After I had got married, it wasn’t too long before I moved in with my in-laws and this took some time to get used to. Living with my new family took time to adjust but it wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be.
Marrying into a Sikh family? Marrying into a Sikh family involves understanding and respecting the families cultural and religious values. As some Sikh families can be stricter than others in their religious beliefs and expect new family members to follow suit.
Sikhs like the Amritdharis, will expect anyone marrying into their family, especially new daughter in laws to observe and respect their religious values. They will tend to have stricter values and expectations, which will need to be respected and followed.
Whilst Sahajdhari Sikhs are not as strict as Amritdharis and may not expect anyone marrying into their family to rigorously follow their religious values and customs. As they tend to follow Sikhism loosely compared to the Amritdhari Sikhs.
Depending on the type of Sikh family being married into, simple things like dress code could need to be respected, so an Amritdhari family may expect daughter in laws to wear traditional clothing at home. Whilst Sahajdhari Sikh families may consider western style clothes like jeans and t-shirts to be perfectly acceptable.
The influence of western cultural values have also affected some Sikh families, especially in the United Kingdom, Canada and United States. Where there has been more of a shift of blending traditional and western culture. This has meant some of the stricter ideals in some Sikh families has become laxer over time.
It’s still easier for a Sikh to marry into a Sikh family, as they know what to expect from a religious standing and may also find any cultural and traditional values easier to appreciate and respect. I am a Sikh and marrying a fellow Sikh and moving in with my husbands family wasn’t a total shock.
I knew what to expect, so the only thing I had to get used to, was being away from my own family. As I had lived with them for at least thirty years and not seeing my mother and father everyday, took a long time to get used to.
Even though I had a new mother and father, albeit, mother-in-law and father-in-law, nothing can substitute your own parents and the longing to be with them. Phoning them and doing video type calls were fine but they were no substitute to being with them physically.
Non-Sikhs, on the other hand may find it more difficult to adjust to the ways of a Sikh family, as the traditions and religious aspects maybe totally alien to them. Some families may be more welcoming to non-Sikhs and as a result, their expectation on having their religious and traditional values followed may not be as strict.
I think in recent times, Sikhs have become more accepting of non-Sikhs marrying into Sikh families especially outside of India. There are still some small groups opposed to this and I see this sometimes when I visit a Sikh temple. Where there are signs stating a ‘Sikh girl can only marry a Sikh boy in a Sikh temple’. But people are entitled to their opinions and likewise Sikh temples can decide on how Sikh marriages need to be followed.
In the rest of this article, I’m going to take a deeper look into how food, dress code to leaving your own parents have a bearing when you marry into a Sikh family.
Depending on the religious and traditional values of the Sikh family, food can be an area where careful consideration is required. Especially if the Sikh family are Amritdhari as their religious values will dictate them following a vegetarian diet.
So, if you’ve been used to eating meat at home when you’ve lived with your parents, moving into a household that is strictly vegetarian can require some readjusting, especially if you are non-Sikh.
Moreover, even if the Sikh family eat meat, certain meats are typically taboo, like Beef, so eating this would be severely frowned upon. Meat eating Sikh tend to eat poultry like chicken, lamb and pork.
For me, it wasn’t a problem, as my father-in-law ate meat and whilst my mother-in-law was vegetarian, she didn’t have any gripes about eating meat and would quite happily cook meat for family meals.
That being said, going from a meat eating family to a non meat eating family shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, as vegetarian Indian food is delicious. I go for periods where I don’t eat meat and love eating dhals (lentil based curries) and sabzis (vegetarian curries).
I always used to dress in jeans and a t-shirt when I was at home with my parents and fortunately for me, my in-laws were quite relaxed, so I could carry on dressing in western clothes.
The only caveat would be when extended members of my new family would visit or we would visit, I would adopt traditional Indian clothing, like the Salwar and Kameez. But over time, I found, some members of the extended family, would be more accommodating and this allowed me to dress differently according to the different values of the extended family members.
Amritdhari Sikhs’ being faithful to their religion and beliefs may expect their daughter in law to dress in an appropriate and conservative attire at all times. This includes even whilst at home. They may be required to wear their traditional Sikh outfits covering their arms and legs and sometimes even their heads.
The traditional women outfits, called either a Churidar or Salwar Kameez mainly consist of three items. Bottoms, a top and a long head scarf. Both these outfits consist of full-length trousers which can vary in style. They can either be close fitting or slightly loose or even baggy fit but, both will traditionally be tied around the waste using a drawstring. The top half of the outfit known as the kameez is a long shirt.
This again, can vary in style. The length of the top can vary but, traditionally with the churidar the top can be slightly long in length, normally down to the ankles. Whereby the top of a Salwar Kameez will probably be to the length of the knees or slightly longer. The head scarf, known as the Chunni, is quite long and therefore long enough to cover ones’ head and be wrapped around the shoulders. As with all outfits, these outfits can come in a variety of styles and colors so there is always an outfit to suit everybody and all body shapes.
The Amritdhari Sikhs’ would not want their women family members to be dressed in outfits which are close fitting or too revealing. This outfit attire is to be followed at all times, whether inside or outside of the family home.
Some Sikh families may expect anyone new coming into their family especially daughter in laws to aid in cooking and cleaning. As they expect their new daughter in law to help her mother-in-law and even sisters-in-law. This could include serving male household members food and then clearing up after them.
