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Sabads recited before the Wedding Ceremony
After the ‘Birth and Naming’ and ‘Amrit or Initiation’ ceremonies, the third ceremony is ‘Anand or Wedding’ (popularly Anand Karaj). Wedding ceremonies hold a significant place in the celebration of love and commitment and are marked in diverse ways across the globe. Regardless of the unique traditions and customs, weddings serve as a platform to bring loved ones and communities together to witness and celebrate the bond between two individuals. The Sikh wedding ceremony holds great significance as a momentous occasion in the couple’s life. It symbolizes core values of love, equality, and mutual respect in marriage and provides an opportunity for a joyous celebration with family and friends.

In the Sikh community, the phrase Anand Karaj (blissful task) is synonymous with ‘marriage’ and is a title used to refer to the Sikh wedding ceremony. Through the wedding ceremony, the couple receives teachings on how to live together according to the teachings of Wisdom (Guru). In Sikhi, the life of a householder is recommended over celibacy, renunciation, or asceticism. According to Sikh belief, a wedding ceremony offers the greatest opportunities to serve humanity, and it affords them the best means of attaining bliss and fulfillment in life.

In contemporary Sikh society, there are many rituals related to marriage, such as roka (stopping the search for a spouse), mangani (betrothal), saha banhana (choosing the time and date for the wedding), maiye pauna (tying a ceremonial thread on the wrist and applying a paste made of oil, barley flower and turmeric on the bride and groom a few days before the wedding), gaun bithaona (musical merrymaking), kurmai (engagement), jago (a customary ritual done a night before the wedding in which women sing songs while one of them leads all by carrying on her head a vessel with lighted lamps), milni (meeting of relatives from both the bride’s and groom’s sides on the wedding day), Lavan (ceremonial circumambulation of the Guru Granth Sahib), doli torna (seeing off the bride to her in-law’s place), etc. But in the Sikh tradition, there is mention of only kurmai, milni, palla farauna (handing over the groom’s ceremonial scarf to the bride), ardas, Lavan.

The engagement ceremony is performed a few days before the wedding ceremony. Then, on the fixed date, the bridegroom reaches the bride’s home along with relatives who form the wedding procession. The bride’s side welcomes them by singing the Sabad ‘ham ghari sājan āe. sācai meli milāe.’ After ardas, relatives from both the groom and bride’s side greet one another. Then, in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib and their relatives, the bride and the groom are ceremonially wedded.

In the Sikh Rahit Maryada, there is a mention of certain Sabads being recited and sung during ceremonies related to the wedding. These Sabads or stanzas are actually about the being’s relationship with IkOankar (the Divine). They are adopted by the Sikh tradition to reframe prevailing human relationships and bring the Divine element into the bride-groom relationship.

In addition to these Sabads, many other Sabads are also read or sung during these ceremonies, in which themes of happiness, blessings, and teachings are covered through vocabulary related to the wedding, although there is no certain protocol about singing these Sabads. From these, some Sabads are read before the wedding ceremony and some during the ceremony. Thus, they are discussed in two parts. Usually, the following Sabads are read or recited before the wedding ceremony.

Sabads recited before the wedding ceremony:
satu santokhu kari bhāu kuṛamu kuṛmāī āiā bali rām jīu. -Guru Granth Sahib 773.
āvahu sajṇā haü dekhā darsanu terā rām. -Guru Granth Sahib 764-765.
ham ghari sājan āe. sācai meli milāe. -Guru Granth Sahib 764.

Sabads recited during the wedding ceremony (these Sabads will be discussed in Anand Sanskar | Wedding Ceremony 2/2):
kītā loṛīai kammu su hari pahi ākhīai. -Guru Granth Sahib 91.
ustati nindā nānak jī mai habh vañāī choṛiā habhu kijhu tiāgī. -Guru Granth Sahib 963.
mundh iāṇī peīaṛai kiu kari hari darsanu pikhai. -Guru Granth Sahib 78.
gur mili ladhā jī rāmu piārā rām. -Guru Granth Sahib 576.
tanu rainī manu pun rapi kari haü pācaü tat barātī. -Guru Granth Sahib 482.
sāṁti pāī guri satiguri pūre. -Guru Granth Sahib 806.

