Anand Karaj - Marriage

Guru Amar Das says,

They are not said to be husband and wife who merely have physical contact only.
Rather they alone are called husband and wife who have one soul in two bodies.
ਧਨ ਪਿਰੁ ਏਹਿ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਨਿ ਬਹਨਿ ਇਕਠੇ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਏਕ ਜੋਤਿ ਦੁਇ ਮੂਰਤੀ ਧਨ ਪਿਰੁ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਇ ॥
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.788, Var Suhi.

In general terms, marriage is described as the union of a man and a woman to live together as husband and wife according to the standard set out in the holy scriptures. Some people say that marriage is socially permitted, legally agreed or religiously allowed sexual partnership. A civilized way of this expression varies from people to people.

Marriage institution is the most oldest and natural institution. During the last few thousand years of our cultural history, marriage and extended family has been the basis of our social structure. According to Encyclopedia Americana,

“while the original form of marriage is lost in the oblivian prehistorical period, it is safe to say that during historical times some form of marriage has been present in all societies.”
Encyclopedia Americana, Vol-18, p.311, 1975
“The most enduring and intimate relationship between man and woman is formalized in an institution older than recorded history and it is called marriage.”
Men And Women by Peter Swerdloff, p.28

According to Recee Mc Gee,

“Marriage involves a stable set of socially recognized relationship between husband and wife.”

It is an exalted even revered institution.

According to Jeremy Taylor,

“Marriage is the mother of the world.”
Vital Facts of Life by Carl H.Harman and E.W.Marquardt, 1953

Dr. Johnson defines,

“Marriage is the strictest tie or perpetual friendship and there can be no friendship without confidence and there can be no confidence without integrity, and he must expect to be wretched, who pays beauty, riches and politeness that regard which only virtue and piety can claim.”
“Marriage is that relation between man and woman in which the independence is equal, the dependence mutual and the obligation reciprocal.”
Louis Kanfman Anspacher

According to Lal Singh,

“Marriage is an oath taking ceremony of two souls desirous of physical, intellectual and spiritual union.”
Anand Ceremony, The Sikh Review, 1972, p.35, Vol- XX, No:22

According to Promila Kapur,

“Marriage is a Sanskara and as such it is a sacrament and a religious bond which cannot be broken under any circumstances. Ideally, it aims not only at the individual's biological, emotional, social and spiritual fulfillments and development through union with a person of the opposite sex, but also at the development, fulfilment and welfare of the family, and through it of the society and mankind.”
The Changing Status of The Working Woman in India, Vikas Publishing House, Delhi, p.6, 1975

Different Names of Marriage

Marriage is named differently in different cultures and at different places. it is called wedding, Shadi, Vivah or Nikah. This ceremony is called "Anand Karaj" in Sikhism. It has various modes and multiple kinds in different societies. Marriage has also been referred to as Viah and Vivah in Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

My marriage has been performed, O' my father..... ਵੀਆਹੁ ਹੋਆ ਮੇਰੇ ਬਾਬੁਲਾ ... (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.78)
The wedding is performed with glorious splender...
ਵੀਵਾਹੁ ਹੋਆ ਸੋਭ ਸੇਤੀ ...
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.765)

Anand Karaj in Sikhism

The ceremony of marriage, wedding, Viyah, Nikah or Shadi is called Anand Karaj in Sikhism. It is the legal wedding ceremony, recognized in Sikh Reht Maryada. According to the guidelines detailed in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh marriage is a sacred union between husband and wife who have one soul in two bodies. It is considered to be a divine institution with a sacred tie.

The ceremony of Anand Karaj gives equal status to man and woman. Both husband and wife, enjoy equality and freedom in spheres of life. Both of them, enjoy householder's life, love each other, love creation, love the path of Sikh faith, serve the human beings and seek unity with Almighty Lord. To attain unity with Almighty Lord is the theme, mission and objective of Sikh marriage.

Marriage, a sacred Bond

Since before Roman times, this institution has been a matter of contract, at first between families, and later between the parties themselves. With passage of time, the form picked up certain religious trappings, then state sanction, and finally today it comes to us encrusted and hoary with centuries tangled in its hair. But it is still basically considered a contract under broad head of jurisprudence.

