Sikh Wedding Rituals

A Sikh marriage is patterned after the Hindu marriage ceremony and differs from it only in minor details. The major difference is that the religious texts that the Sikhs use are not Vedic but from the Guru Granth Sahib. Among Sikhs the wedding shopping is inaugurated by buying of a pair of Rumalla Sahib. This is a set of four pieces of cloth used to cover the Granth Sahib. The rest of the shopping can be done only after this purchase. Invitation cards are sent along with a box of sweets (mithai).

Akhand Paath Reception of Baraat and Milni
Shagun Jaimala
Chunni The Wedding Ceremony
Mangni Juti Chupai
Nanke Chak Doli Muklava
Jaago Receiving The Bride
Ladies Sangeet Sandook Khulwai
Mehendi Wedding Games in Bride's New Home
Batna Ceremony Reception
Chooda Ceremony Phera
Nath Taking Off The Chooda
Akhand Paath
Prior to the wedding, an Akhand Paath is held at the bride's house in which the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh religious text is read non-stop over three days. At the end of the Paath ardaas (like an arti) is performed and sweets are distributed. For the ardaas, relatives and friends are also invited. Once the ardaas is over and prasad is distributed, a vegetarian feast is laid out for the guests. At times, instead of an Akhand Paath, Sudharan Paath can be read over a week or 10 days, with intervals, before the wedding. 
The bride's family goes to the groom's house with all kinds of sweet, fruits and dry fruits and other gifts of clothes and jewellery. A part of the dowry (if any) is also carried on this occasion. The girl's father (in his absence the brother or any other elderly male member of the family) gives the would be groom a gold ring, a kara(bangle) with a minimum of eleven gold mohra (sovereigns). These are later strung into a black thread and put around the girl's neck after the wedding, but is not worn by the bride around the neck thereafter. Generally only a few guests are invited on this occasion.
After the shagun, the groom's family (usually close female relatives) comes to the girl's house with the wedding chunni (veil) that is a phulkari (traditional embroidery of Punjab used on all festive occasions). She also puts a bit of mehendi (henna) on the girl's palms. The groom's mother gives clothes, a ring and other jewelry to the bride. These gifts are part of the wari. It is a very small ceremony with only the family and closest friends and relatives being present. 
Mangni (formal engagement ceremony) precedes the wedding. It is held at the bride's residence, usually one or two days prior to the wedding. The groom arrives accompanied by his parents, relatives and friends. They are welcomed by the bride's receiving party. The bride and the groom exchange rings. The bride's parents arrange a feast on the occasion. 
Nanke Chak
The bride's maternal grandparents and uncles also contribute a good amount on the wedding, in the form of clothes and jewellery, etc. Usually they also host one meal on an occasion. 
The ceremony takes place during late hours of the night with only the family and the immediate relatives being present. It can be performed after sangeet but is normally done before it. The bride's maternal relatives get together and prepare a copper vessel called gaffar decorated with diyas (lamps) made of atta (dough) and lit with mustard oil wicks. The vessel is decorated and put on the girl's mami's (maternal aunt) head. One of the ladies also carries a long stick with ghungroos tied on it and all go singing and dancing to all the relatives in the village. In cities, too, this custom is followed but since the distances are far, they are allowed to move in vehicles. In each house they visit, they are welcomed and they sing and perform the giddha (traditional dance). They are served tea and snacks and the visited family has to put some oil in the diyas as a custom. 
Ladies Sangeet
This is the last party that the bride to be gives her friends as a maiden. Women sing special marriage songs and play the dholki. Most of the songs are lively, boisterous and worded for the occasion. The songs range from making light fun of the groom and the in-laws, to advising the bride how to lead her marital life to feeling sad about the girl leaving her parents' home forever. 
The Mehendi ceremony generally takes place one or two days before the wedding. This is also primarily a function for the ladies and is held at the bride's house. First the girl is cleansed with a paste of turmeric and sandalwood powder from top to toe. Then the girl's hands and feet are adorned with ornamental mehendi (henna) patterns. Mehendi or henna is a symbol of auspiciousness. The girl is surrounded by her friends and female relatives who also get their hands adorned with henna. 
Batna Ceremony
The batna ceremony is held the morning of the wedding, where the women of the family apply besan to the bride's body while singing traditional songs. The bride then goes for a bath. The groom too, is supposed to have a batna ceremony. 
Chooda Ceremony
 Chooda ceremony is also held on the morning of the wedding. The bride's maternal uncle and aunt give her a set of choodas (21 bangles in red and white ivory). Nowadays the bride often wears 7 or 9 bangles. As per tradition, the bride should ideally wear the chooda for at least a year. Nowadays the bride wears the chooda for a month and a quarter. The bangles range in size according to the circumference of the top of the forearm and the wrist end so that the set fits neatly.
This is done along with the Chooda ceremony. The maternal uncles put on the traditional nose ring for the bride. In the olden days, Shikarpuri naths were popular. These are large nose rings that cover almost the whole face and are decorated with filigreed flowers and intricate motifs. 
This is a function for the groom, held just before the baraat (wedding party) sets out for the bride's place. As per Sikh tradition, the groom must wear a turban, sehra and carry a sword. He must also sport a beard, even if he is a clean-shaven Sikh. The groom's sister ties the sehra on his forehead. He is especially accompanied by sarvala (an unmarried younger brother or friend to 'protect' him). It is said that the tying of sehra confers the status of Vishnu (the creator) on the groom. The baraat (groom's wedding party) then sets out for the bride's place. 
