Sikhs don’t perceive marriage as a simple connection between partners. On the contrary, in the Sikh religion a marriage represents a holy union between two souls that are united as one. As do most cultures around the world, this one has its own wedding traditions, traditions that strong and able disciples cherish with the utmost respect. Wedding traditions strongly reflect the Punjabi culture with songs, dances, food and dresses. The marriage or the “Anand Karaj” as it is frequently called, stands for blissful union and it focuses on the commitment the couple makes in front of the Guru, who is the center of the couple’s life. Above all, the goal of the ceremony is to merge the souls of the partners with Parmatma (God). Although there are several rituals that take place before and following the ceremony, the most significant ones are those related to the actual wedding ceremony.
As a general rule, the marriage ceremony takes place either at the home of the bride or some other place where the Guru can be present, but always in the morning. The place that houses the formal part of the ceremony bears the name of Gurdwara. At about 11 o’clock, the guests and the couple advance to the main prayer hall where everyone is expected to take off their shoes and women have to cover their head in an appropriate manner. The Sikh wedding ceremony is performed by a priest, either man or woman, who begins with singing the Holy Hymns or Gurbani. While the guests arrive, religious singers that are found on a stage in front of the hall located in the proximity of the central stage of the guru enchant appropriate hymns. The first hymn (kirtan) is sang by the bride and groom and this hymn is chanted in order to maintain the ceremony pure. After several hymns are chanted, the priest (Giani) moves on to the formalities. More precisely, the priest reads from the writings of the fifth Sikh guru. This ceremony comprises four parts that revolve around the idea of karma, faith and blessing. The four prayers are called Lavaan and their role is to seal the marriage. Basically, the couple has to bow down to the holy book and wait until the next verse.
Once the lavaan is completed, the couple is showered with flowers and the bride and the groom can be considered officially married. The wedding ceremony is followed by a reception party at the groom’s house that is more for the enjoyment. Guests are served with food and drink, not to mention that they enjoy music and entertainment. The bride and groom are asked to play some games that symbolize the welcoming in the new family. In conclusion, many families organize parties before and after the wedding ceremony. The practices are not religious per se, but rather cultural. For those who are not a part of this culture it is difficult to grasp the importance of the Sikh marriage ceremony. The emphasis is on holy union and not on partnership.
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