Marriage in Sikhism is regarded as a sacred bond of mutual help in attaining the heights of worldly life and spiritual bliss. It is a unity of mind and soul. It is a means to attain spirituality and not an end in itself. The real goal of marriage in Sikhism is union of both souls with Almighty Lord.-See Abstracts of Sikh Studies, April, 1995

“God wants marriage to be a life long union between one man and one woman. ....Wilt thou love her (him) in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her (him) so long as ye you both shall live.” Vital Facts of Life by Carl H.Harman and E.W.Marquardt, p.50, 1953

Pre-marital and Extra-marital relationship

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scripture, puts emphasis on purity of conjugal love. Pre-marital or extra-marital relationship is not allowed at all.

Bhai Gurdas writes,

Seeing other women, do not cast a lustful eye on them, instead consider them as your mother, sister and daughter.
Dekh prayia changian mawan bhaina dhian jane
ਦੇਖਿ ਪਰਾਈਆਂ ਚੰਗੀਆਂ ਮਾਵਾਂ ਭੈਣਾਂ ਧੀਆਂ ਜਾਣੈ ॥ Varan Bhai Gurdas Steek, Bhai Gurdas, Var 29.11

Guru Gobind Singh is very particular about adulterous actions. He says,

“Love your own wife more and more. Touch not another woman’s bed either by mistake or even in dream. Know that the love of another’s wife is a sharp dagger”.
ਨਿਜ ਨਾਰੀ ਕੇ ਸਾਥ ਨੇਹੁ ਤੁਮ ਨਿੱਤ ਬਢੈਯਹੁ ॥ ਪਰ ਨਾਰੀ ਕੀ ਸੇਜ ਭੂਲਿ ਸੁਪਨੇ ਹੂੰ ਨ ਜੈਯਹੁ ॥ Dasam Granth, Part-11, p-842

Need and Objective of Marriage

Sikh Marriage provides for intimate relationship between husband and wife with a feeling of love, commitment and mutual security. Its object is harmonious partnership in life, love, procreation, legalizing of children and union with God. From a worldly perspective, marriage is a natural function of human life and a sacrament in Sikhism.

God Himself after He created Adam, made the observation

“It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.” Holy Bible, Gen. 2:18
“The marriage between one man and one woman accords with God's will and is not a natural development that gradually grew out of man's experience...God instituted marriage for the well-being and happiness of his people; for the purpose of establishing the home as the first and most important unit of society, in which children are to be born to perpetuate the human race....To perpetuate the human race, God created man male and female; and blessing them, He said, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth".” Vital Facts of Life by Carl H.Harman and E.W.Marquardt, p.49, 1953

This means that God ordained cohabitation, or sexual intercourse as an expression of love and for the purpose of begetting children. This is not end in itself. The end result of marriage according to Sikhism is unity with Almighty Lord.

Marriage arranged by parents

Traditionally, marriages were arranged by elders. The prospective partners rarely saw each other until the wedding day.

Most of the people consider that marriage is not just a union between two individuals but a coming together of two families, communities or even ethnic groups. Therefore, the matter of such a great importance cannot be left in the hands of the two individuals; both families have to agree on every detail.

Arrangements to bring two persons to agree for marriage are made differently in different communities. It is believed that different cultures cannot come to terms easily. To the people of western culture, other than Sikhism, this may sound oddly intrusive but few Sikhs may dare to defy the sacred tradition of arranged marriage. In majority cases, it is not rare to have arranged marriages, meaning a union initiated, sealed and delivered by the parents with consent of the two individuals involved ie. boy and girl.

Although trends are changing but still

“marriage was and still is considered to be a union among families, not just of individuals.” (Ballard and Ballard, 1977)

In a typical, non-arranged marriage, after boy and girl meet, one of them informs the parents who either arrange to introduce themselves to the prospective other party or the family sends emmissary to them. Before consenting, some thrashing is conducted about the bride or bridegroom respectively. After satisfaction of both the families, a word of honour is given and performance of marriage is agreed upon mutually by the parents as well as the boy and girl.

