Anand Karaj for Dummies - Everything you need to know about the Sikh wedding ceremony

So wedding season is upon us, many of us probably have at least five invitations sitting at home from that close cousin, or your Mama’s Chachi’s Sister’s Son-in-law’s dog breeder’s neighbour’s doctor’s daughter’s friend’s sister. Either way, we enjoy the Punjabi traditions, like the jaggo and the sitthiniyaan, but I’ve noticed that when it comes to the ACTUAL wedding, people are clueless- ESPECIALLY the wedded couple. Well, here is a compilation of what the actual official wedding in accordance to Sikh philosophy and tradition is all about.


This concept is very Judeo-Christian/Abrahamic/Western. In Sikhi, the Anand Karaj is the intertwining of two souls in a bond that will help them unite with God. The Anand Karaj has no mention of the material union of the couple at all. Yes, once you are married you share assets, and you are intimate with one another, but the bigger picture is that you are setting forward on a journey to help one another unite your souls with the Creator.


The main hymns that are sung for the Anand Karaj (the Laavan- I’ll explain what they are in detail later) fall under raag Suhi. Raags are musical measurements that has a set mood and time of day. The time set out for Raag Suhi is the third prahar/pehar of the day, which falls between 9am and 12pm. Therefore, the Anand Karaj should take place within that 3 hour window. The only exception to this is Amrit Vela (pre-dawn) weddings. Amrit Vela is considered the holiest time of the day, and therefore it is fitting to perform the Anand Karaj during that time if the couple deems it fit. either way, the ceremony is a morning affair.


1. Singing of Keeta Lorhiye Kamm

Contrary to popular belief, the milni (where the soon-to-be-in-laws formally greet one another) and the tea are completely cultural and do not hold religious meaning behind them. 

The actual Anand Karaj that Guru Sahib has given to us begins with the singing of Keeta Lorhiye Kamm. At this time, all the guests have arrived in the Darbar and the couple have made their entrance and have been seated in front of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the centre of religious and political authority in Sikhi. When they pay they respects, both the bride and the groom present a rumalla- a robe of honour- to Guru Granth Sahib as a symbol of respect.

The raagis (singers) then sing the hymn Keeta Lorhiye Kamm (for the full script, translation, and transliteration of the shabad, click HERE). This serves to remind everyone that before any task is to be performed the very first thing we must do is supplicate and ask our Creator for guidance and help. Marriage is a giant undertaking, so this shabad revealed by Guru Nanak Dev Ji is of great importance.

Once this shabad has begun being recited, the ceremony has officially begun.

2. Arambhta Ardaas

Before undertaking any task, it is the commandment from Guru Gobind Singh Ji that we do Ardaas (the Sikh prayer for supplication- for more info on the Ardaas click HERE). Therefore, before the Laavan begin, an Ardaas is performed.

Many people began calling this the “Chhoti Ardaas” (lesser Ardaas) because some traditions hold it that only the couple and their parents perform the Ardaas. However, that is a new innovation, and puratan tradition holds that everyone would participate and collectively pray for the couple.

Either way, it is a disservice to call this Ardaas “chhoti” as an Ardaas is never lesser in the eyes of God. Every Ardaas is important and every Ardaas is vaddi or great. Thus, this Ardaas should be called the Arambhta Ardaas, or preliminary Ardaas. 

3. Arambhta Hukamnama

Hukamnama basically translates to “address of commandments,” and it takes place after every Ardaas that happens in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Ji’s Saroop is opened up at a random page and the very first shabad on the top left hand corner of the left-most Ang is read aloud as a message to the soon-to-be wed couple. In Sikhi we believe that this is the LITERAL hukam of the Guru and therefore it should be treated with respect and reverence. The contents of the shabad provide personalized guidance to the couple surrounding the Anand Karaj.

4. Palle Di Rasam

After the Arambhta Hukamnama, the Palle Di Rasam begins. The raagis sing the shabad Palle Tende Laagi (for the full script, translation, and transliteration of the shabad, click HERE). The shabad narrates the soul’s longing to unite with the Lord, and the way the soul forsakes all worldly attachments to attach itself to the Lord. This serves as a reminder that the couple is to help one another make that connection with their Lord.

While the shabad is being sung, the bride’s father, or another figure from the household, takes the end of the groom’s palla- stole that he has draped over his right shoulder- and hands it to the bride. This is similar to a tying-the-knot or gatth-bandan ceremony, and it signifies that these two physical beings are now becoming one spriritually.

