I could never have imagined that Sikhs had arranged marriages until I witnessed one that triggered my curiosity even more. So, I decided to get more of their marriage narrative and share it with you.
Do Sikhs have arranged marriages? Yes, most Sikhs do have arranged marriages. And the value and commitment they give to this union are immeasurable. The Sikhs allow arranged marriages because they’re voluntary and have the full support and consent of both families.
The families of the man and woman will get to know each other and participate in the wedding preparations. Sikhs accept assisted marriages wholeheartedly. Just like other sacred unions, their marriage is a ‘ceremony of bliss’ where a wedding ceremony is held in a prayer room.
How the Sikhs Perceive Marriage
Sikhs believe that marriage is a commitment before God (Waheguru). People become companions/partners, not for gratification but to be there for each other during their spiritual paths.
The purpose of marriage is for couples to form a mutual partnership before God and unite their souls with God.
Many Sikh marriages are conducted under customary laws. There are plenty of things to keep up with when organizing Sikh marriage ceremonies.
Before the Sikh Wedding
Before considering a Sikh wedding, you have to note that there’s a Sikh code (Sikh Reht Maryada) that states that people who don’t profess the Sikh faith cannot be married under the Anand Karaj Ceremony.
Only when you are prepared to take on marriage responsibilities will you be married. Child marriages are not allowed within the Sikh community.
Although Sikhs conduct arranged marriages, this is not usually necessary since boys and girls can meet directly and mutually agree to get married.
The Engagement Ceremony
Before marriage, a couple will have an engagement ceremony if they want. They’ll fix a suitable date themselves.
Most Sikh marriages are conducted in the morning. During the ceremony;
- The two sides (bride and groom’s side) will meet (Milni) as holy shabads (hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib) are sung.
- They’ll say the Ardaas (supplication) during the Milni and greet one other with the “Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh” – a Sikh greeting that says Khalsa belongs to the Wondrous Giver of Knowledge and to whom victory belongs.
Sikh Pre-Wedding Practices
Here are the rituals performed by Sikhs before the main wedding ceremony;
The Roka and Thaka
The most crucial element of every Sikh wedding is getting consent from your parent. The union of the two will only progress when parents have given their consent. Parents’ blessings are very important to every couple.
The Roka and Thaka are essential pre-wedding rituals that involve the full support of parents to the marriage. The bride’s father will visit the groom’s home to present his approval. To express his approval, he’ll apply a tilak on the groom’s head and offer him gifts, including clothes and sweets. The groom’s parents will do the same at the home of the bride.
The Kurmai Ritual
This is the formal engagement ceremony conducted at the Gurdwara or the bridegroom’s house. Before the ceremony starts, the Gianni or priest will perform a short prayer. The groom will then give the bride a ring. In turn, the bride’s family will give the groom a steel bangle (kara) and a small knife (kripan) as a symbol of heritage.
They’ll then place a reddish scarf on the groom’s neck and shoulders with dried dates in his hands. Next, the bride’s grandfather feeds the groom with dates. The guests will be treated to a meal and drinks after all formalities have been cleared.
During shagan, the family of the bride will send gifts to the groom’s family before the formal wedding ceremony. The gifts, which consist of dry fruits, fresh fruits, clothes, sweets, and coconuts, are wrapped in elegantly decorated trays.
The Chunni Chadana
This ritual is carried out a few days before the Anand Karaj. All the groom’s female relatives will visit the bride’s home with a wedding outfit, jewelry, and makeup. The groom’s mother will cover the bride’s head with a blessed headscarf (chunni) as a symbol of acceptance into the family.
The Maiya Ritual
This is a cleansing ceremony conducted five days before the wedding. The bride and groom will be applied with oil into their hair and turmeric paste all over their bodies. This ritual is conducted separately in their various homes. Their female relatives will hold up each corner of a red scarf above the groom and bride while singing traditional wedding songs.
Vatnaa is a massage session given to the bride and groom. All married women in the family will offer the couple a massage of combined mustard, barley, and turmeric. The ceremony is conducted as women sing wedding songs amidst a celebrative mood.