Enactment on Anand Marriage

Prior to the year 1909, the marriages in many Sikh families were ceremonised according to Vedic Mantras. The Sikhs were not very comfortable with Vedic marriage ceremony. Towards the end of 19th century, the original Nirankaris supported performance of Sikh marriage keeping in view the Sikh philosophy. The Singh Sabha reformers adopted this rite of marriage. There had been a demand for an independent marriage ceremony Act. Keeping in view the Sikh pressure, a Bill (Anand Marriage) was introduced in the Imperial Legislative Council on October 30, 1908 by Tikka Ripudaman Singh of Nabha which was passed into a law on October 22, 1909. The Act was strongly supported by Sunder Singh Majithia, Kahan Singh and others. - Anand Marriage Act 1909, Act No:V11 of 1909.

Marriage Hymns composed by Guru Ram Das

Guru Amar Das started performance of the ceremony of Anand Marriage (Ceremony of Bliss) by reciting Anand Sahib and Guru Ram Das supported it through marriage Shabads (hymns or four Lawan) composed in Suhi Rag enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Scripture. -Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.773

Ceremony of Bliss

The Sikh marriage is described as “Anand Karaj”. Anand means 'bliss' and Karaj means 'ceremony'. So Anand Karaj means a ceremony of spiritual bliss, health of mind and body; and to be a step forward, merging of one's soul into another and thereby attaining unity with “Ultimate Reality”.

The word Anand Karaj sanctifies the marriage institution. Marriage in Sikhism is a religious obligation. It is neither a contract nor a business but a life long sacred and spiritual commitment. It is not a game but a union for the performance of social and religious duties to achieve the goal of human life and live for one-another. It is a tie of conjunction but there must be an element of consent. It is a spiritual union and an opportunity for serving God through service of humanity. It is sacramental and permanent marriage. It is unbreakable. Only death can break it.

Martin Luther once said, “there is no more lovely, friendly, charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage” *....but that only occurs in its good time. It is not programmed as you would a computer; it does not just automatically happen; both of you have to make it happen.

According to Promila Kapoor,

“Marriage is a Sanskara and as such it is a sacrament and a religious bond which could not be broken under any circumstances. Ideally it aims not at the individual’s biological, emotional, social and spiritual fulfillment and development through union with a person of the opposite sex, but also at the development, fulfillment, and welfare of the family, and through it of the society and mankind.”
The changing status of the working woman in India, p.6

Union of Families

In addition to the spiritual and physical union, a Sikh marriage is also a union of families. It is believed that the marriages are a matter of Sanjog (Providential meeting), hence settled in heaven and performed on earth. It is therefore solemnized in presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs. The Guru is witness to the ceremony.

All un-necessary ceremonies connected with the marriages are not condoned in Sikh way of life, however, some of the ceremonies which may and may not synchronise with the Sikh Reht Maryada are discussed in this chapter.

The Sikh marriage (Anand Marriage) in India is legally covered under “The Hindu Marriage Act”.

The legal concept of marriage under the Act is one of contract and there must be the consensus of the parties to the solemnization of the marriage. Legal requirement for acceptance of the marriage in foreign countries is registration of marriage under the marriage law of the respective land.

According to special Marriage Act 1954 (India), a civil marriage may be solemnized before a Registrar between any two persons. According to marital duties, the wife is bound to live with her husband and to submit herself to his authority. Marriage under the Act is the union of one man with one woman.-Mullas Hindu Law by S.T. Desai, p.518 ; 520

Monogamy and householder’s life is advocated in Sikhism to achieve the Truth and continue reproduction of future generations. Conjugal relations before marriage and extra marital relations during subsistence of existing marriage are extremely forbidden in Sikhism. Such immoral relations are regarded a cardinal breach of the Sikh faith. Separations and divorces on baseless and flimsy grounds are not acceptable in Sikhism. Marriage after the death of a spouse is allowed. It is strongly believed that marriage must be honorable among all and the marriage bed be without defilement and degradation.

In the past, polygamy was prevalent in the Indian society. Males used to have plurality of wives, the reason could be gap in gender population. This adversely effected on the women folk. This proved to be a blot on the fair name of the Indian society. Hence, there arose a need for marriage codification.

