Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Anand Karaj

Anand Karaj is the prescribed form of Sikh marriage, the words literally translate as "Blissful Union". The Sikh marriage is a very special ceremony in which two individuals are joined in a equal partnership. It is joyous and festive event which is very family orientated and informal in it's atmosphere. Sikh marriages are usually arranged with families acting as little more than introduction services. In our case, Jyot and I chose each other first and then sought our parents' consent and blessing.

The Reht Maryada which is the official Sikh Code of Conduct specifies that no thought should be given to the perspective spouses caste, race or lineage. As long as both the boy and girl profess the Sikh faith and no other faith they may be joined in wedlock by the Anand Karaj ceremony. The Reht Maryada strictly forbids any sort of dowry arrangement as marriage is not to be viewed as a business transaction. Sikhs are also discouraged from consulting horoscopes or following any other superstitions pertaining to determining a wedding date or time.

The Anand Karaj ceremony can be performed in any Gurdwara or home where Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the Sikh holy book) has been respectfully installed. The religious ceremony cannot be performed in a hotel or banquet hall. There are no restrictions as to what time the ceremony should start or what time it should end although they are usually performed in the morning with the religious ceremony taking no more than a few hours.

Before the ceremony begins, you are to be seated in the Gurdwara. While you are waiting for the Groom to enter, you will be listening to kirtan (the singing of hymns). When the Groom arrives he will be seated in front of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The bride will arrive traditionally escorted by her father and brothers as well as cousin-brothers, but it is not uncommon for her to be escorted by her parents alone. Now that both the bride and groom are present, the Anand Karaj will begin.

The Giani will address the significance of the union that the couple is about to embark on. Next, the couple and their parents will rise for Ardas (prayers asking for God's blessing for the union). Ardas will be followed by the Palaa Ceremony. The palaa is a shawl that is folded lengthwise and the right end is draped over the Groom's shoulder and into his hands. During this ceremony, the Bride's father takes the left end of the palaa and places it into the hands of his daughter. The palaa bonds the couple together with the consent of the bride's father.

Next the most important ritual in a Sikh wedding ceremony is the Laava. The laava is a series of four prayers that describe the four stages of love and married life. During each of the four prayers, the Groom leads the Bride around the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The Bride walks behind the Groom and is assisted by her brothers or in the absence of brothers, her cousin-brothers. After each verse, the couple bows to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

When the couple circles the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji each time, they are making a commitment to God with the Guru as spiritual witness and support. And as one circles the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji the couple are reminded that the Guru should be the center of their life, from which springs their spiritual guidance and understanding that the couple will require for their souls' long journey across this world ocean. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the centre and the Sadh Sangat (Holy Congregation) is their worldly witness and support.

When the four laavas are complete, the hymn of Anand Sahib (prayer of Complete Happiness) is read by the Ragis. There is also an Ardas, which marks the completion of the ceremony. A Holy "Vaak", which is a random reading of the of a hymn in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is read out whilst Karah Parshad (holy food) is distributed to the whole congregation.

This marks the end of the Anand Karaj or wedding ceremony.

No comments: