or not. In our own family, when I got married (and when my sisters were married), we chose to omit many of the Punjabi Cultural pre-wedding ceremonies (Chunni/Roka and Kurmai) and amended other customs based on our personal view that these ceremonies and customs were not relevant to our situation.
Punjabi Cultural Pre-Wedding Ceremonies
Kurmai (Official Engagement between the two families)
This often taken place a few weeks before the Anand Kaaraj ceremony. In some cases, we’ve even seen this carried out just moments before the Anand Kaaraj itself. In this ceremony, the Bride’s family bring dry fruits or Ladoo (Indian Sweets) as an auspicious offering to the Groom’s family home, and sometimes gifts in the form of money and gold jewellery. Collectively, the offering is known as Shagan. Just a note: whenever you pay a visit to an Indian home, it’s customary to take something edible with you, in the form of sweets or dry fruits.
The Groom’s sisters (or other female relatives) place one end of the Palla (ceremonial stole) over his shoulder and the other end in his lap. The Bride’s family will then place the money, sweets and gold gifts in the Groom’s Palla, after which he will then be fed one sweet date (this offering is called, Shawara) by a senior male member of the Bride’s family. This symbolises that the Bride’s family accepts the marriage between their daughter and the Groom-to-be.
Traditionally (as in, way back in the day), the Bride’s family took gifts of gold and dry fruits only, instead of Ladoo with them. Also, the Kurmai took place two or three years before the wedding and it was only the men of the Bride’s family who made this journey to the Groom’s home – who would have most likely lived in a village far from the Bride’s own village. The women stayed behind for their own safety, so as to avoid the risk of being captured by bandits.
With the lack of bandits in the diaspora, the journey to the Groom’s home is nowadays made by key male and female members of the Bride’s family; but not the Bride herself, who is advised to only meet her Groom-to-be (even if it’s a love marriage) on the day of the wedding itself. Some Bride’s choose to dismiss this custom, and do meet their Groom-to-be in the lead-up to the wedding.
We chose to not include the Kurmai ceremony in it’s entirety when myself and my sisters were married. Instead, our immediate family paid a visit to the home of the Groom-to-be with dry fruits in tow, and were introduced to our respective Husband’s key family members. There was no Shawara, since all of my sister’s marriages were love marriages. We all agreed, as a family, that there was no need for anyone to ‘formally accept’ any of our marriages, and that everyone’s blessings were more than enough.3