'Anand Marriage Act' is an enacted legislation for a Sikh marriage. According to explanation ll to Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, it has been laid down that in sub-clause (b) of Clause 2, the reference to 'Hindu' shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, the Jaina or the Budhist religions and the reference to the Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly. Consequently, in the exercise of power vested in the Government of India under the Constitutional provisions of Explanation ll to Article 25, various Hindu Personal Law Acts, namely;

  • The Hindu Marriage Act 1956,
  • The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956,
  • Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, and
  • Hindu Succession Act 1956 have extended the application of these Acts to all the persons who can be construed or assumed to be Hindus, namely Sikhs, Jains and Budhists. Section 2 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1956 for instance, provides that this Act applies:-
    • a) to any person who is Hindu by religion in any form or development, including a Vira-Shaiva or a Lingayat or a follower of Brahma Prathana or Arya Samaj;
      b) to any person who is Budhist, Jain or Sikh by religion.
      c) to any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends, who is not a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew by religion.

It may be added that exactly the same provision has been incorporated in the other three Hindu Personal Laws / Acts of 1956 to which we have referred.

Pre-wedding ceremonies

Marriage ceremony in Sikhism is very simple. There are no un-necessary ceremonies. However, certain ceremonies which are prevalent in some of the families are discussed here in light of the provisions of Sikh Reht Maryada. Many of the ceremonies are not encouraged in Sikhism but still a few of the people are performing them ritually on dogmatic beliefs.


Rokana means stop or pre-wedding agreement. There is a trend these days for the parents of the girl to go to the house of prospective groom. Take consent of the boy and his parents for a new relationship and give a small sum of money (Shagun) to the would be groom.

Ring Ceremony

One nearly universal tradition has been that of the engagement ring. This custom can be dated back to the ancient Romans. It is believed that the roundness of the ring represents eternity. Therefore, the wearing of wedding rings symbolizes a union that is to last forever. It was once thought that a vein or nerve ran directly from the “ring” finger of the left hand to the heart.

Many people, especially women wear rings. The ring is considered a bond of unending love.

The ring ceremony is performed sometimes before marriage and sometimes at the time of performance of marriage. Sikhism believes in making the wedding ceremonies as simple as possible.

Chunni Chadauna

Parents of the prospective groom go the house of girl's parents to give Shagun to the would be bride.

Jewelry - Due to some or the other reasons, people had been wearing jewelry for centuries together. The jewelry is made of gold, platinum or other precious metals studded with expensive gems, diamonds and jewels etc.

Wearing and keeping of jewelry is considered a social status, security against rainy days and financial distress, and as a health healer.

Betrothal Ceremony (Mangni)

Before marriage takes place, a betrothal ceremony is generally performed which is called Mangni. When both sides are satisfied as to the compatibility of the match, a day is fixed for Mangni (betrothal). Literal meaning of Mangni is asking or begging. Betrothal also corresponds to Kurmai, Sagai or Shagan but it is not very essential ceremony (See Sikh Reht Maryada). Usually the betrothal ceremony takes place at the boy’s residence but some people have started performing this ceremony in Gurdwaras while few others perform it in hotels. The parents and kin of the girl go to the place of the boy for Mangani ceremony. Boy is seated in midst of the assembly in presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Ardas is offered which is a requirement in Sikhism.

ਅਰਦਾਸ ਬਿਨਾ ਜੋ ਕਾਜ ਸਿਧਾਵੈ ॥
ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਸਿੰਘ ਵਹ ਸਿਖ ਨ ਭਾਵੈ ॥
(Tankhah Nama Bhai Nand Lal)
ਕਾਰਜੋਂ ਕੇ ਓਾਦਿ ਮੈਂ ਓਰਦਾਸ ਕਰੈ ॥
(Rehtnama Bhai Chaupa Singh)

Father or guardian of the girl gives Shagan / Chhuhara and puts some cash in the Jholi or scarf of the boy. In some cases, gold ring or bracelet is offered to the boy on betrothal ceremony. At this ceremony, the bride’s and bridegroom’s families exchange gifts but all this is not in consonance with the Sikh Reht Maryada.

