The Anand Karaj and the Laavan

The Sikh Matrimonial Ceremony

Guru Ram Das Ji (The Fourth Guru) introduced a marriage code and ceremony for the Sikhs, via composition of the four Shabads known as Laavan, and advised the Sikhs to solemnize the marriages of their children by reciting these shabads.

The Laavan is the Bani on Ang 773-774 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and is recited during the Sikh Wedding, known as Anand Karaj (Ceremony of Bliss).

The Anand Karaj is conducted in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and it is a sacred ceremony that binds a man and woman in a spiritual union. The spouse is a companion and life partner with whom to tread the divine path of Sikhi. The bond between those blessed couples grows strong by His Grace that they become One Light (Soul) in two bodies. The goal in Sikh married life is to merge with Waheguru (God), together as husband and wife.

This is uniquely described by the Third Guru, Guru Amar Das Ji, on Ang 788 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

Mehla 3

They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together.

They alone are called husband and wife, who have one light in two bodies.

The Laavan are the core of the Anand Karaj, which includes the singing of the Laavan Shabads whilst the couple circumambulate (go around ceremoniously) Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The ceremony provides the couple with foundational principles of a successful marriage but places the union within the deeper context of union with Waheguru.

Guru Arjan Dev Ji (The Fifth Guru) and Mata Ganga had the unique honour of being the first couple to be wedded with the Anand Karaj in 1579.

Arrival of Baraat

The marriage ceremony begins with the arrival of the Baraat i.e. the bridegroom's family at the Gurdwara. The bride's family and guests wait at the entrance of the Gurdwara. The following shabad is then recited composed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, on Ang 764 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

Hum ghar saajan aye...

Raag Suhi Mehla 1:

My friends have come into my home. The True Lord has united me with them. The Lord automatically united me with them when it pleased Him; uniting with the chosen ones, I have found peace. I have obtained that thing, which my mind desired. Meeting with them, night and day, my mind is pleased; my home and mansion are beautified. The unstruck sound current of the Panch Shabad, the Five Primal Sounds, vibrates and resounds; my friends have come into my home.

Milni

After the Shabad has been recited, an Ardas (Standing Prayer) will be offered before the Milni (the formal meeting of the two families) takes place. Both families & guests then move to the dining hall to have breakfast before the Anand Karaj. Guests will then move into the Darbar Sahib where Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is enthroned on a decorated palanquin and the congregation sits.

Ardas

The guests bow and pay their respects to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and sit down as a part of the congregation. The groom will then arrive and traditionally take his seat in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji awaiting the arrival of the bride.

The bride and her family arrive shortly after and they bow before Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and now the wedding ceremony can begin. The Raagis will sing the following shabad composed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, on Ang 91 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to signify the start of the wedding:

Kita lodiye kam so Har pai akhiye...

Pauree:

Whatever work you wish to accomplish-tell it to the Lord.

He will resolve your affairs; the True Guru gives His Guarantee of Truth.

In the Society of the Saints, you shall taste the treasure of the Ambrosial Nectar.

The Lord is the Merciful Destroyer of fear; He preserves and protects His slaves.

O Nanak, sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord, and see the Unseen Lord God.

An Ardas (Standing Prayer) is then offered where only the bride and groom and their respective parents stand and ask for permission from Waheguru to begin the ceremony whilst the rest remain seated. However, in some Gurdwara's the whole congregation will stand for this prayer. Upon the completion of the Ardas, a Hukamnana (random passage from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, considered an Order) to give permission for the wedding ceremony to begin.

Palla

Thus begins a series of golden moments, full of love and sacredness. After the Hukamnama, the bride's father takes the Palla or shawl, and places in the hands of the daughter. This can be very emotional as the father knows that he is giving his daughter's hand in marriage. This action is accompanied by the following Shabad composed by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, on Ang 963 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

Ustat ninda, Nanak, ji mai hab vanjayi chodiya hab kichh tiyagi, Habay sak kudavay ditthe tau pallai tende laagi...

Salok Mahala 5

I have totally discarded praise and slander, O Nanak; I have forsaken and abandoned everything.

I have seen that all relationships are false, and so I have grasped hold of the hem of Your robe, Lord.

The next stage is the Laavan - the four verses of marriage.

Laavan

The Four verses of the Laavan are recited from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and then sung as the Anand Karaj takes place. These shabads were composed by Guru Ram Das Ji, on Ang 773-774 in the measure of Raag Soohee.

The verses of the Laavan describe the aspects and stages of marital love between the husband and wife, as the marriage of two people in the unity of two souls rather than just a physical relationship.

In spiritual terms, the Laavan is about the union of the human soul, the Aatmaan, with Waheguru. In worldly terms, the four shabads of the Laavan are the four verses to guide the married couple in how to live a successful and joyous spiritual life together. Each verse is first read by the Granthi, and the Raagis then sing it in the form of kirtan. During the singing of each verse, the couple bows to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and then get up and walk clockwise around Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. At the time they arrive back at their seats in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the singing of the verse is complete. They then bow again and sit down, signifying their acceptance of the teaching of this Laav. This is repeated for the second, third and fourth round.

The first verse of the Laavan: Har pahldi lav parvirti karam dridaya Bal Ram jio...

