Sikhism is a monotheistic religion opposed to
idol worship and is against the practice of asceticism, the
caste system and ritualism.
A Sikh wedding is called an Anand Karaj. The ceremony takes
place in the presence of the Sikh Holy Book, the Guru Granth
The marriage ceremony consists of the recitation of the Anand
Sahib (therefore called Anand Karaj) and the Lavan (wedding
songs), which are sung as the couple go around the Guru Granth
Some common surnames:
Sandhu, Gill, Bedi, Siddhu, Sodhi, Ahluwalia, Garewal, Kairon,
Rarewala, Chimni, Sukhurchakia
Thaka or Roka (Announcement of the
Engagement) Once both families have agreed to the
alliance, the groom, with his close relatives goes to the
bride's family for the formal announcement. This is an
indication to the community, that the couple is spoken for and
they will receive no more offers of marriage.
A respected member of the family offers the 'Ardaas'(prayer).
The groom's mother presents a gift to her prospective
daughter-in-law and the bride's parents give the groom's parents
a 'shagan' (token gift), usually in the form of money and some
Magni, Sagaai or Kudmai (Engagement
In many Indian marriages, a formal engagement takes place before
'asking' of the bride's hand in marriage by the groom's family
is known as the 'mangni'. The groom's female relatives go the
bride's home laden with a complete ensemble of fine clothes,
accessories, jewellery and toiletries. The bride will wear the
clothes, jewellery and accessories for the 'mangni' ceremony.
The groom arrives with his family and close friends at the
venue; refreshments are served after which the ceremony
commences with prayers and 'kirtan' (singing of hymns) in the
presence of the Sikh Holy Book - the Guru Granth Sahib.
The bride's mother presents a silver 'thaal' (platter), laden
with the symbols of the Sikh faith, sweetmeats, saffron and
flowers to the groom. He may also receive gifts like a watch,
money or a gold chain at this time.
The groom slips the engagement ring on the bride's finger and
she reciprocates. (The exchange of rings is borrowed from
western culture and is a normal practice in some Sikh weddings
The groom's family receives gifts in the form of money,
sweetmeats, dried fruit and fruit to take back with them.
Depending upon the time of day, a high tea, lunch or dinner will
be served and not necessarily vegetarian. The engagement, shagan, is held either at a
gurdwara (Sikh house of worship) or at the groom’s family house.
Both families come together exchanging gifts and mutual promises
of marriage. The bride and groom will exchange rings. Whereas,
at this stage in many Asian weddings, a dowry agreement would be
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. The bride's father takes the
initiative in arranging ceremonial commitments through a
mediator. Auspicious items that include coconut, chhuhare
(dry dates), sugar and money are sent to the boy's family.
The tilak ceremony is performed by a bhaiji or preacher from
the Gurudwara who first reads a hymn by Guru Nanak, offers
the groom a date and applies the tilak on his forehead,
marking the engagement. Following the tilak ceremony, the
groom's father sends gifts of sugar, coconut, rice, clothes,
ornaments and henna to the bride.
A custom common to Sikh wedding ceremony is maiya
-confinement of the bride and groom for a few days before
the marriage, where they are not allowed to leave their
homes or change their clothes.
Sangeet (The music
Punjabi celebrations typically comprise of 'gaana, bajaana, khanna, peena,
(singing, dancing, eating, drinking!). Family and friends sing
to the catchy beat of the 'dholak' (small drum) making sure
several songs are sung to tease the bride's mother-in-law and
other members of the groom's family!
In a lot of urban communities, the 'sangeet' is a mixed party
held at night, hosted separately by both families on two
consecutive evenings. Drinks flow, dinner is served and the
celebrations could well continue till the wee hours of the next
Mehandi (The Heena Cermony)
is an intimate ceremony, mainly for the ladies in the family and
the bride's friends. The 'mehendi' (henna) is passed around to
all present for their blessings and each one leaves a few rupees
in the platter. 'Mehendi' is then smeared on the palms of the
bride after which she reaches back and leaves the impressions of
her palms on the wall behind her. These days a protective sheet
of paper is pasted on the wall! The henna is quickly washed off
and then the professional henna artists or 'mehendiwallis' take
over by decorating the palms of the bride and her friends. The
bride's 'mehendi' can take upto hours for the intricate patterns
to be drawn and then left to dry to achieve a deep red colour. A
simple 'mehendi' ceremony is conducted for the groom at his
home. The 'mehendi' is passed around to all to be blessed, then
smeared onto his palms and quickly washed off! The women in his
family may call in a professional 'mehendi' artist to decorate
In both the homes the ladies sing and dance to the beat of the 'dholak'.
An auspicious red thread is tied to the right wrist of the
groom and the left wrist of the bride. Auspicious items such
as cowrie shells, an iron key chain, pearls and a small
silken bundle containing sugar are suspended from the gana
worn by the bride.
A couple of days prior to the wedding vatna a scented powder
consisting of barley flour, turmeric and mustard oil is
applied to their bodies to be followed by a ritual bath.On
the eve of the wedding, called mehndi ki raat, henna is
applied on the hands and feet of the bride.
The morning of the wedding is marked by the gharoli ceremony
at the groom's house. The groom's sister-in law accompanied
by other female relatives go to a nearby well or Gurudwara
to fill an earthen pitcher or gharoli with water which is
later used to bath the bridegroom.
The groom is made to sit on a stool for his bath and four
girls hold a cloth over his head.
The girl's maternal uncle takes her for the choora ceremony.
She is made to wear a set of red and white ivory (since
ivory is banned, bone or plastic are alternative) bangles
that have been dipped in kachchi lassi or buttermilk.