The congratulations are extended to each other and sweetmeats are distributed. The boy’s family in return sends some gifts to the girl. The giving of gifts is not mandatory. Generally, the betrothal ceremony takes place in presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib attended by friends and relatives. However, betrothal ceremony and other ceremonies are not an essential part of the marriage ceremony and are not encouraged by Sikh families.

According to Sikh Reht Maryada,

“Marriage may not be preceded by engagement ceremony. But If an engagement ceremony sought to be held, a congregational gathering should be held and, after offering the Ardas before the Guru Granth Sahib, a Kirpan, a steel bangle and some sweets may be tendered to the boy.”
Sikh Reht Maryada, Chapter X1, ArticleXV111 (f)

Marriage is a sacred tie in Sikhism. Although betrothel is giving a word of honour but in some cases, betrothals are seen broken.

Fixation of the marriage date

(Din Dharna ivEwh dw idn Drn~)
The year and day of wedding is fixed. Meet together my mates and pour oil at the door.
ਸੰਬਤਿ ਸਾਹਾ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਮਿਲਿ ਕਰਿ ਪਾਵਹੁ ਤੇਲੁ ॥
ਦੇਹੁ ਸਜਣ ਅਸੀਸੜੀਆ ਜਿਉ ਹੋਵੈ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਸਿਉ ਮੇਲੁ ॥

Fixing of the date of marriage in Sikhism is not negotiated through astrologers. Marriage day is fixed as mutually convenient and suitable to both the families. In the olden days, there was prejudice about the time, day, month and year of the marriage. Sikhism does not believe in omens, auguries or auspicious days. There is no prejudice in fixing the day, time and month of the ceremony. Normally, the marriages are solemnized on Saturdays or Sundays. Invitations are sent to the near and dear. Preparations are made for special food, clothing and gifts.

According to Sikh Reht Maryada,

“Consulting of horoscope for determining which day or date is auspicious or otherwise for fixing the day of the marriage is a sacrilege. Any day that the parties find suitable by mutual consultations should be fixed.”
Sikh Reht Maryada, Chapter X1, ArticleXV111 (g)

Sahe Chithi (Letter of Invitation)

After fixation of the marriage date, a letter of invitation giving the summary of the arrangements is dispatched by the bride’s father to the bridegroom’s house.

Sahe Chithi is a letter of invitation notifying date of marriage. This letter is normally written by the guardians or parents of the bride to the parents of bride groom. This letter is considered to be customary fixation of the marriage date and invitation for marriage ceremony specifying place and date of marriage.

Certain social ceremonies take place in houses of both the families and there remains a great hustle and bustle. In the past, the connected wedding ceremonies were started about a month before the actual wedding day.

Maiyan / Vatna / ਮਾਈਓੱ

(Ceremony of bathing and cleaning the body of groom and bridegroom before nuptials)

The ceremony of Maiyan is performed one to three days before actual date of marriage by the girl's and boy's parents and relatives in their respective homes. This has been an exclusive ceremony performed by women.

A yellow fragrant paste made of Haldi (tumeric), Vesan (gram flour) and mustard oil is rubbed on the face, arms, legs and body of bride and bride groom in their respective homes. The ceremony is performed to clean and make the body glow and soft so that boy and girl give the best of their look on the day of marriage.

Khare Charhna

After Vatna ceremony, the bride is made to sit on a small stool for ritual bath.

Ladies Sangeet

Music, dancing Giddha and singing by ladies is performed at both the houses of bride and bridegroom. The songs sung (epithalamium) by ladies at the groom’s house are called Ghorian(wedding songs in groom’s house) and songs sung in the house of bride are called Suhag (Wedding songs in bride’s house). Light refreshment and gifts of sweetmeats are given to all in attendance. These days, the custom of ladies Sangeet and wedding shower has shortened the long ceremonies held in the past. The wedding has become a one day event which spread over three days in the past.