5. The Laavan

The “main attraction” of the wedding now begins. The Granthi begins reading the first Laav, and, depending on the tradition, the couple either sits or stands to listen to the recitation. The Laavan are hymns written by Guru Ram Das Ji and provide a guideline as to how the soul unites with God (for the full script, translation, and transliteration of the four Laavan, click HERE). Each Laav is first read from Guru Granth Sahib Ji by the Granthi, and then the Raagis sing the Laav in Raag Suhi while the couple first prostrates in submission to God, then circumambulates around Guru Granth Sahib Ji in a clockwise motion. (If you would like to hear the Laavan being sung, click HERE. Warning: May cause an extremely blissful experience.) Once the couple has circumambulated for the Laav, they wait until the Laav has been sung, and then prostrate to accept the truth behind the Laav.

The couple then stays standing or sits down, depending on the tradition, and they listen to the Granthi recite the second Laav, they then prostrate and circumambulate while the Raagis sing the second Laav. This is repeated for all four Laavs. This is the gist behind them:

-First Laav: Renounce duality and falsehood and worship the One Lord alone.
-Second Laav: Fear God and feel the Presence of the Creator everywhere.
-Third Laav: Surround yourself with good company and feel the Lord’s Love.
-Fourth Laav: Surrender your very being and become one with the Creator.

Once the fourth laav is recited, the couple is officially married!

6. Anand Sahib and Celebratory Shabads

According to Sikh tradition, at the end of ever religious service the first five and last stanza of Anand Sahib must be recited (for the full script, translation, and transliteration of the shabad, click HERE). Anand means bliss, and the shabad symbolizes the bliss someone feels when they feel closer to God, which is the ultimate goal of any Gurdwara service. At this moment, the Granthi puts both the rumallas the bride and groom presented on Guru Granth Sahib as a symbol of the Guru intertwining the two souls.

Other shabads recited at this time are Viahu Hoa Mere Babula and Puri Asaa Ji, which have an air of joy to them.

7. Ardaas

Once the final shabads are recited, everyone stands for the main Ardaas, where we pray that the couple has a happily married life together.

8. Hukamnama and Degh

A hukamnama is then received, and this hukamnama is Guru Ji’s hukam for the newly wed couple on how to conduct their marriage. Degh, a communal wheat pudding, is then distributed amongst everyone to signify our unity as a congregation and our willingness to accept God’s graces.

9. Sikhiya

Now is the least anticipated part of the day. The Sikhiya speeches. From how to carry out a marriage, to what the Anand Karaj means, these speeches are meant to provide guidance to the couple, but lets face it, many of us can find this part to be a bit of a bore.

10. Langar

FOOOOOOD!!!! What wedding is complete without a feast? However, the langar holds deeper meaning than just a regular meal. It is a symbol of equality and unity, where we all eat from the same kitchen, on the same floor as everyone else.


-Showing up hungover is as bad as showing up drunk. This is Guru Sahib’s Darbar and the ceremony you are about to witness is sacred, so out of respect please limit your alcohol consumption the night before.
-The Anand Karaj is not the time for fanfare. That’s what the reception is for.
-Please make an effort to undertand the meaning of the ceremony before you yourself get married.
-It would be helpful to make pamphlets for your non-Sikh friends so they can read along and stay up to date during the ceremony.
-If you are carrying a kirpan, then please please pleeeease treat it with respect. It is not a prop sword to make you look cool. It is a sacred symbol of our faith.
-The Laavan are not a time for you to look around and goof off. I once saw a groom fist bump one of the bride’s brothers as he was walking….don’t do that. Please.


-Milni: Nothing wrong with a little kinship and love 
-Sagan: Yes, you do NOT have to sit for hours while people fill your lap with five dollar bills. That is cultural and you can omit it and save your legs from the two days of cramping you will feel. But if that’s your thing, that’s cool.
-Sehra: Our Gurus themselves have worn the flower veil as a cultural symbol of being a groom. However, remove it before the Laavan begin. 
-Rings: You can exchange rings once the final ardaas and hukamnama is complete. To do so in front of Guru Sahib is so special and meaningful. :)


-The kalgi: The kalgi is a plume kings put on their turban, and in Punjabi culture the bride and groom are king and queen for the day, so the grrom usually wears the plume when he walks into darbar, only to have it removed later. We should not be wearing the plume in the first place, Our only King is Guru Granth Sahib, and we are mere paupers in Their presence. If you are wearing a kalgi, remove it (unceremoniously lol) BEFORE you enter Darbar.
-“Helping” the sister walk the Laavan: This is a fairly recent (past few decades) trend, and one that is deeply sexist and contrary to Gurmat. Basically, brothers hold onto the bride and guide her along while she circumabulates. While this may look sweet, it is sexist. Women in Sikhi are given independence to do their own duties, and the laavan are between the couple and the Guru, not the couple, the Guru, and the bride’s brothers- that’s a recipe for an unhealthy marriage lol.
-Sister’s, I know the Mughal-esque face veil is coming back into trend, but face veils are actually prohibited in the presence of Guru Sahib.