The Karahi Chadana Ceremony
Karahi Chadana is performed five days before the wedding. A huge karahi (wok) will be used to prepare a meal that will be served to all the guests visiting the house in the few days prior to the wedding. They prepare sweet or savory food that will be served directly from the karahi.
The Warna Ritual
During warna, money will be waved around the couple’s heads in a clockwise motion before it’s dropped on them. Later the money will be donated to charity. The warna ritual is performed to cast away any evil that may be surrounding the groom and bride.
This is where a red thread will be tied on the groom’s right wrist and the bride’s left wrist. The thread is meant to protect the two from any negative premonitions.
The Mehndi Ritual
Mehndi is conducted three days before the main wedding. This is when the bride’s hands and feet are decorated with henna paste. All female relatives will also have their hands decorated with henna.
Chura and Kalire Ceremony
This is where the bride’s uncles will present her with white bangles (Chura), which have been washed with curd and rosewater. By washing them in this mixture, the bangles become blessed. The bride will wear the bangles, which will be covered with a silk shawl to conceal them.
After the Chura ceremony, the relatives of the bride will tie kalire (metallic ornaments shaped like umbrellas) on her bangles and offer blessings. All the bride’s unmarried female relatives and friends will be gathered to allow her to move the kalire over their heads. If the kalire falls on one’s head, she’ll be the one who’ll be wedding next.
Every Sikh wedding ceremony spans over several days and includes rituals and other preparations by the couple’s families. The marriage ceremony revolves around the Guru Granth Sahib, which is their Holy book.
The Sikh Wedding Attire
Sikh grooms often wear a white Kurta with an Achkan (long overcoat). The achkan is made from brocade or silk. They can also wear sherwanis instead of achkan. Their achkan and sherwanis are adorned with beadwork, threadwork, or precious stone setting.
Grooms can pair their achkan or sherwani with a churidar pajama and sport the traditional mojri to add to their outfit. The mojri is an embellished slipper. Wearing a beard during the wedding ceremony is a symbol of adhering to the Sikh faith. The groom is also supposed to wear a pink turban around his head on the wedding day.
Sikh brides wear ornate and embroidered salwar kameez that is well decorated. A red dress has been used in Sikh weddings for many years. But currently, they wear different colors. But they have to cover their heads with Dupatta.
The popularly worn wedding dresses are Lehengas. The Sikh brides compliment them with traditional earrings, bangles, necklaces, Mangtika, Payal, and Panja.
Sikh Wedding Rituals
Sikhs also conduct wedding rituals before the actual ceremony. They include;
Sehra Bandi Ritual
Before the groom departs from home, his turban will be tied by his father. The father will then hand him a sword to carry throughout the wedding ceremony.
The groom’s sister will also tie a sehra made of a string of pearls, golden ribbons, or flowers around his turban to cover his face.
Soorma and Kalgi Ritual
The sister-in-law to the groom will put a dot of Surma (Kohl) on the side of his forehead to repel any negative energy. His sister will tie jewelry on his turban. She’ll then stand between him and the front door and demand for gifts in exchange for her attending his wedding.
The Baraat Ritual
According to custom, the groom is supposed to travel on a horse containing golden ribbons and other decorations to Gurdwara (the bride’s house). His friends and family will follow closely while singing and dancing.
The Baraat will be welcomed at the Gurdwara gate by the bride’s family and friends singing hymns and praising God. The men of the two families will participate in the Milni. The family of the Garaat will then be introduced as the bride’s family offers them a warm hug.
What Happens in Sikh Wedding Ceremonies?
Sikh marriage ceremonies (Anand Karaj) are conducted at gatherings in the holy presence of the Guru Granth Sahib.
The groom will enter the hall once the bride arrives. They’ll then sit next to one another with the bride sitting on the left side of the groom.
The groom will come wearing a sash over the shoulder, of which its end will be placed in the bride’s hands by her father or guardian.
During this time, the person officiating the wedding will read the four Lavan.
The couple sits side by side as hymns are sung. They’ll then rise as the music continues and walk slowly around the Guru Granth Sahib, with the bridegroom leading. The two will then bow before Guru Granth Sahib as they accept their obligations.
The wedding couple, accompanied by their parents, will offer the Ardaas to seek Waheguru’s blessing before the Anand marriage session commences.
