Anand Karaj literally translates to “joyful union” or happy union” and marks the wedding ceremony of a Sikh couple. The ceremony consists of the recitation of the holy text Anand Sahib. The wedding is carried out following the Rehat Maryada which is the official code of conduct of the Sikhs. The code specifies that while arranging an alliance whether love or arranged, no consideration is to be accorded to the spouses’ caste, race or lineage. It strictly prohibits dowry as Sikhs believe that marriage is a union of two people and not a business transaction. The concept of matching horoscopes is also prohibited. Most Sikh weddings take place in the morning and preferably on a Sunday that is considered a neutral day.
The Anand Karaj can be performed in a gurudwara or at home where the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is installed with due respect. The wedding celebrations start with the Roka ceremony. Once the family of the bride and groom agree to the alliance, the roka takes place. Roka is followed by mangani or kurmai which is the engagement ceremony.
Just before the wedding, sangeet ceremony takes place a day or two in advance. Sikh and Punjabi weddings are well known for the music, entertainment and dance. Bhangara in case of men and gidda in case of women. Ideally during the mehendi and sangeet functions, the bride and grooms family celebrate separately.
The mehendi ceremony is usually a ladies only function where the bride’s family welcomes the groom’s family once the bride has applied mehendi on her hands.It is said that darker the color of the mehendi, more the bride is loved by her husband.
The bride also hides the name of her groom in her mehendi and he is supposed to find his name in the intricate design.
Vatna is similar to the haldi ki rasam where the bride and groom are applied vatna- a paste of besan, turmeric, sandalwood powder and mustard oil.
Gharoli is a ceremony carried out in the morning wherein the relatives of the groom carry an earthen pitcher on their heads to the nearby gurudwara in order to procure holy water which is later used to bathe the groom on his wedding day.
On the morning of the wedding, the bride is made to wear chura (red and white bangles) by her mama (maternal uncle)
The chura is dipped in buttermilk before it is worn. Once the bride has worn her wedidng lehenga, kaleerien or golden danglers are tied to her chura. She shakes these kaleerien on her unmarried friends and cousins and it is believed that whose head it falls on is the next to get married.
The groom is made to wear a headgear by his sisters made of golden tassles.
On the wedding day the groom and his baraat head towards the bride’s home with pomp and vigour. Upon reaching the gurudwara, the milni ceremony takes place. The milni symbolises the coming together of both families as one family. The meet and greet each other and embrace and garland each other.
This is followed by the jaimala.- wherein the bride and groom garland each other.
The bride and groom along with the guests assemble in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The Sikh wedding comprises of only four pheras as opposed to the usual seven pheras. There is no holy fire or agni. The pheras called lavan are followed by kirtan and ardaas.
Karah Prasaad is given to everyone and the couple seek the blessings of the elders.
The wedding guests are served langar, a simple lunch before the doli ceremony. The doli signifies the departure of the bride from her maternal home to her marital home. When the bride reahes her husband’s home, she is welcomed by his family and some games are played.
Phera Pauna is the concluding ceremony for the entire wedding.