The Anand Karaj is way more than a contractual ceremony. It isn’t about the physical couple. They don’t even face each other during the ceremony. They sit, stand, walk, and prostrate simultaneously side-by-side, facing and circumambulating the centre of our universe, Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaaj, as their souls intertwine and prepare to become one with The Lord. The Anand Karaj is so mystic that Western paradigms do it no justice.

It is our duty as Sikh youth to educate ourselves and preserve this beautiful ceremony that seems to have become void of meaning to people year by year.

If I missed anything or made any mistakes, bhul chuk muaaf karni. _/\_





So I know I’m a little late to the online Sikh slactivist keyboard warrior fest that went down online a few weeks ago, but my inbox was flooded with people asking me for my take on the issue, so here it is.

THE ISSUE: A few weeks ago there was a post made online about an unconventional Anand Karaj (Sikh wedding ceremony) that took place in Atlanta, where the bride and groom did their phere (circumambulation) during the Laavan (hymns that solemnize the wedding), while standing side by side instead of the usual norm, where the groom walks in the front while the bride follows along.

As usual, anyone breaking with the norm is met with HEAVYYY criticism and bullying online, and this case was no different. People worldwide took to the internet to bash this couple, denouncing them as “not being Sikh,” and committing an unforgivable grave sin (how Abrahamic of you…). Well, in this post I will write about the counterarguments made by people against this Anand Karaj and why they, in my humble opinion, do not hold up to the greater theme of the sacrament of Anand Karaj.

Counterargument 1: This couple is brainwashed by concepts of Western equality. The Anand Karaj doesn’t have any gender-based disparities.

Well, first of all, what is “Western equality?” Please define that for me. I see this term thrown about time in and time out to derail activists within the South Asian community. Equality is equality, any way you slice it. Was the time when Guru Sahib decreed the practice of Sati (burning a widow alive in the pyre of her husband) illegal Western equality? Was Guru Sahib elevating the status of women to Kaurs, above Singhs, Western equality? Was Mai Bhago, our brave mother, leading an army into battle with valour Western equality? No!!! Equality is equality is equality is equality. 

Are there inequalities in the Anand Karaj (according the interpretation in which it is practices today)? Yes! The main one coming into mind being the pallaa ceremony- in which the bride’s father, or other MALE figure if the father is absent, takes the back end of the grooms stole and hands it to the bride in a symbolic “giving away” of her. Correct me if I am wrong, but this practice doesn’t have any solid history in Gurmat itihaas. In fact, it is going to the contrary of what Guru Sahib taught us. Guru Ji taught us that a woman is a sovereign Kaur who has all the rights and responsibilities of a Singh, so then why is she being cast over to another man as if she is someone’s property? Like it or not, but elements of Punjabi patriarchy has crept into the Anand Karaj ceremony practiced today that don’t line up with Gurbani. And if something doesn’t line up should we question it? Yes.

Counterargument 2: The equidistance of the couple while circumambulating Guru Granth Sahib is uneven. 

Alright, fair enough. However, what about that part in Sikhi where we believe that a married couple is not two individual beings, but one combined entity? Also, even if people may not believe that the spouses become the same entity, Sikhi believes that God is everything:

ਤੋਹੀ ਮੋਹੀ ਮੋਹੀ ਤੋਹੀ ਅੰਤਰੁ ਕੈਸਾ ॥
You are me, and I am You-what is the difference between us?

-Sri Raag (Bhagat Ravidas Ji)

So then why does the equidistance of the couple matter? If they are side by side, or one behind the other, they are still circumambulating Dhan Dhan Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaaj, and they are still receiving Guru Sahib’s Kirpa, as they are no longer two individuals, but a married unit. Anyway, to be devil’s advocate, let’s take equidistance into account for a second. Well, the same equidistance can be maintained while the bride leads and the groom follows. But no, that won’t work for many people because…

Counterargument 3: It's Palai Taendae Lagee, not palai taendae lagaa. We have to follow that shabad. It’s a metaphor.