Dholak Ladies Sangeet



There is a well known practice that relatives from the maternal side called Nankaa Mail, take out a Gidha parading party at night through the streets of village of the Bride / Bride Groom. A day before the wedding day, the ladies carry lighted earthenwares on their heads and sing traditional Bolian and songs full of jokes. They sing folk songs with the beat of Dholki and knock the doors of the village residents and take the household ladies along to a bigger Ladies Sangeet Party (Gaun) being held at the home of bride / groom. This heightens the wedding festivities. - See Sikh Reht Maryada. Un-necessary ceremonies are not allowed

Ghorian (singing eulogy)

Certain social ceremonies take place before marriage when there is great hustle and bustle in the house of the bride and groom. Invitations are sent to the nears and dears. Preparations are made for special food, clothings and gifts. Music, dancing and singing by ladies is performed at both the houses of bride and bridegroom. The songs sung by ladies at the groom’s house are called Ghorian (wedding songs in groom’s house) and songs sung in the house of bride are called Suhag (Wedding songs in bride’s house). Light refreshment and gifts of sweetmeats are given to all in attendance at the time of ladies Sangeet.

The mare (Ghori) was used in the past as a form of transportation. The bride groom would dress in his wedding attire and ride on a mare to proceed to his in laws house for performance of wedding ceremony. The bride groom usually carried in the past a sword in his hands to be used to protect himself and his bride in case of an attempted abduction. At the time of departure of marriage party, wedding songs are sung when bridegroom rides on a Ghori (Mare). (See Sikh Reht Maryada for rightfull information)

Sithanian (Lampoon Song)

This an exclusive event of the ladies. Generally, abusive and obscene songs sung at marriage by the ladies on the bride’s side addressing and ridiculing bridegroom and his relations are called Sithnian. This is an un-Sikh practice.

Note:- Some of the ceremonies are based on dogmatic beliefs. Please see Sikh Reht Maryada, published by SGPC Amritsar, 1945.

Ghori Ceremony


In good olden days, there were no aeroplanes, cars, buses or trains for transportartion purposes. People would travel on foot, use donkeys, ponies, camels, horses, elephants or other animals for transportation purposes. Many people would use carts, Buggies, Dolies (carried by labourers on their shoulders), Palkies, chariots ( Four wheeled horse driven vehicles) and Raths etc. as means of conveyance. Boats and small ships were also used to travel on water surface.

Horse was considered a fast mode of travel. Tourists used horses for security purpose and as a fast mode of transportation. Horses were used in hunting, battles and wars by knights, fighters and couriers.

Horse riding became a symbol of honor and dignity in the early times of Mughals when horse riding was allowed to kings, monarchs, commanders, splended high ups and knights only.

However, Guru Hargobind Sahib openly availed human rights and started riding the best possible horses.

According to Sri Gur Partap Suraj,

Guru Gobind Singh rode a mare while heading his marriage party (Janj) to Guru Ka Lahore.
ਬੜਵਾ (ਘੋੜੀ) ਓਰੂਢਿ (ਚੜ੍ਹਕੇ) ਗੁਰ ਓਗ੍ਰ ਚਾਲਿ ॥
Sri Gurpartap Suraj Granth, Vol-11, p.4541.

Traditionally, mare was used in the past as a mode of transportation for the groom at the time of wedding. As per practice in India, the marriage party people used to carry jewelry and valuables as gift for the bride in Barry. Many a times the marriage parties were ambushed by way -layerers and decoits. Sometimes the bride was abducted also. To plug any mishap, the groom would ride a fast and healthy horse / mare and carry Kirpan for his protection and security. He used to be escorted and accompanied by his brothers, friends and relatives. One of them would ride with him on the same horse as an escort for protection, safeguard and his guidance.


In the modern times when fast modes of transportation are available, horse riding has become merely a symbolism and ritualistic ceremony. Ceremony of Ghori does not serve any purpose other than a symbolic wedding show, dances and performance of Bhangra. Although this ceremony is not normally practiced by the Sikhs but whosoever is practicing it these days would hire a decorated mare for ritualistic riding of groom. The groom in his best attire would ride a mare, may it be for the first and the last time in his life. He is accompanied by a Sarbala (Escort) normally a small boy. The groom would give monetary gifts to his sisters called "Waagh Pharaei" and to Bhabis called Surma Pawaie before departure of Baraat (Marriage Party / Janj).

Ghori has been substituted these days. Majority of people in western world hire limousines or decorate their cars substituting ceremonial Ghori.

People who accompani marriage part are called Barati and people who come fromrelatives side especially maternal side are called Maili.


