Like most other weddings, Sikh weddings, too, place a lot of emphasis on the holy union of the bride and groom in the presence of their family and friends. Thus the Anand-Karaj ceremony, or literally translated, Happy Union. Anand-karaj holds a special place in Sikh weddings because it crystallizes the desire to wed into a ceremony that involves undertaking an oath before the holy scripture of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib. This ceremony is based on a sacrosanct concept of union- not merely a legal contract that binds the couple into a joint household, but a fusion of two living souls who recognize their incompleteness without each other.
Photography by Jagminder Singh
Mehl- the Welcome
The first step involves a Sikh guru advising the couple on the spiritual aspect of marriage. In fact, a mehl in the Guru Granth Sahib says that a husband and wife are only those who have one light burning in two bodies. It is the recognition of this synthesis that the couple is advised about during the Anand Karaj ceremony.
If you’re attending an Anand Karaj Ceremony, it is mandatory that you walk in barefoot and bow before the Guru Granth Sahib, following which you will need to sit cross-legged on the floor with your head covered. While men are usually turbaned, women need to use their dupattas to cover their head.
Lavas- The Holy Hymns
Four stanzas, called Lavas, are then sung to formalize the marriage. These four stanzas are meant to symbolize a holy matrimony- they describe the formulae to a fruitful marriage. The husband is instructed to love and respect his wife, and the wife must show support and love towards him with loyalty. This is also when the the couple will rise and walk around the Guru Granth Sahib four times, while the rest of the attendees remain seated.
Photography by Banga Studios
Photography by Sharik Verma Wedding Photography
Ardaas- The Final Prayer
Once the four rounds are completed, the entire congregation gets up for the final prayer, following which a verse is dictated by the Guru supervising the wedding. This is followed by a distribution of sweets, called prashad, and the conclusion of the ceremony.
It is significant that the Anand Karaj ceremony be held in the presence of friends and family of the couple. They act as witnesses to the holy bond, as well as offer their wisdom and blessings for the couple to have a successful marriage.