Anand Karaj is the prescribed form of Sikh marriage, the words literally translate as blissful union. The religious ceremony can be conducted by any respected Sikh man or woman and is usually held at a Sikh Temple. It is the equivalent of the western tradition of walking down the isle. Only close family and friends of the couple being wed will attend Anand Karaj.
The ceremony officially begins with the officiate asking the bride & groom and their parents to stand for Ardas. Ardas indicates to the public the consent of the marriage proceeding of both parties involved. Every time the bride and groom arise or sit down during the ceremony they will bow down to Sri Guru Granth Sahib out of respect by touching their foreheads to the ground.
After Ardas the couple sit down and the officiate then addresses the couple in the significance of marriage, their duties and obligations to each others as equal partners. The couple indicate their agreement to these guidelines and principles by bowing down before Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The father of the bride then places one end of a scarf or sash worn by the groom over his shoulders in his daughters hand signifying that she is now leaving his care to join her husband's care.
Sikh Priest reading scripture from the Sikh Holy Book
The officiate now reads the Lavan Hymn of Guru Ram Das which is composed of four verses. The four verse of the hymn describes the progression of love between a husband and wife which is equivalent to that between the soul (bride) and God (the husband). After the conclusion of the recitation of each verse the groom with his bride in tow, holding the end of the scarf walk around Sri Guru Granth Sahib in a clockwise direction while the ragis sing out the recited Lavan verse. After each round the couple sit down and listen while the officiate reads the next verse. The ragis then sing it while the couple completes another walk around Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This process is repeated four times in total for each verse of the Lavan after which the couple sit down. This is known as Lavaan, signifying that they accept each other as one soul in two bodies with the Guru at the centre of the marriage. During their walk around Sri Guru Granth Sahib often there will be members of the girls family who help her complete her rounds with her husband. This is to signify their support for her as she leaves one family for another.
After the Lavan the Anand hymn by Guru Amar Das is recited. This is followed by lectures and kirtan. The religious ceremony is formally concluded by the entire congregation standing for the final Ardas of the marriage. After this Sri Guru Granth Sahib is now opened to any page at random and the hymn is read out as the days order from the Guru for the occasion (hukamnama). Ceremonial Sacremental Pudding known as Karah Prashad, is then distributed to everyone to mark the formal conclusion of the ceremony.
Now that the couple are officially husband and wife, they will make their way to their Wedding Reception.
Images sourced from Simran & Karamvir's Wedding shot by Cosmin Danila destination photographer. You can view these images here.