Sabad 1
This Sabad (satu santokhu kari bhāu kuṛamu kuṛmāī āiā bali rām jīu) is read or sung at the time of engagement. This ceremony is known by different names in different regions, such as chuhara pauna or launa (offer dry dates and other items to the groom), shagan pauna (give a monetary gift during engagement), sagai karna (engagement), thaka launa (forestall any other proposal for a match for the prospective groom), etc. This brings the family of the to-be bride and groom together. Engagement can be understood as the beginning of the journey in family life. Usually, this ritual is performed at the groom’s home.

While talking about the word ‘kurmai’ (engagement), Dr. Sohinder Singh Vanjara Bedi writes that many scholars consider this word to be derived from the words ‘kuri’ (girl) or ‘kutamb’ (family). But it has been derived from the word ‘kuram’ (parents of the bride and the bridegroom) because the relationship from both sides (bride and groom) is called ‘kurmacari’ (relationship between families of the spouses). In earlier times, this ceremony was performed by a family priest or barber. But nowadays, the bride’s family takes dried dates, sweets, and saffron to the groom’s house. After applying a mark of saffron on the groom’s forehead, saffron water is waved around his head. A dry date is put in his mouth, and the rest of the dates, coconut, dry fruits, sweets, groom’s clothes, and money are put in his lap. It is also customary to present some jewelry or essential household items to the groom or his family members at this time.

Some Sikh sources also mention the engagement of the Gurus. Regarding the engagement of Guru Nanak Sahib, it is mentioned in the Meharban Janamsakhi that for Guru Nanak Sahib’s engagement, his father-in-law ‘Mule Chone’ had given a coconut, a rupee, and a bowl to his family priest and brother to give to Guru Nanak Sahib on the day of Vaisakhi. The engagement ceremony was performed by placing a coconut in Guru Nanak Sahib’s lap. At this time, the day of marriage was fixed. For the engagement of (Guru) Harigobind Sahib (1595-1644 CE), there is also mention of a family priest coming from the house of Chandu (died 1613 CE), whom Guru Arjan Sahib (1563-1606 CE) refused on the advice of sangat.
The mention of the ceremony of engagement is also found in different rahitnamas. Although this is mentioned mostly as a rebuttal to the wrong practice of marrying a girl to a man for money. In Rahitnama Bhai Sahib Singh, it is emphasized that a Sikh should only marry his daughter to a Sikh without taking any money:
kanniā devai sikh ko levai nahi kichu dām. soī merā sikh hui, lai pahuṁce mam dhām.25.
That Sikh alone is acceptable to me, who gives a daughter to a Sikh and does not take money.25.

The engagement ceremony is not considered necessary in the Sikh Rahit Maryada. But it is also written that if this ritual is to be performed, the bride’s side should do an ardas in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib on any given day and keep a sword (kirpan), steel bracelet (kara) and sweets in the lap of the groom. There are cases where the groom’s family demands expensive gifts, such as a dowry from the bride’s family. Usually, this demand becomes difficult for the bride’s family members to fulfill. Perhaps for this reason, there is an instruction in the ‘Sikh Rahit Maryada’ to perform this ritual in a simple way.

The above Sabad sung at the time of engagement was revealed by Guru Ramdas Sahib (1534-1581 CE) in Rag Suhi and recorded on pages 772-773 of the Guru Granth Sahib. It has six lines.

In this Sabad, the engagement ceremony is symbolically described as being conducted by the Guru. This spiritual engagement refers to the human-bride receiving the blessings of virtues like truth, contentment, love, etc., as a gift from the Guru. These qualities are also the basis of worldly relationships. The bride’s family sends their daughter to her in-laws’ house, instilling these values and virtues in her. The relationship between families of spouses is also based on these values more than the gifts given to the bride and groom. Just as the rites started with engagement are completed with the wedding ceremony, the relationship with IkOankar starts with the gift of the above virtues and becomes complete in union with the Divine-Husband. This Sabad seems to have been associated with this ceremony as it encourages people to base their social relationships on divine virtues.