Many of the ceremonies are not supported in Sikh Reht Maryada. A Sikh must go by the rites as specified in the Sikh Reht Maryada published by SGPC Amritsar and stay away from unsikh ceremonies.

Ceremony of Milni

The marriage party is received with respect and honor by the girl’s family and relatives led by religious singers. At the time of reception of the marriage party, Shabads are sung and prayer is offered. The Granthi would recite the Ardas (prayer) praying Almighty God to shower His blessings.

Ceremony of Milni ( greeting and meeting of families of both sides; Dheta, girl’s father or his kinsmen and Putreta, boy’s father or his kinsmen) is performed where parents, uncles, brothers and other relative of both the families meet and greet each other. Father meets with father and mother meets with mother of bride and groom respectively. They shake hands, garland and embrace each other. Similarly grand fathers, grand mothers, uncles, aunties and maternal uncles and maternal aunties meet with each other.

Exchange of flower garlands, presents and salutations (not essential in Sikhism) takes place at the time of Milni. Some times, the gifts include gold rings, bangles, suits of silk clothes or costly shawls and blankets (This is Manmatt and decried in Sikhism).The Dhetas put some sweets in a plate and offer to the groom's party as Shagan. Thereafter, break fast is served by the girl’s parents to the guests of both the sides in Gurdwara or at the house of the girl’s parents. Then the wedding party moves to appear before Sri Guru Granth Sahib for performance of Anand Karaj ceremony.

Discipline and protocol inside Gurdwara or when appearing before Sri Guru Granth Sahib

Alcohol, Narcotics, Intoxicants and Tobacco in any shape or form are not allowed in the Gurdwara precincts or where there is Parkash (exposition) of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. As a matter of respect, visitors are required to put off their shoes and cover their heads all the times they are inside the Gurdwara Hall. The devotees keep silence in Sangat except reciting the Bani. Meat or meat products are not allowed to be prepared or served in Langar or in Gurdwara.

There is no compromise for any body over this protocol while appearing before Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

Four Lavans (Marriage Hymns)

Four hymns (Lavan) from Sri Guru Granth Sahib are read to solemnize Anand Karaj (Sikh marriage). These hymns are enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib at pages 773-74. In these hymns, Guru Ram Das has written about the marriage of individual Atma (soul) with Parmatma (Eternal Soul). These four hymns mention four stages in the progression of love, between spouses and also of human soul towards union with the Supreme Soul. Marriage is a spiritual journey of one soul in two bodies which needs love, mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual adjustment and committment to attain unity with Almighty Lord. The essence of Lavan Path may be summed up in the following words:

  1. Contemplation of God’s Name
  2. Fear of immaculate God
  3. Bairag and longing of Divine love
  4. Harmony and attainment of God

Guru Ram Das mentions that the married life should be molded according to the spiritual and ideal teachings contained in these hymns.

A gist of the teachings of Lavan

In the first round (Lavan), Lord impresses the daily duties and adjustments in wedded life which will bring change in the lives of two individuals. Guru Ram Das Ji says that the Lord has ordained to perform marital duties and social responsibilities devotedly while living as a householder in the society, Mortal must have love and reverence for the Almighty Lord and always recite His Name in the performance of worldly duties. He ought to follow the path of righteousness and meditate on the true and perfect Guru that would eliminate all the sins and misdeeds. Bliss is obtained through good fortune. Nanak proclaims that by the first round, initial marriage ceremony has begun.

Second Lanv emphasis that as a true partner, the couple must be ready to understand and appreciate each other. Guru Ram Das lays emphasis on holy fear, selfless love and eradication of ego.

Without fear, the love of God is not kindled, nor does the heart become pure.
ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਲਾਗਿ ਨ ਲਗਈ ਨਾ ਮਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਹੋਇ ॥
(Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p.427)

Where there is immaculate fear, there is true love

The respectful fear and devotion of the Fearless and Omnipotent Lord can purify the mind and remove all the illnesses. Mortal becomes like Him. The holy fear of Immaculate lord and the singing of His Name, will also make the mortal fearless. It will remove the filth of ego and pride. By praising His Greatness, the presence of All-pervading God can be with held everywhere.

