Anand Karaj

Brief meaning and history 

Anand Karaj (Punjabi: ਅਨੰਦ ਕਾਰਜ, anand kāraj) is the Sikh marriage ceremony, meaning “Blissful Union” or “Joyful Union”, that was introduced by Guru Amar Das. The four Lavan (marriage hymns which take place during the marriage ceremony) were composed by his successor, Guru Ram Das. It was originally legalised in India through the passage of the Anand Marriage Act of 1909, but it is governed by the Sikh Reht Maryada (Sikh code of conduct and conventions) that was issued by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee(SGPC).

The history of the Anand marriage ceremony is traced back to the time of Guru Amar Das ji (1479–1574), who composed the long 40-stanza hymn “Anand”, in the Ramkali measure, suitable to be sung or recited on all occasions of religious importance. His successor, Guru Ram Das, composed a four-stanza hymn, “Lavan”, which is recited and sung to solemnize nuptials.

In 1579, the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji and Mata Ganga were the first couple to be married through the Anand Karaj ceremony.Gurudwara Shri Vivah Asthan Shri Guru Arjan Dev Ji ate Mata Ganga Ji Sahib situated in Village Mao Sahib Teh Phillour Distt Jalandhar. SHRI GURU ARJAN DEV JI reached here along with Barat from Shri Goindwal Sahib. Along with GURU SAHIB and barati’s were Baba Budha JI, Bhai Manj Ji, Bhai Shalo Ji, Mian Mir Ji, Bhai Gurdas Ji, Bhai Sang Ji and other Sadhu’s. GURU SAHIB got married to Mata Ganga Ji Here. This place was near to Mata Ganga Ji’s residence.

In 2012, India passed The Anand Marriage (Amendment) Bill, after which Sikhs are able to register their marriages under the Anand Marriage Act instead of the Hindu Marriage Act, with President Pratibha Patil giving her assent to a bill passed by Parliament on 7 June 2012 in the budget session.

Four laavan

The wedding ceremony in Sikhs itself is known as Anand Karaj and the core of the Anand Karaj (the ‘blissful ceremony’) is the ‘lavan’, wherein shabads are sung with the bride and groom circumambulating the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The spiritual ceremony consits of the couple circling the Guru Granth Sahib four times.The ceremony serves to provide the foundational principles towards a successful marriage and also places the marriage within the context of unity with God.

Guru Ram Das Ji composed the four stanzas of Lavan to be sung and recited as the core of the Anand Karaj ceremony.Each time, a different Laav is read and sang aloud.The four laavan mention the four spiritual stages in a married life that the couple will encounter and offer spiritual guidance for their new life.

The first laav discusses the path of righteousness and sinless-ness that the couple must follow.
The second laav posits that the couple must eradicate the ego from within their souls and fear the Lord.
The third laav converses remembering and singing the Lord’s name with the holy congregation.
The fourth and final laav finalize the couple’s acceptance of Will of the Lord and finding unending happiness in the Lord.

The circling of Guru Granth Sahib represents the idea that the Guru should be at the center of the couple’s life. Additionally, each time the couple circle the Guru Granth Sahib, they are using the Guru Granth Sahib as their spiritual witness to their commitment to God and the spiritual path. It must be noted that the Sadh Sangat also serves as a transient witness and support.

The following are other important points that must be adhered to by the Sikh couple and their families:

  • Marriage is a partnership of equals.
  • No consideration is to be given to caste, social status, race or lineage.
  • No dowry is allowed.
  • No day is considered holier above any other, hence no astrological considerations are to be made and no superstitions are to be observed in fixing the date of the wedding.
  • The religious ceremony is to take place in a gurdwara or in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib JI.
  • The cost of the wedding is to be shared between the two sides as equally as possible.