For those who are not familiar with the term, ‘Sikh’ is the word used in Punjabi for ‘disciple’ or ‘learner’. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that is mostly met in South Asia and it dates back to the 15th century. Besides the Scripture, the teachings and the philosophy present in this religion, something else that catches most of people’s attention when they hear about this culture is the traditions and customs Sikhs have. One of the most beautiful ceremonies in this religion is the Sikh marriage ceremony, which is also known as Anand Karaj (‘blissful union’ in English).
Anand Karaj comprises of many other rituals that usually go on for nearly a week. Both families of the bride and the groom mutually decide the wedding day and the ceremony usually takes place in the morning. The first ritual that precedes the ceremony is the purchase of a set formed by four pieces of cloth. These pieces are used in order to cover the holy Guru Granth Sahib. The engagement ceremony is known in Punjabi as ‘kurmai’ and it is usually performed in the house of the groom-to-be. Some people combine the engagement ceremony with the wedding and hold both of them in the same day, but the engagement can also take place in a different day. During the engagement ceremony, religions rhymes are recited. The groom and the bride exchange rings and both of their families offer each other gifts.
After the engagement is over, the groom’s family, usually female members, come and visit the bride’s house. This is the moment when the groom’s mother covers the head of her future daughter-in-law with a chunni and applies on her palms mehendi for good omen.
The actual Sikh wedding ceremony is not very elaborate. Both families of the bride and the groom’s go to the gurdwara in order to attend the main hymn singing, also known as kirtan. The priest recites the holy prayer of supplication, the ardaas, and afterwards, the couple takes pheras around the sacred Guru Granth Sahib. The groom is the one who leads the pheras while carrying a sword in his hands. After this ritual, the couple is pronounced married and they take the blessings of their older family members.
The Sikh wedding ceremony continues with other post-wedding rituals and traditions, such as vidaai, which is considered the most emotional moment of the entire ceremony. During this ritual, the bride is supposed to bid goodbye to her family while throwing back some puffed rice over her head and making wishes of well-being and of prosperity for both her parents and her new family. Another ritual is pag phere, when the groom and the bride visit her family for the first time since they officially become married. The bride’s family offers the newly married couple gifts and prepares a great feast for the groom.
As a result, the Sikh wedding is not only the happiest day in the life of a couple, but it is also a ceremony filled with various interesting traditions and rituals.