>A snapshot of a Sikh wedding

>Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh. This is a traditional Sikh blessing which translates as ‘the Khalsa belong to God, Victory belongs to God’. It is used at the beginning and end of every prayer. It is also used as a greeting amongst practising Sikhs.

My good friend Jerry was married at the weekend. He’s a captain in the Army and has found someone to whom he’s happy to share his life with and is comfortable with living an army way of life. Now the significance of his marriage is two fold. First that he had a traditional Sikh wedding on the Saturday. The next day he had a military blues wedding. Being Sikh, Saturday was no different to my own wedding day. It’s the Sunday that I’ve never experienced before and immensely enjoyed it. Anyhow, I thought it might make a good post to talk about what happens in Sikh weddings. I’ll also touch on a lot about the Sikh way of life.

Just as when talking about the Christian religion we talk about Christianity, when talking about the Sikh religion I’ll be saying Sikhi. One quick note is to mention that Sikhi is a monotheistic religion. There are ten gurus in Sikhi who provided the foundations and complete philosophy for what it means to be Sikh: Guru Nanak Dev ji, Guru Angad Dev ji, Guru Amar Das ji, Guru Ram Das ji, Guru Arjan Dev ji, Guru Har Rai ji, Guru Har Gobind ji, Guru Har Krishan ji, Guru Tegh Bahadur ji, Guru Gobind Singh ji.

There’s a lot of pre and post wedding activity that I won’t talk about as it’s mostly cultural and unimportant compared to the day itself. On the day, the groom traditionally dresses in a kurta pyjama. This is a long one piece tunic type outfit. His head should be covered and tied in a turban. He should have unshorn hair on his face. He should have a sword. The colour is unimportant. In Sikhi, the importance of the groom dressing in this way reminds him that he is a disciple of God. There are two important factors here:
1) our tenth Guru (Guru Gobind Singh ji) decreed that if you call yourself Sikh you should be easily recognisable as one and therefore should always keep the following observable: kesh (unshorn hair), kanga (a comb to keep the hair neat), kara (a steel bracelet worn on the forearm), kacchera (long shorts from waist to above the ankles), and kirpan (sword).
2) our first Guru (Guru Nanak Dev ji), believed that to live a good life you should always do the following three activities: kirat karna – your work should be positive and contribute to society, wand ke chakna – share what you have with others, naam japna – always remember and say God’s name. In Sikhi, a core part of living a fulfilled life is to marry and have a family.

The bride wears a red lengha. This is an outfit which allows the bride to sit and move with ease on the day. The main piece is a flowing dress from the waist to just above the ankles. She is modestly covered and is also required to cover her hair. Make up and the such like are mainly fashion statement as opposed to religious significance.

On arrival at the gurdwara (Sikh place of worship, translates as House of the Lord), the families of the bride and groom formally meet each other in an event called the milni which literally translates as ‘the meeting’. The fathers meet first, adorning the other with a garland. Typically, brothers and uncles are part of the milni. The ladies do the same event but later in the day and normally in the same way. The bride and groom meet for the first time (not these days mind) and do the same. Everyone enters the gurdwara and has time to refresh themselves before entering the Darbar Sahib (prayer hall).

Every Darbar Sahib will have features laid out in a similar fashion. At the head of the hall in the centre is the Guru Granth Sahib. This is the holy scripture in Sikhi, but Sikhs regard it as the living Guru. This is because it contains the teachings of Gurus and other learned and enlightend saints from the time of the Gurus, and from past wise souls. As such, Guru Gobind Singh ji explained that after him, there would be no need for another person to take on the role of Guru for Sikhs. All questions can be answered by reading and learning about the teachings within the Guru Granth Sahib. The Guru Granth Sahib is always placed on a raised platform. It is kept encased in a plain white cloth when not being read. It is covered by a canopy. Only someone learned in Gurmukhi is allowed to read the Guru Granth Sahib. The important thing here is this is not restricted to any one person – whoever learns to read the script and lives the Sikh way of life is entitled to read the Guru Granth Sahib.

Traditionally men sit on one side of the hall and women on the other. This is not a strict observance, but done so that a focus can be maintained by both sexes.

To the side of the Guru Granth Sahib you will find a sevadar (voluntary worker) who serves prasad (blessed offering). This is often halwa, but can also be mixed sweets. The halwa is made in an iron pot called a karahi. On entering the Darbar Sahib, you step in front of the Guru Granth Sahib and bow your head by kneeling on the floor. This is of particular importance because of how Guru Gobind Singh ji initiated the first Khalsa. Khalsa means ‘the pure ones’.

Guru Gobind Singh ji, at a time of Muslim rule across North India, had a faithful following of people. He wanted to create a uniform way for Sikhs to be readily identified that was different to Hindus and Muslims. At a large gathering he asked for the heads of his followers to prove their devotion. Five offered their heads. He took them to a tent where minutes after entering blood was observed flowing out. He actually cut the heads off goats. These five were called the Panj Pyare – Five Loved Ones.

Once you have bowed down, it is traditional to make an offering to the gurdwara. This can either be money or food. You then take some prasad from the sevadar and listen to the prayers being said.

At the wedding, the groom awaits the bride to enter and they both sit in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. The granthi (person who reads the Guru Granth Sahib) addresses the sangat (congregation) and informs that everyone is to take part in the ardas (prayer) to initiate proceedings. An ardas is done at the beginning and end of every undertaking or task. Everyone stands during the ardas with hands folded. Each time the ardas has been recited, a hukamnama (Will or Order of God) is taken from the Guru Granth Sahib. This is a passage which offers insight into human life and existence and offers a focus for any situation you may be facing that day.

After the ardas, the bride, groom, and parents of both are asked to stand to do a prayer separately. The Granthi then informs the bride and groom they will do the Laavan (walking around the Guru Granth Sahib) four times. This complete piece is known as the Anand Karaj. In it’s simplest form, the four laavan depict the four stages of human consciousness seeking realisation.

Once the laavan are complete the Anand Sahib is sung. The Anand Sahib is translated as ‘prayer of bliss’. This prayer is meant to bring about a state of bliss once recited. The ardas is once again sung and then a hukamnama is read from the Guru Granth Sahib. Prasad is then given out to the congregation and this signifies the end of the wedding.

This is formally the end of the wedding. Having a reception after the event is normal these days whereas according to Sikhi the following should be done. In each gurdwara, langar is served. Langar is food made for the congregation which is free and available to anyone who comes to pray at the gurdwara. The concept of langar was put forward by Guru Nanak Dev ji to uphold the principle of equality between all people. The langar prepared is pure vegetarian and no alcohol or smoking is ever allowed on the premises.

I hope this gives an insight into what happens at a Sikh wedding and into Sikhi. I was going to add pictures but that would make this a very long post and this is already as long as it needs to be.

There’s a lot of very good websites that provide further information about Sikhs:

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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