Kaleeren, ornaments which dangle golden metal plates are
tied to the bride's wrist by her close female relatives. The
bride now dresses up for the main ceremony. On the morning
of the wedding, the groom's mother sends the 'kuvaar dhoti' (the
last ensemble she will wear as a maiden) to the bride.
After the ritual application of 'vatnaan' (turmeric and
sandalwood paste), the bride bathes with water fetched from a
neighbour's house in a decorated vessel carried by the womenfolk
who sing songs of blessing. She then removes any bangles she is
wearing and wears the 'kuvaar dhoti'. In the presence of the
Guru Granth Sahib, a brief prayer is said. Her mother's brother
and his wife ('mama and mami') then adorn her wrists with the
traditional ivory wedding bangles. ( these days ivory may be
replaced with plastic or acrylic). The bangles are always uneven
in number and are blessed by five ladies in the family who have
been happily married for a long time.
The bride alsowears a steel bangle or 'kada' on each wrist onto
which her family and friends tie the 'kaleeran' or dangling
golden baubles; symbols of good luck!
Sehrabandi and Ghodi
of the traditional headdress on the groom and decorating the
A symbolic application of turmeric and sandalwood paste precedes
the groom's ritual bath.
The 'sehra' or veil of golden threads is taken around to each
member of the family to be blessed. His sisters tie the 'sehra'
onto his turban. The 'sarbala' (a young boy, usually a nephew of
the groom) will act as his constant companion and be with him
until the wedding ceremony is over.
The groom is escorted to the richly caparisoned mare; the mare's
attendant feeds her horse gram and the groom and the 'sarbala'
mount the mare.
The groom's brother's wife applies a touch of 'kajal' (kohl) to
the groom's eyes to ward off the evil eye and his sisters and
female cousins braid the bridle with 'vagaan' (golden tassels)
for which they receive gifts from the groom's mother.
The women sing 'seheras' or traditional songs appropriate to the
ceremony. The groom is now ready to proceed to the bride's home
for the wedding ceremony.
Reception of the groom and the 'baraatis' by the bride's
family. The 'baraat' (groom's party) arrives at the venue and is
greeted by the male relatives from the bride's family to the
singing of 'Hum Ghar Saajan Aaye' a hymn giving thanks for being
blessed by the arrival of the gracious folk. The 'Ardaas' is
said. The bride's father greets the groom's father by garlanding
him and is garlanded in return. All the male relatives of the
bride greet their counterparts in the groom's family in
sequence, in like manner.
After the 'milni' the couple exchange garlands; this ceremony is
known as the 'jaimala'. The bride garlands the groom first
signaling her acceptance of him as her husband.
At the groom's house a sehera or floral veil is tied to the
boy's forehead by his sisters and a garland of currency notes
adorn his neck. The bridegroom mounts a decorated mare while his
sisters-in -law put collyrium in his eyes. On reaching the
bride's house the milni ceremony is held with the seniors of
both families embracing each other. Shabads are sung and the
ardaas recited as the procession enters the Gurudwara breakfast
is served to the guests.
Ananad Karaj or Lavan Phere (The Actual Wedding Cermony)
The 'Anand Karaj' or wedding ritual takes place at 'anand
vela' (early morning, usually associated with peace and
tranquility). In case the ceremony begins a little later, it
must conclude before noon. In the presence of the Guru Granth
Sahib, a normal Morning Prayer service is conducted, after which
the 'Asa di Vaar' (the morning hymn) is sung.
The bride, face covered, is escorted in by her father or uncle,
her sisters and girlfriends and seated on the left of the groom.
Since the Sikhs do not have an ordained clergy, a respected
member of the community or gurudwara may conduct the ceremony.
The officiator of the ceremony asks the bride, groom and their
parents to stand for the 'Ardaas', after which they all bow down
to the Holy Book in assent of the marriage.
The bride's father places a corner of the bride's veil or 'pallav'
in the groom's hands and over his shoulder into the bride's
hands, symbolically connecting them and giving his daughter away
in marriage. The groom then leads the bride four times around
the Holy Book, each round interspersed with hymns containing
blessings and advice.
The ceremony concludes with the 'Ardaas' and is followed by the
'vaak' (Guru's counsel). This is done by opening the Holy Book
at random and reading out a verse from the page on the right. 'Karah
Parshaad' is distributed and the couple is garlanded.
Doli (The bride
The groom lifts the bride's veil and seeing her as a married
woman for the first time her family blesses her with money. She
changes into a set of clothes and jewellery brought by the
groom's parents. She feeds the male members of her own family
with cooked rice and turning her back on them throws back
handfuls of puffed rice, invoking a blessing of prosperity on
her father and family. She
then bids a tearful farewell to her family and friends - a very
emotional moment in any Indian wedding. Her father seats her in
the decorated car alongside her husband and her brother escorts
her to her new home. On reaching the marital home, the groom's
mother, who pours a little oil outside on the doorstep before
they enter, receives the couple. She then attempts to drink
water from a 'lota' (steel jar), but the groom prevents her!
After the third attempt he relents and she drinks it. This is
repeated with six other female relatives
Celebration of the bride's arrival into the groom's family. The
groom's family and close friends get together the night the
bride arrives for the 'doli' dinner. Literally translated 'doli'
means palanquin. As a courtesy, they may invite the bride's
family and her guests who have come from out of town. This may
be a very quiet evening with a home-cooked meal, or a
full-fledged celebration with caterers called in and exuberant
singing and dancing.
The groom's parents usually host the wedding reception. It is a
formal party, presenting the newly wed couple to their extended
family and friends. A military band is often requested to play
elegant marches and classical tunes during this celebration. The
wedding reception is an import from the West.
The bride visits her parental home. This visit is made a day
after the wedding if the bride and groom are leaving to live in
another city. Otherwise it may be made whenever convenient. The
couple visits the bride's paternal home and receives gifts and