In a Sikh marriage, the two individuals are joined in an equal partnership. Anand Karaj literally means the union of two souls. Marriage follows the Reht Maryada, which is the official Sikh code of conduct specifying that no thought should be given to the perspective spouse’s caste, race or lineage.
It is performed typically one week before the wedding. It involves Ardas (the common Sikh prayer), Kirtan (hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib) and Langar (common meal) if performed in the Gurdwara. If performed at home, the bride’s family visit the house of the groom for a short time. In both cases the groom is usually presented with a kara, kirpan or Indian sweets. The bride’s family in turn are presented with an Indian suit and sweets for the girl. The bride and groom exchange rings. Whereas, at this stage in many Asian weddings, a dowry agreement is made, Sikhs have strictly condemned dowry payments. Sikh belief is that, in the wedding exchange, all the bride’s father should offer is his daughter.
A Chuda ceremony is held for the bride. An important ceremony, the bride is made to wear 21 red and off-white ivory bangles. Kalira (ornaments) are then tied to the bangles by the bride’s maternal aunt and uncle. The purpose of kalira is to make housework impossible so that the bride gets time to relax. The bangles and kalira are worn throughout the wedding ceremony and for 40 days afterwards.
Gana is a ritual where an auspicious red thread is tied to the right wrist of the groom and the left wrist of the bride. It is regarded as a good omen for the bride and the groom.
Typically in the East, a Sikh wedding would be a three day affair. It would begin with a cleansing ceremony for both the bride and groom. The couple is then scrubbed clean under the shade of a Bagh (a fully embroidered hand made cotton cloth). The Bagh is traditionally passed on from one generation to the next.
Arrival of the Groom
The groom arrives accompanied by his friends and relatives in a procession with music, singing and dancing. The male members of the bride’s family receive them.
As the groom arrives, a reception known as Milni takes place. The two families exchange garlands and gifts are given to the immediate members of the groom’s family by the corresponding kin of the bride. The groom’s sisters tie a sehera (floral veil) to the groom’s forehead and a garland of money is adorned around his neck.
The ceremony is performed by a Sikh minister. The groom is first seated before Guru Granth Sahib, the bride then takes her place on his left. The couple and their parents are asked to stand while the rest of congregation remains seated. A prayer is then conducted invoking the blessings of God for the proposed marriage and asking His Grace on the union of the couple. The family then participates in a short hymn. The groom walks ahead of the bride with a sword in his hand. The newly wed couple simultaneously feed each other fruit, a first act of marriage. Relatives and friends garland the newly wedded couple and the marriage ceremony concludes with a grand feast.
The wedding ceremony ends with the distribution of guruprasad (blessed food) to the attendees.
Parsi weddings take place after sunset or before dawn and last up to three days. The wedding is to be celebrated before an anjoman, (assembly) of guests.
The families of the bride and groom each plant a young tree in a pot, amidst recitation of prayers by the family priest and place this at the entrance of their homes. This action symbolises fertility.
The day before the wedding is called ‘Supra nu Murat’, it is more like the mehndi and haldi ceremony of the Hindus.
Both bride and groom receive a ritual cleansing from a priest. Ritual purity is regarded of high importance in the Parsi culture.
The actual wedding ceremony is held in the evening, just after sunset as it considered an auspicious time. For the marriage ceremony the bride dresses in her ‘madhavate’ (the white, ornate wedding sari given by her parents), while the groom wears the traditional white Parsi kurta (a traditional top) and a black cap. The bride and groom enter the hall individually. As the groom enters, the thali (metal platter containing betel nuts, sweets etc) is waved around his head seven times. The same ritual is repeated for the bride.
The wedding hall itself is set up according to strict Parsi prescriptions. A stage is build up for the couple and before they step on it, the groom first, a ritual called ‘achumichu’ is performed. The bride’s mother takes a tray with a raw egg, supari, rice, coconut, dates and water and begins the ceremony with the groom.
In Ara Antar ceremony, the couple is made to sit facing each other with a cloth held between them so they cannot see the other. Once the bride and groom are seated, the curtain separating them is dropped. This ritual shows that as the bond of marriage is placed upon them, no separation will exist between the two. The couple then move to sit side by side and rice is put in their left hands. The priests advise the couple on married life and pray for their morality and virtue and finally bless them with the ‘tan-dorosti’ prayer. This ends the traditional Parsi Wedding ceremony, after which the bride and groom are considered as officially wed.
Parsi weddings are renowned for their post wedding celebrations. The reception is held in a grand manner with a varied menu of delicious food, drink and lively music. The menu usually consists of traditional Parsi dishes such as ‘patra ni macchi’ (steamed fish), and salli margi (chicken with crisps).