The thought of whether Sikhs wear wedding rings had never crossed my mind until recently when my friend fell in love with a Sikh. Out of sheer curiosity, I sought to find out whether Sikhs wear wedding rings.
Do Sikhs wear wedding rings? Yes, they do. However, it is essential to note that unlike other religions, Sikhs have different views on jewelry. According to the Rehat Maryada, a Sikh can wear any jewelry, including a wedding ring, provided they don’t pierce any part of their body.
Sikhs believe in love, pretty much like all other religions. Their idea of symbolizing love, though, goes beyond just the engagement or the wedding ring. That is precisely why not all Sikhs wear wedding rings.
Before considering whether Sikhs wear wedding rings, it is first necessary to note that Sikhs refer to the Pathic Sikh Rehat Maryada a lot. To Sikhs, the Rehat Maryada is the code of conduct, without which they feel lost. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Sikhs refer to the Rehat Maryada even on jewelry issues.
In the foregoing, the Rehat Maryada doesn’t object to wearing any Jewelry. As already said, the only prohibition comes along when a Sikh pierces their body for purposes of putting on jewelry. The Rehat Maryada further states that putting on ornaments and many different decorations without first understanding life’s value is like dressing a corpse.
Note too that Sikh priests or Amrithdharis, as they are known, follow different sets of rules from what regular Sikhs. Having been admitted into the Khalsa, they have to remain devoted to Sikhism and provide guidance to their followers. Many don’t bother with material possessions like jewelry. That explains why many Sikh priests are usually not so keen on wedding rings.
History of Jewelry in Sikhism
You may have noticed that Sikhs go big on jewelry during special occasions like weddings. They then go back to their simple lifestyles and wear a necklace, anklet, or a bangle. There’s a reason for this.
According to Sikh history, wearing of nose rings and earrings indicated slavery. Slave owners used such ornaments to identify their slaves. Khalsa culture was against such oppression. They advocated and still advocate for total freedom. To date, Khalsas consider the act of putting on jewelry, especially earrings, as degrading.
Dr. Gurbaksh Singh showed his concern for jewelry and piercings when he toured the United States for religious duties. He termed the act as ‘silly.’ This came after observing many Sikh students back, men and women, pierced their bodies.
For many Sikhs today, the wedding ring is an expression of love. Of course, this is a borrowed culture not from the west, as many people believe, but from ancient Egypt, where wedding rings were common. This usually raises concern for many devout Sikhs who believe that a true Sikh should not copy western fads that compromise Sikh values.
Today, it is not uncommon to see a Sikh bride wearing an engagement ring after Kurmai. She’ll continue to adorn the ring even on her wedding day. It doesn’t end there. After going through all the marriage rites, the bride will have to wear a separate, simpler wedding ring. In most cases, the initial wedding ring gets replaced by a golden band.
Golden Wedding Rings
You may have noticed that Sikhs value gold probably more than other metals. It is hard to understand why but part of the reason has to do with Baba Makhan Shah, a devout Sikh, and a wealthy trader. According to Sikh legend, he once got caught in a fierce sea storm. Pleading for his life to be spared, he promised Guru that he’d give him 501 gold coins if he survived. He survived, so he docked and went on to find Guru to keep his promise.
Every man Baba Makhan met said he was a Guru. He couldn’t tell who was telling the truth, so he decided to gift each man who claimed to be a Guru two cold coins. Each man was happy to receive the gold coins and go his way.
Then he met a Guru who received the two coins but out of the blue, asked for the other 499 coins. Baba Makhan, out of bewilderment, decided that that was the true Guru. His name was Tegh Bahadur, whom Baba Makhan announced as the 9th true Guru of Sikhs.
To date, Sikhs value gold. It doesn’t even come as a surprise that the Sikh Golden temple boasts of 24 layers of gold. The total amount of gold used to decorate the temple measures 1600kgs. Take all this into account, and it doesn’t come as a surprise that many Sikh ornaments and jewelry are golden.
Traditionally, a Sikh groom receives gold coins and a special gold ring from the bride’s guardian. The coins must be strung to form a beautiful necklace for the bride to keep and wear. The groom’s family must also return the favor. They must offer the bride a golden ring, amongst other gifts. It doesn’t end there. Maternal parents celebrate the birth of their grandchild by offering new mother jewelry.
One thing stands out in the aforementioned scenario. Unlike other cultures and religions where the groom offers the bride a ring, Sikhs deviate from this kind of ‘norm.’ The ring doesn’t come from the groom. Instead, it is the other way around – it comes from the bride. It is only after the groom receives the ring that he can return the favor and gift the bride’s family with a different golden ring.
Wearing The Golden Ring
In many cases, the golden rings exchanged as gifts remain treasured for as long as the couple is married. Strangely, the couple may choose not to wear their wedding rings daily as it is the case in many cultures. They may wear their rings though during special occasions or even give the rings later on to their loved ones as gifts. This has a lot to do with the facts that Sikhs are not supposed to be too attached to wealth and possessions.
Another factor worth mentioning here is the ring symbolism. In the modern world, couples exchange rings as a symbol of love. In Sikhism, the rings are exchanged, not by a couple but by their families. The exchange has very little to do with the love the bride and groom have for each other. It is more of an act meant to strengthen the ties between the groom’s and the bride’s families.
Sikhs don’t exchange wedding rings during the Arnand Karaj. Instead, they do the Anand Karaj Lavan, followed by circumambulation around the Guru Granth Sahib. The circumambulation, which must be done four times, marks the completion of what Sikhs refer to as the ‘blissful union.’ In other words, the couple now has their souls tied together. They must remain loyal to each other and submit to the Guru Granth Sahib.
A couple may choose to exchange wedding rings as a symbol of their unending love and commitment to each other. This hardly ever happens inside the Gurdwara. The reason is simple – during the wedding ceremony, Sikhs follow the Rehat Maryada to the last word. This means no exchange of wedding rings.
Sikhs wear wedding rings. But as already explained, this is mostly out of their own accord. It is not a religious or cultural obligation. As long as a couple went through the Arnand Karaj, they don’t have to symbolize their union through the exchange of rings.
It is also worth noting that Sikhs in the west are more likely to insist on having wedding rings after the Arnand Karaj ceremony compared to their counterparts in the East, who most choose not to exchange wedding rings. In a nutshell, the wedding ring issue boils down to individual couples. They may or may not choose to exchange wedding rings.