Amidst the clink of kaleeras, the serenity of a gurdwara and the glory of sword, the sight of a typical Anand Karaj is truly enthralling. A Sikh Anand Karaj takes place in full grandeur. From meaningful rituals to high-spirited receptions, a Sikh wedding is no less than a fiesta.
Sikhs are known to be one of the bravest and happiest communities of India. The Sikh community is also known for their acts of sheer generosity, valour and kindness. They strictly adhere to their traditional customs and rituals. They have been able to preserve the sanctity of their vibrant culture and rituals through their weddings. A typical Anand Karaj takes place in the morning in a gurdwara. The bride decks up in a salwar kameez or lehenga while the groom dons a sherwani on the wedding day. Anand Karaj literally translates to a ‘blissful union’ or ‘joyful union’. The holy ceremonies of an Anand Karaj usually span through several days of exuberant events and festivities. The simplicity and enthusiasm of an Anand Karaj wedding is bound to touch your soul. The gleeful rituals and extravagant celebrations shall truly melt one’s heart. Take a look at the conventional rites and rituals that forms an intricate part of an Anand Karaj.
The most important thing in a sikh wedding is the parental assent. For a marriage to take place, it is absolutely imperative for the parents of the bride and groom to give their approval. After the parents of the bride and groom have acceded to the wedding, a roka ceremony takes place. The roka ceremony is usually held in the presence of intimate friends and family. The father of the bride along with elders of the family visit the groom’s abode. The pre-wedding rituals of an Anand Karaj include akhandpaath, kirtan, ardas, preparing kadah prasad, shagan, chunni chadhai, warna and sangeet.
Akhand paath is the continuous reading and completion of the holy book Guru Granth Sahib within two days. The home where this ritual is meant to be held is usually cleared of all kinds of furnitures or distractions. Just the essentials such as white sheets are unrolled on the floor and a sundry of fresh flowers are placed before the Guru Granth Sahib. Right after the completion of the holy book, a bhog ceremony is held. Akhand paath is followed by a kirtan that takes place a week before wedding.
A kirtan implies a performance of religious texts accompanied with music called bani. Ardas is a form of prayer that is recited diurnally by the Sikhs. During the ardas, the wedding guests altogether recite these prayers. After the iteration of the holy prayers, kadah prasad is distributed to everyone in attendance. The prasad is made up of loads of clarified butter, fruits and nuts. It is either made in the gurdwara or at the bride’s abode. The bride’s family then pays a visit to the groom’s house with a shagan. The shagan consists of money, numerous gifts, dry fruits, sweets, coconut, etc. A kesar tilak is applied on the groom’s forehead marking an official entry into the family. The sweets are then enjoyed by everyone as a family. Kurmai or the engagement ceremony happens with an exchange of rings between the bride and the groom.
Chunni chadhai is another very significant pre-wedding ritual amongst the Sikhs. During the ritual, the females of the groom’s family partake in presenting a red chunni or a red ensemble. They even present to the bride precious jewellery and a make-up kit with which she can deck herself up on the wedding day. The colour red is considered to be a symbol of prosperity and good life. To ward off the evil eye, the family members of the bride and groom wave the currency notes around the heads of the bride and the groom. This money is then given away in charity.
A grand sangeet ceremony takes place where the family members and other relatives come together and sing traditional folk songs. Traditionally, only the women folk of the house partook in the sangeet ceremony but with time, even the male members are seen in the function, making the event even more gleeful. Mehendi ceremony takes place after the sangeet ceremony. During the mehendi ceremony, the family members of the bride and the groom come together and apply mehendi on the bride’s hands and feet. The groom’s family also present opulent gifts to the bride.
Jaago is a traditional pre-wedding ritual of the Sikhs. During the jaago ritual, the women folk of the groom’s family carry an earthen pot full of water from the gurdwara. The groom is made to bathe out of this water. After this, the chooda ceremony takes place where the bride is gifted a set of traditional red and white bangles. These bangles are first dipped in a container filled with milk. The bride wears these bangles until several months after the marriage as a symbol of a newlywed. After the bride is made to wear the bangles, kaleeras are attached to these bangles (kaleera is a traditional hand jewellery from Punjab made up of gold or some other precious metal). A fun filled ‘breaking of the kaleerien’ ritual is held where the bride moves her hands to loosen the kaleerein off her wrists over the heads of her unmarried sisters, relatives and friends. On whomsoever the kaleerein falls on is believed to get married soon.
On the wedding day, the friends, family and relatives of the bride and groom rev up to head to the gurdwara where the wedding is to take place. The bride and groom get ready at their respective places. At the groom’s abode the groom is made to wear a customary turban after which, the sehra bandi ritual is followed where a veil made of flowers is tied to the groom’s turban. He is then made to sit on an ornate horse’s back. The family members and other relatives accompany the groom to the gurdwara. This wedding procession is called the baraat. As everyone reaches the gurdwara, the bride and groom are readied for the laavan pheras. The holy book Guru Granth Sahib is then adorned with an exquisite cloth. Prayers and hymns are chanted to seek the blessings of God for the couple. After the prayers have been recited, the groom’s dupatta is knotted to the bride’s pallu symbolising their sacred bond of togetherness. They take four pheras around the Guru Granth Sahib which means they walk around the holy book four times. Before beginning each phera the bride and the groom bow down before the holy book seeking blessings. At the culmination of the laavan pheras, the couple is formally pronounced as husband and wife, tying them in a bond of love and commitment for life. As she leaves her home, she sits in the doli which is held by four relatives at the corners. As she reaches her husband’s home, she is presented with a receptacle full of rice grains that she throws back over her head. This marks the onset of a new journey for her.