In the first round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord sets out His Instructions for performing the daily duties of married life.

Instead of the hymns of the Vedas to Brahma, embrace the righteous conduct of Dharma, and renounce sinful actions.

Meditate on the Lord's Name; embrace and enshrine the contemplative remembrance of the Naam.

Worship and adore the Guru, the Perfect True Guru, and all your sins shall be dispelled.

By great good fortune, celestial bliss is attained, and the Lord, Har, Har, seems sweet to the mind.

Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the first round of the marriage ceremony, the marriage ceremony has begun.

The first verse of Laavan is about letting go of the past and embarking on a new beginning. It stresses that the centre of the marriage is spiritual and that the success of the marriage rests on the couple having a daily spiritual practice.

The second verse of the Laavan: Har doojdi lav Satgur purukh milaya Bal Ram jio...

In the second round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord leads you to meet the True Guru, the Primal Being.

With the Fear of God, the Fearless Lord in the mind, the filth of egotism is eradicated.

In the Fear of God, the Immaculate Lord, sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord, and behold the Lord's Presence before you.

The Lord, the Supreme Soul, is the Lord and Master of the Universe; He is pervading and permeating everywhere, fully filling all spaces.

Deep within, and outside as well, there is only the One Lord God. Meeting together, the humble servants of the Lord sing the songs of joy.

Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the second round of the marriage ceremony, the unstruck sound current of the Shabad resounds.

The second verse states that the Guru is the centre of the marriage and that such a marriage is filled with joy and ecstasy.

The third verse of the Laavan: Har teejdi lav man chao bhiya bairagiya Bal Ram jio....

In the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with Divine Love.

Meeting with the humble Saints of the Lord, I have found the Lord, by great good fortune.

I have found the Immaculate Lord, and I sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord. I speak the Word of the Lord's Bani.

By great good fortune, I have found the humble Saints, and I speak the Unspoken Speech of the Lord.

The Name of the Lord, Har, Har, Har, vibrates and resounds within my heart; meditating on the Lord, I have realized the destiny inscribed upon my forehead.

Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with Divine Love for the Lord.

The third verse gives the understanding that both love and liberation lie within the Saadh Sangat - the company of those who do sadhana and gather together for worship. It is through this that we realize our destiny and Divine love.

The fourth verse of the Laavan: Har choutdi lav man sahaj bhiya Har paiya Bal Ram jio...

In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, my mind has become peaceful; I have found the Lord.

As Gurmukh, I have met Him, with intuitive ease; the Lord seems so sweet to my mind and body.

The Lord seems so sweet; I am pleasing to my God. Night and day, I lovingly focus my consciousness on the Lord.

I have obtained my Lord and Master, the fruit of my mind's desires. The Lord's Name resounds and resonates.

The Lord God, my Lord and Master, blends with His bride, and her heart blossoms forth in the Naam.

Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, we have found the Eternal Lord God.

The fourth verse is the final stage which relates to stage of harmony and the fulfilment of the goal of life. It is the stage of union when married life is completely blended with love for Waheguru. This is the stage when the couple becomes one Soul in two bodies.

Viah Hoa Mere Babulla

The next Shabads to be recited expressed the joy of the bride in having acquired her life partner. Here again the Shabad is a tribute to God and expresses joy at having attained union with the Infinite. The following shabad is recited composed by Guru Ram Das ji, on Ang 78 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

Vivah hoa mere Babulla...

O my father I am married. By the Guru's Grace I have attained the Lord. The darkness of ignorance has been dispelled and the Guru has revealed the blazing light of Spiritual Wisdom. The Spiritual Wisdom given by the Guru shines forth, and darkness has been dispelled. I have found the process Jewel of the Lord. The blight of ego has disappeared, my pain has ended and through the Guru's Teachings my old identity has transformed into a new identity. I have obtained my Eternal, Indestructible and Immortal Lord who never dies or shall leave me. O my father, by the Guru's Grace I am married. I have attained the Lord.

Poori Aasa Ji Mansa Mere Ram

Then following the Shabad is recited to signify that everyone's wishes have been fulfilled by the Grace of God, composed by Guru Arjan Dev Ji, on Ang 577 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji:

Poori asa Ji meri mansa...

Raag Vadhaans Mahalla 5:

O my Lord, all my expectations and desires are fulfilled. I am empty and without virtue. All virtues lie within You, O my Lord. All virtues are Yours, O my Lord. I have no words to express them. You have no concern for my faults. All is forgiven in a moment. I have been blessed with the Nine Spiritual Treasures and am in total bliss and the unstruck melody resounds. Says Nanak, I have found God within myself and all my sorrows have flown away.

Ardas

This very unique ceremony concludes with the Ardas of the Sangat which blesses the couple along with everyone gathered.

Hukamnama

After this a Hukamnama is recited which is a special personal message from the Guru to guide the couple throughout their married life.

Karah Prashad

Karah Prashad is served to the entire congregation. The relatives congratulate the parents of the couple at the end of the ceremony.

Guru Ka Langar

Guests will be invited to join the bride and groom in the kitchen (langar hall) where food has always, and continues to be served free to all visitors irrespective of their faith, religion or background.

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