Okay there Augustus Waters… Here’s the thing with Gurbani. There are several of these metaphors in Gurbani that talk about husband and wife, but this mention of husband and wife is not the mundane couple that is getting married, but is only together until death. Gurbani itself says:

ਕੂੜੁ ਰਾਜਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਪਰਜਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਸਭੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮੰਡਪ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਾੜੀ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੈਸਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਸੁਇਨਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਰੁਪਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਪੈਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਾਇਆ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਪੜੁ ਕੂੜੁ ਰੂਪੁ ਅਪਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮੀਆ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੀਬੀ ਖਪਿ ਹੋਏ ਖਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜਿ ਕੂੜੈ ਨੇਹੁ ਲਗਾ ਵਿਸਰਿਆ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ॥ ਕਿਸੁ ਨਾਲਿ ਕੀਚੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਚਲਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਿਠਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਾਖਿਉ ਕੂੜੁ ਡੋਬੇ ਪੂਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਵਖਾਣੈ ਬੇਨਤੀ ਤੁਧੁ ਬਾਝੁ ਕੂੜੋ ਕੂੜੁ ॥੧॥

False is the king, false are the subjects; false is the whole world. False is the mansion, false are the skyscrapers; false are those who live in them. False is gold, and false is silver; false are those who wear them. False is the body, false are the clothes; false is incomparable beauty. False is the husband, false is the wife; they mourn and waste away. The false ones love falsehood, and forget their Creator. With whom should I become friends, if all the world shall pass away? False is sweetness, false is honey; through falsehood, boat-loads of people have drowned. Nanak speaks this prayer: without You, Lord, everything is totally false. ||1||

-Salok Mahalla 1

Koorh meeaa, koorh beebee. Straight up. These relations are a temporal relaity but in the long scheme, they are just as false as the characters that are portrayed by actors on stage before the costumes are shed. So if husband and wife are not a subject of focus in Gurbani? What does Guru Sahib mean? The mention of the couple is a description of the union between the bride, our very own soul, and the Husband Lord, Waheguru. Everything else is a temporal reality but a falsehood in the long run. Therefore the palla shabad that talks about the bride hanging onto the coat-tails of her Husband is not a description of a wedding, but rather Guru Sahib showing our soul letting go of worldly desires and attaching itself to our One True Husband.

Some people understand this, and they still go on and say stuff like this:

Lavaan is [sic] a metaphor of our spiritual journey towards Waheguru ji. As a soul-bride follows the Husband-Lord as per Gurbani, so does bride in laavan. That is how I understood it. Taking laavan while walking behind my groom did not mean any inequality to me. I consider myself fortunate being woman because submission in intuitive for me, while a man has to make conscious effort to practice it in life to be with Waheguru ji. Marriage is much more blissful in spite of all the ups and downs; if a Sikh couple can understand this simple theory behind laavan and its traditional value.

Pehnji!! Are you listening to yourself??? Traditional value? Of what? Sikhi?? No!!! Maybe the colonial gender values that were brought in by the British. Sikhi is a faith of Mai Bhago, Mata Khivi, Mata Sahib Kaur, and other strong women who faced injustice. Women are not submissive in the eyes of my Guru. Women were not given Amrit to cower in a corner and listen to their husband’s command. Not only are you ignoring our strong history of what I like to call Sheroes, but you are being slightly blasphemous in saying that the man is God. I’m sorry but no. There is no difference in divinity between men and women. The same light within your husband is within you.

At the end of the day, what are you worried about? Beadbi (disrespect)? That’s understandable, and it’s true that there are some….not so smart people that do things like sit on Guru Maharaaj Ji’s throne. However this is all out of ignorance. Rather than hate, spread knowledge, and if you really want to protest, stand against people who are ACTUALLY against Sikhi and make attacks against us, such as the burning of Guru Granth Shaib Ji’s saroops in India. Don’t hate people who love their Guru but just have a different intepretation of the Anand Karaj.

Through the ages, innovations have been brought into the ceremony. As long as the words of the Laavan remain unchanged, the Anand Karaj’s sanctity cannot be destroyed, as the sanctity of the ceremony does not lie within the placement of the couple, but rather within the Shabad Guru that is uniting the couple on this special day. 

Stop the hate-mongering. Please.

Meri Jaan...

She said tere bina mera lagda na jiiiii,
I said…without u mere paas kuch bhi nehiii,
You’re the one, all I want, there is none,
Buss tu hi tu hai soniye meriiiii,

She said…she wanna be my girl real badddd,
She couldn’t care less about my past,
She said…she’ll be the best I ever hadddd,
Made for each other we gonna last,

Meri jaan, tere naal, mere saah…hai jurehhh,
All ur hopes, all ur wishes, all ur dreams…
Lehke laavan, main saare karne purehhh,

She said…she never met another Roooop,
Never gazed at the stars from the roof,
She said…she never made love in a coupee,
Never danced in the rain while wearing a suit