Sabad 2
The first stanza of this Sabad (āvahu sajṇā haü dekhā darsanu terā rām) is especially read or sung before the wedding ceremony. Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha has cited it in the list of Sabads read before the commencement of the wedding ceremony.
In earlier times (and in some current traditional families), there was no custom of bride and groom seeing each other before marriage. But usually, on the wedding day, the bride sneaks a glimpse of the groom or shares her happiness with her friends by asking about the groom’s appearance.

This Sabad describes the desire of a human-bride to unite with the Divine-Husband and the change in her due to this union. At the worldly level, such desire and change are manifested in the expression of the bride and groom’s intense desire to see their partner.

This Sabad is revealed by Guru Nanak Sahib in Rag Suhi and recorded on pages 764 and 765 of the Guru Granth Sahib. This Sabad has four stanzas. Each stanza has six lines.

Sabad 3
According to ‘Sikh Rahit Maryada,’ there is a custom of singing Sabads from the Guru Granth Sahib to welcome the wedding procession and uttering ‘fatih’ as a greeting. Usually, when the party arrives at the bride’s house, the first stanza of this Sabad (ham ghari sājan āe. sācai meli milāe) is read or sung before the meeting of relatives from the bride and groom’s sides on the wedding day. But sometimes, the meeting and greeting of relatives from both sides are only done after the ardas, and this stanza is sung while the sangat gathers in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib for the wedding ceremony.

After the reading or singing of this stanza, during the meeting of relatives, the heads of both families meet. A meeting of the father and maternal uncle of the respective sides is compulsorily organized. If the father of one of the sides is no more or cannot be present for some reason, the father’s elder or younger brother (bride’s/groom’s uncle) or any other relative meets the father of the other party. Apart from these two, according to the wishes of both families, the meeting of the brother, brother-in-law, husband of father’s sister, husband of mother’s sister, or any other relative is also organized. At the time of the meeting, each person puts a garland around the other’s neck or uses a robe of honor (siropau). Many times, the bride’s side also gives blankets, turbans, jewelry, or money to the groom’s side.

A wedding is an important part of life and a sacred act. That is why it is important to read this stanza at the time of the wedding ceremony. This stanza describes the feeling of meeting friends, or saintly beings, who have come into the home. It depicts the joy of union through the imagery of marriage. During the happy moment of the union of the bride and groom, the singing of this Sabad fills one with Divine love. Those present in the sangat who are witnessing the occasion also experience bliss through this Sabad.

The second stanza of this Sabad (āvahu mīt piāre. maṅgal gāvahu nāre) is sung before Lavan, when the bride and groom sit in front of the Guru Granth Sahib after the families have met and had refreshments. This Sabad touches on both social and spiritual aspects. At the social level, it gives a loving invitation to all men and women gathered at the wedding to sing the bliss-giving song on this joyous occasion. Spiritually, it encourages the social union through marriage to elevate to the level of union with IkOankar.

This Sabad is revealed by Guru Nanak Sahib (1469-1539 CE) in Rag Suhi and recorded on page 764 of the Guru Granth Sahib. This Sabad has four stanzas. Each stanza has six lines.

In addition to the above Sabads, there are some other Sabads related to weddings that are read or sung before the wedding ceremony. These include lines that describe the union (establishment of marital relationship) and the successful completion of the wedding, for example:
thiru ghari baisahu hari jan piāre. satiguri tumre kāj savāre.1. rahāu. -Guru Granth Sahib 201.
jaisā satiguru suṇīdā taiso hī mai ḍīṭhu…nānak satiguru tinā milāiā jinā dhure païā sanjogu.1. -Guru Granth Sahib 957.
santā ke kāraji āpi khaloiā hari kammu karāvaṇi āiā rām...apnā biradu rakhiā parmesari nānak nāmu dhiāiā.1. -Guru Granth Sahib 783.