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 Sikh Wedding Traditions

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 Sahib Ji.

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 Sahib Ji.

Some common surnames:
Kamboj, Sandhu, Gill, Bedi, Siddhu, Sodhi, Ahluwalia, Garewal, Kairon, Rarewala, Chimni, Sukhurchakia

PRE-WEDDING RITUALS

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 sweetmeats.

Magni, Sagaai or Kudmai (Engagement )

In many Indian marriages, a formal engagement takes place before the wedding. The formal '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 these days).

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.

Anand Karaj
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 ceremony)

 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 morning.

Mehandi (The Heena Cermony)
This 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 their palms.

In both the homes the ladies sing and dance to the beat of the 'dholak'.


Gana
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.

Vatna
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.

Gharoli
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.

Khare Charna
The groom is made to sit on a stool for his bath and four girls hold a cloth over his head.

Choora Ceremony
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
Tying of the traditional headdress on the groom and decorating the mare

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.


WEDDING RITUALS

Milni Cermony
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.

POST-WEDDING RITUALS

Doli (The bride send-off ceremony)
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

Doli Dinner
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.

Reception Party
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.

Phere Pauna
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 blessings.

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