Reception of Baraat and Milni
The baraat is headed by a deafening display of fireworks and vigorous dancing of the bhangra by the groom's relatives and friends. Accompanied by the rhythm of the north Indian dholak to the brass-bands playing the western tunes the baraat finally reaches the milni or the meeting point. It is welcomed at the gate by the members of the bride's family and relatives. Then Milni Ceremony is done. The respective male relatives from the groom's family hug their counterparts from the bride's family and exchange flower garlands. Gifts are given to immediate members of the groom's family by the corresponding kin of the bride (father gives to father-in-law, etc.). A professional raagi (bard) sings the shabad (holy verse), in particular, hum ghar saajan aaye. The groom is made to get down from the horse by the bride's brother. 
The groom is taken to a decorated raised platform. The bride makes an entry accompanied by her sisters/friends/bhabhis. She is taken to the platform where the groom is standing. Then the bride and the groom exchange flower garlands. Often this ceremony has its lighter moments. As the bride approaches, garland in hand, to place it around the groom's neck, his friends lift him up from the ground and hold him in mid-air, yelling to the bride to place the garland around the neck of the groom. If he bows his head to wear the garland, they insist that he would be bowing to her will for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile the bride's sisters and friends try to ensure that she should not ask the groom to bend, but garland him someway. All this happens in good humour. All the friends and relatives meet and bless the couple. Gifts are usually given at this time. 
The Wedding Ceremony
The wedding itself is a simple affair called the Anand Karaj and is held the morning of the wedding day. If the wedding is being held at a venue other than the gurdwara, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book is placed at the venue of the Anand Karaj. First hymns (kirtan) are sung as the boy and girl sit in front of the Guru Granth Sahib. The hymns ask God to keep this occasion and ceremony pure, untainted. The boy and girl chant a prayer. Then the granthi (Sikh priest) performs the Anand Karaj (the central ceremony) in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib. This consists of readings from the writings of the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjun Dev. The ceremony is conducted in four parts. These deal with the karma, the dharma or faith , the trust that grows out of practising one's dharma or faith and finally the blessings of the Guru and one's faith which help in concluding the task successfully. After each section is recited the couple pays obeisance to the Guru Granth Sahib and circles the Holy Book (these are called lavan). Then there is a ritual of special prayers - Ardaas and Shukrana.6. In the end comes Hukunama - A proof statement of the marriage that all has been concluded well. 
Juti Chupai
Through the wedding ceremonies the girls from the bride's side look for an opportunity to steal the groom's shoes and hide them. Meanwhile the boys from the groom's side try their best not to let the girls succeed in stealing the groom's shoes. Usually the shoes are stolen when the groom takes them off before sitting down in front of the Guru Granth Sahib for the Anand Karaj. If (which is more often than not) the girls succeed, they return the shoes only when the groom gives them rings called kaleechris and a good amount of money.
Doli Muklava
Once lunch is over (which is a feast laid out by the girl's family), the baraat gets ready to leave with the bride. As the bride gets ready to leave her parent's home forever, the scene gets very emotional with bidai songs and tearful farewells. The change of residence of the bride is called muklava. In earlier times, the girl used to leave for her husband's house in a decorated palanquin (doli). Nowadays the bride leaves in a decorated car accompanied by the groom. The bride's brothers push the couple's vehicle as far as they can, symbolising their support and love. 
Receiving The Bride
When the doli reaches the groom's house, it is received by his mother. She waves a vessel of water held in a bed of jamun leaves or grass over the heads of the newly weds putting under the vessel and sips from it till her son stops her. The servant of the family pours mustard oil at the entrance of the door to welcome the couple, signifying the facility of entrance. Then the bride kicks into the house a vessel full of wheat grain, signifying that now her food is in the new home and that her entry brings prosperity and abundance. She then steps into the house and is welcomed by the relatives, friends, and neighbors. Each one feeds her ladoos and gives her Mukh Dekhai (money to behold her). Also the groom and his mother gift the bride some jewellery as Mukh Dekhai. 
Sandook Khulwai
Traditionally the bride's dowry and the gifts are carried in a sandook (huge tin trunk). The groom's sister opens this trunk and is given the first pick of the dresses from the trunk. 
Wedding Games in Bride's New Home
When the bride and groom appear for the family in the groom's house, they are asked to play several games. Playing these games also helps the bride break the ice in her new home and make friends. The bride and groom are asked to take off their rings and put them in a pot of clear water. As the rings settle to the bottom, they are asked to churn the water as vigorously as possible. When their hands come out of the water, everyone looks into the swirling water. If the bride's ring lags behind the groom's rings, she will have the upper hand in their relationship and vice versa. Go Fish: The rings are placed in a pot of milk. The couple is asked 'to fish' - find the ring. Whoever finds the ring first will be in control of the household. Knotted strings: The sister of the groom ties a string in knots and gives it to the bride to unwind. She is allowed to use only one hand to undo the knots while her husband tries to help her with his other hand. The sooner they unravel these knots, the greater the ease with which they work together to face life. 
This is not a traditional requirement, but most people have a reception generally on the same evening. This function is hosted by the groom's side. All friends are invited to meet the couple, bless them and join the family for a grand feast, generally also accompanied by drinks. After the reception follows the Suhaag Raat, or the night of consummation of the marriage. 
On the day after the wedding, the newly wed couple goes to the bride's parents' house. This is called Phera. There the parents of the bride give gifts to both the bride and the groom and lay out a meal for them. After the meal, the newly wed couple returns to the groom's house.
Taking Off The Chooda
Traditionally the bride wore the chooda for a whole year. Girls nowadays prefer to keep it on for a month and a quarter. As per tradition, the groom's sister takes the chooda off and gifts the bride new clothes and jewellery. 
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