The couple will then go through a session where they vow their fidelity in the presence of the Guru, holy congregation, and the Granth Sahib.
By bowing before Guru Granth Sahib, they’ll be accepting their marriage obligations.
The wedding ceremony is simple, with no documentation because an Anand marriage is considered a sacrament.
After singing all the four Lavan, the ragis (officiating leader) will read the Anand Sahib. The Ardaas (supplication) will complete the marriage ceremony. At the end of the session, the ragis will randomly read a hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Vaak) before the holy sweet pudding Karah Prasad is distributed to all the attendees.
The guests will be served a vegetarian lunch before conducting the Roti ceremony. This ceremony is a symbol of the bride’s first meal as a married woman. Her in-laws will present a covered platter, gifts, and cash to the bride. The bride will share her meal with her husband.
The bride will change into the outfit and jewelry given to her by the family of the groom. Then she’ll be blessed with monetary gifts and best wishes of Sada Shagan (to never go through widowhood) by the elders.
A reception will then be held to honor the newly-weds. Friends and family will be there to share and enjoy meals together with song and dance.
A Doli celebration will be held to bid the bride farewell as she departs her paternal home to join her husband.
As she departs on her Doli (wooden palanquin), the bride will throw rice grains over her shoulder. The grains will land in her mother’s outstretched hands as the bride wishes them (her parents) eternal prosperity.
All her friends and relatives will be there to say their goodbyes give her a warm send-off. The groom’s family will be waiting on the other side to shower her with flowers, offer her blessings, and feed her with sweets to welcome her to her new home.
Who Conducts Sikh Marriage Ceremonies?
Sikh marriages are conducted by an Amritdhari Sikh. This is any man or woman who has already undergone the traditional Amrit initiation and is practicing the Sikh code in their daily lives.
They’ll read the four Lavan from the Guru Granth Sahib to the couple in the early stages of the wedding ceremony.
The officiating individual will apprise the couple regarding married life duties as expressed in the teachings of Guru. They’ll explain the mutual obligations of the husband and wife to them.
The love between Sikh couples is an epitome of the love between the human and Supreme souls, as described in four Lavan. The Guru Granth Sahib contains a Suhi Raag section with four hymns composed by the fourth Guru.
What Sikhs Allow in Marriage
These eleven Sikhism rules are meant for parents, families, prospective spouses, and officiating parties.
For a Sikh marriage to be successful;
- You should choose a partner with the same faith (a Sikh).
- Choose a marriage partner who is physically and emotionally mature and ready to take on matrimonial responsibilities.
- A Sikh bride and groom should be united in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib, according to the ceremonial rites of Anand Karaj in the hall or Gurdwara.
- You can re-marry only you are a widow or widower.
- The teachings of Guru Granth Sahib enshrine equality among men and women, even if their roles are regarded as complementary.
What Sikhism Doesn’t Allow in Marriage
- The code of conduct for Sikhs forbids any rites or rituals based on superstitious practices and customs.
- You cannot forcibly marry off your child. That is their choice to make once they are mentally and physically mature.
- Sikhs strictly forbid all the Hindu superstitions and rituals during and after marriage.
- People who don’t profess the Sikh faith will not be joined in matrimony through the Anand Karaj ceremony.
- Sikhs are monogamous, and they cannot marry outside their faith.
- Extra and pre-marital affairs are prohibited.
- Dowry is not accepted in Sikhism.
- Divorce is not allowed in Sikhism. Civil divorce is a very grave matter since both husband and wife took a vow in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib to be together for life. Couples are expected to honor their vow by resolving their differences amicably. In the rare circumstances a marriage breaks down, the Panj Pyaare or Sangat will allow you to re-marry after a civil divorce. However, marriage is not something you can form and break at will.
Sikhism is an old religion that dates way back to the 15th century. It is ranked 5th among the largest religions in the world, and it commands millions of followers. According to the Sikh belief, all humans are equal. This also applies to marriage.
They strongly object to the caste system. Whether arranged or not, every Sikh marriage is consensual, as long as the two parties profess the same faith. Their marriage institution is based entirely on their religious beliefs. It is supported by all elders and religious leaders to make sure couples stay married all their lives. Only rare cases of divorce are presented.