The Sikh Wedding Ceremony
In any function or ceremony being held at the Gurudwara or the Sikh Temple, the Sadh Sangat (people attending the function or ceremony) are required to cover their heads with a turban or piece of cloth, and remove their shoes before entering the inner premises of the Gurudwara, especially where the holy book or the Sri Guru Granth Sahib is kept. This is a sign of respect for the Lord’s house (home) just as in the Sikh culture, one will respect an elder of the family or community. This respect is a traditional way of showing one’s feelings for the elder one, and the Lord (Waheguru) is the supreme elder.
Also, in the Sikh culture, people of any religion or following are freely allowed to enter the Lord’s house and be part of the Sadh Sangat. This is because the Sikhs believe that there is only one true God anywhere in the world, and it should only be that one God to worship. That is why one can see people of all religions or beliefs are able to come freely to the Gurudwara and partake of the Guru’s langar – this happens all over the world.
Anand Karaj is the name given to the Sikh wedding ceremony, literally translated as "Blissful Occasion". Sikhs regard marriage as a sacred bond of mutual dependence between a man and a woman. A true partnership in marriage is made between those who are united in spirit as well as in mind and body. Marriage is regarded as a strong bond between the bride and groom and the relatives of both families.
Based on a concept depicted in Lavaa, the Sikh marriage is not merely a physical and legal contract but is a fusion of the souls; a holy union between two souls, where physically they appear as two individual bodies but in fact are united as one. The couple must feel and think alike and both must be completely identified with the other, i.e. they need to become "Ek Jot Doe Murti" meaning "one spirit in two bodies".
The Lavaa, or four stanzas, are read and then sung during the ceremony to formalize and sanctify the marriage. The Sikh religious wedding ceremony takes place in a Gurudwara, the Sikh place of worship. The ceremony is held in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy scripture book, and the Sadh Sangat, the holy congregation or gathering. This arrangement offers a way to bring family support into the lives of the couple. Guru Ram Das, the fourth Guru of the Sikhs has given, in the four rounds or Lavaa, a formula for a successful marriage. These four Shabads describe the sacred journey of the soul through this world to the final destination, the merging with the Infinite. If one follows this sacred path and applies it properly to the institution of marriage, it should result in happiness and fulfillment – Anand (Bliss).
The Lavaa – The Four RoundsThe main part of the Anand Karaj is the reading and then the singing of each Laav in turn. When the Laav is sung, the couple as a pair joint by a piece of cloth circle the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This has relevance to the occasion and should not be considered a ritual without a meaning. When the couple circle the Sri Guru Granth Sahib each time, they make a commitment to God with the Guru as spiritual witness and support. And as one circles the Sri Guru Granth Sahib you are reminded that the Guru should be the center of your life, from which springs your spiritual guidance and understanding that you require for your soul’s long journey across this world’s ocean. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib is the center and the Sadh Sangat is your worldly witness and support.
The four nuptial rounds were written by Guru Ram Das for his own wedding. They explain the journey of the souls towards the Almighty. In them, he tells us of the duties that a person undertaking a life of marriage should perform.
In the first round, the Guru asks the partners to:
- commit to righteousness
- renounce sinful actions
- remember, meditate and embrace Naam (the Lord)
- understand that only by good fortune is real peace obtained
- worship the one Waheguru (One God) and all your sins will vanish
- have fear of God and your ego will disappear
- sing God's praises and feel His presence
- remember that God is everywhere, outside and within, sing in Joy
- meeting the Sadh Sangat (Holy Congregation)
- which is only obtained by good fortune
- recite Gurbani and sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord
- the Naam will vibrate and resound within your heart
- and you will know your future destiny.
In the final round, the Guru says that the partners’ minds become peaceful and they will have found the Lord:
- God's Will seems sweet to these Gurmukhs (beloved people of the Lord)
- you will lovingly focus your consciousness on the Lord, day and night
- all your desires will be fulfilled
- the Souls will blend with Waheguru and only Naam will occupy your heart.