The third Lanv directs that life means togetherness and no separation. Guru Ram Das signifies about detachment from worldly desires and attractions. This is a stage of spiritual advancement, where the Divine love gets priority over worldly love. When the mortal detaches or restraints himself from worldly relationships and attachments, there emerges a feeling of Bairag (longing of Divine love) for attainment of God in mind. Therefore, awaken the love for God and yearn to contemplate on His Name.

The fourth Lanv is about love, trust, respect and care for each other. It is a stage of equipoise, where there is complete oneness with God, no pangs of separation, no fear and no mistrust. This stage of perfect balance and eternal bliss is attained through true love, full devotion and detachment from worldly attractions. This is a stage of Sahaj, unity and harmony with God which knows no mistrust and duality.

Thus the man’s quest for realization of God begins with first Lanv and concludes with attainment of God in the fourth Lanv.

English translation of the Marriage Hymns (Lavan)

By the first nuptial circling
The Lord showeth ye His Ordinance for the daily duties of wedded life:
The Scriptures are the Word of the Lord,
Learn righteousness through them,
And the Lord will free ye from sin.
Hold fast to righteousness,
Contemplate the Name of the Lord,
Fixing it in your memory as the Scriptures have prescribed.
Devote yourself to the Perfect and True Guru,
And all your sins shall depart.
Fortunate are those whose minds
Are imbued with the Sweetness of His Name,
To them happiness comes without effort;
The slave Nanak proclaimeth
That in the first circling(Round)
The marriage rite hath begun.
By the second nuptial circling (Round)
Ye are to understand that the Lord
Hath caused ye to meet the True Guru,
The fear in your heart has departed,
The filth of selfness in your minds is washed away, By having the fear of God and by singing His Praises.
I stand before Him with reverence,
The Lord God is the soul of the universe:
There is naught that He doth not pervade.
Within us and without, there is One God only:
In the company of Saints
Then are heard the songs of rejoicing.
The slave Nanak proclaimeth That in the second circling Divine Music is heard.
In the third circling
There is a longing for the Lord
And detachment from the world.
In the company of the Saints,
By our great good fortune,
We encounter the Lord.
The Lord is found in His purity
Through His exaltation,
Through the singing of His hymns.
By great good fortune we have lighted,
On the company of the Saints
Wherein is told the story
Of the Ineffable Lord.
The Holy Name echoes in the heart,
Echoes and absorbs us:
We repeat the Name of the Lord,
Being blessed by a fortunate destiny
Written from of old on our foreheads.
The slave Nanak proclaimeth
That in the third circling
The love of God has been awakened in the heart.
In the fourth circling
The mind reaches to knowledge of the Divine
And God is innerly grasped:
Through the Grace of the Guru
We have attained with ease to the Lord;
The sweetness of the Beloved
Pervades us, body and soul.
Dear and pleasing is the Lord to us:
Night and day our minds are fixed on Him.
By exalting the Lord
We have attained the Lord:
The fruit our hearts desired;
The Beloved has finished His work.
The soul, the spouse, delighteth in the Beloved's Name.
Felicitations fill our minds;
The Name rings in our hearts:
The Lord God is united with His Holy Bride.
The heart of the Bride flowers with His Name.
The slave Nanak proclaimeth
That in the fourth circling
We have found the Eternal Lord.

These verses summarize the values and virtues of Anand Karaj. In fact these verses are the stages of a journey towards unity with God.

Note: According to the timings for Ragas, Suhi Rag is sung between 9 AM to 12 Noon. This could be the reason that many people want to perform Lavan ceremony before 12 Noon.

Other Hymns generally recited at the time of Anand Karaj

  1. Hum Ghar Sajan aeye..... (At the time of Milni)(Suhi M-1, 764)
  2. Kita Loriay kam so har par.... (91)
  3. Ardas (for the bride, bride groom and parents)
  4. Hukam / Vak (Before Lavan)
  5. Path of Lavan (773-774)
  6. Path of Anand Sahib (917)
  7. Shabad, Vivah hoa mere Babla.... (78-79)
  8. Shabad, Poori Asa Ji...... (576-577)
  9. Salok, Pawan Guru pani.... (8)
  10. Congregational Ardas
  11. Hukam / Vak

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