Some families may even segregate eating, so females would eat in a separate room to the male members of the family, which I think is quite rare and I’ve only ever seen it with some stricter families when I’ve been in India.
For me, as I was not expected to help out and even though this was the case, I would still help my mother-in-law and sister-in-law when it came to cooking and cleaning. My new family weren’t as traditional as some families, so serving dinner and clearing up after eating was shared across the family. Along with eating together at the dining table, as this gave us all an opportunity to talk and this reminded me of how I ate with my own family.
Obviously being married into a Amritdhari Sikh family, you will be incorporated into the families’ daily rituals. This may consist of praying at particular times and having meals together. The mother of the family will probably spend time with her daughter in law in showing her some favorite family recipes and teach her the method of cooking she currently uses. She may specify the daily routines.
I missed my parents so much when I moved out and it was the little things I missed so much. Like watching Bollywood films with my mother in the early evening, just after we’d had dinner. To speaking with my dad about what was happening in the news, whilst we ate dinner sat at the dining table.
It’s these little things that can take a long time to readjust to, so in my initial days away from my family, I was constantly on the phone or using the video call feature of WhatsApp. I just needed this to help me psychologically adjust to my new life.
Sikh families tend to marry their children into Sikh families in neighboring districts, towns, cities and even states and countries. This may lead to having to change jobs or depending on the Sikh family, maybe even opt for a non-working life.
When my cousin got married in the United States, she moved from her job in New Jersey to live with her husbands family in Georgia. The initial few months of coping without working required readjustment but eventually she found a job in her new local vicinity. Her new family respected her wishes of working and didn’t stand in her way.
Some Sikh families may insist on their new daughters-in-law not working for a multitude of reasons and this may be difficult to adjust to, especially if you’re career minded. Or moving in with a family where job prospects are limited could also be difficult to get used to.
Traditionally in the Sikh community, once the eldest son gets married, he is expected to live with his bride in his family home, thus providing continuous care to his parents and on some occasions, an extended family member.
His bride will become part of that family unit and encompass their rituals and routines. The family home may either consist of only his parents or extended family members such as Grand Parents or even younger siblings.
The Amritdhari Sikh’s are religious Sikh’s who adhere and practice their faith on a daily basis. They live with the five K’s, which are:
These a symbolic to their Sikh faith and these are highly valued as part of their belief and upholding their traditions.
The Kanga is a very small wooden comb used to comb and keep hair clean. It is always kept in the hair at all times inside the turbans. The Kara is a symbol of uncut hair.
The Kesh refers to the hair, which is never cut and allowed to grow naturally, as religious Sikhs keep their hair uncut from birth till, they die and wear a turban
Kara is a simple and plain iron bracelet worn on their wrist, generally on the right arm. It symbolizes a commitment to god.
Kachera is an undergarment worn instead of the western underwear, like briefs. These are tied using a drawstring to keep them on the body.
Kirpan is a replica of a sword and is worn under the clothes across your body. It is not to be used as a form of a weapon but merely symbolizes this as a ceremonial item. Some Sikhs may wear a knife instead of a sword as this is easier to conceal and carry.
Amritdhari Sikh’s are Amrit Sanskar which means that these Sikhs have gone through their initiation into the Khalsa. This will involve drinking holy water and acceptance of following strict rules around:
- not eating meat
- not gambling
- no alcohol consumption
Most of the Amritdhari Sikhs are vegetarians as they are not allowed to eat meat including any meat which has been ritually slaughtered, such as halal meat. No gambling is allowed, or any consumption of alcohol allowed.
The Sahajdhari Sikhs follow and have chosen the Sikhism path but are not classed as Amritdhari. Although the Sahajdhari Sikhs believe in the teachings of Sikh Guru’s and follow the principles of Sikhism, they do not necessarily wear the five symbols of Sikhism. Kara (iron bracelet), Kachera (elasticated undergarment, normally in cotton), Kirpan (small dagger, usually made of iron but, sufficient to defend yourself), Kesh (hair which is never cut), and Kanga (wooden comb which is small in size).
The Sahajdhari Sikhs are of Sikh ancestry but, due to personal reasons or circumstances have decided to cut their hair. Western fashion and culture can also have an influence on their decision.
Living with Sahajdhari Sikhs would be an easier affair. As they are more casual within their family surroundings. There are probably less rituals and more relaxed environment. Saying that, obviously as a bride, you would still be required to dress appropriately.
Even though you would be able to wear western clothes and would not be expected to wear traditional attire at all times, it would not be appropriate to wear close fitting clothing or anything too revealing.
Daughter in laws would become part of the family and expected to share in all duties and responsibilities.
Living in with your in laws has its advantages and disadvantages. The most obvious advantage being in the monetary terms. The main disadvantage being the lack of having some privacy or having some ‘alone’ time.
In all families regardless of being Amritdhari or Sahajdhari Sikhs’, daughter in laws will be encompassed within the family unit. They will become part of that family and will therefore be expected to share in all duties and responsibilities.
You will be expected to not only uphold the family traditions but, to ensure that you do not bring any shame to the family name.
Dress and act appropriately at all times. Most importantly live-in harmony and ensure the family unit is maintained at all times. Have mutual respect for all family members. Following some simple guidelines, as briefly outlined above, will ensure that you have a happy family unit where you are not only respected as the daughter in law but, become a valued member of the family.