Friday, May 27, 2016

A mix pot "Sikh" wedding: The modern day Punjabi wedding...


What is nowadays labelled as ‘Sikh’ wedding by Punjabis,  in reality are a mix of Hindu, Islamic, Christian and Punjabi traditions. Most people unbeknown to them follow these rituals in good faith and enjoy them thinking they are part and parcel of Sikhi. However, it is usually the case that these rituals and customs are contrary to Sikhi and therefore defeat the objective of having an Anand Karaj, which is to receive the blessings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Due to a lack of knowledge and awareness about what a ‘Sikh’ wedding in reality should be, most people carry on following popular culture.


6 non-Sikh traditions that people think are part of "Sikh" weddings

(1) Rangoli/ Maaeeyaa (Hinduism)
Rangoli is an ancient Hindu form of drawing for special festivities. It is meant to welcome the Hindu deities into the home for blessings and is an offering of good luck. Before weddings take place, a Rangoli design is made on the floor, which consists of repeating patterns of flowers and geometric shapes made of flour and colour. In this pre-wedding ritual, the bride or groom sits on a stool before the Rangoli pattern and has a a turmeric paste applied to them. This Hindu ritual is meant to make their minds and bodies pure before the marriage ceremony. It is also used to lighten and beautify the skin.

Note: A Sikh would want to invite Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to their home, rather than a deity or goddess. There is no such thing as good luck. Good actions lead to lead good results. Reciting and singing Gurbani brings blessings. One is beautified according to Gurmat by singing Vahiguru's Praises and living in accordance to the Guru's Teachings.



(2) Mehndi Ceremony (Islamic)
Dyeing the hands and feet with henna is something mustahabb (encouraged) for women in Islam, unlike for men. A number of Hadiths indicate that it is highly encouraged. Abu Dawood (4166) narrates, "A woman gestured from behind a screen, with a letter to the Prophet Muhammad in her hand. Prophet Muhammad withdrew his hand and said: “I do not know whether it is the hand of a man or a woman.” She said: It is a woman. He said: “If you were a woman, you would have changed your nails,” meaning, with henna. It is part of the Muslim tradition (Sunnah) for women to dye their hands with henna as instructed by Prophet Muhammad to be differentiated from men.

Note: A Sikh wears that which pleases the Guru, not another religion's respected prophets. The Guru is pleased with a Sikh wearing the Panj Kakkaar.


(3) Sehra (Hindu/Mughal)
A Sehra is decorative veil worn by a groom that originates from Northern India from Vedic times. It consists of an embroidered rectangular piece with strings that make up the veil. The stringed veil can be either made of flowers or beads. The Sehra is tied over the groom’s turban. Alternatively the groom’s turban can have the Sehra stitched into it. First, it covers the face of the groom like a veil and protects him from "Nazar" or the "evil eye." Second, it reminds the groom that the search for a life partner is over and a veil across the face indicates he should not look any other lady. Although it originates from Hindu culture, amongst Muslims the Sehra has been patronised and adopted into Islamic culture since the Mughal era where kings wore elaborate looking head gears encrusted with precious pearls and stones during their weddings. In fact, the word ‘Sehra’ literally means a poem sung during a ‘nikah', Muslim wedding ceremony.

Note: Gurbani does not believe in the 'evil eye' concept', and says reciting Vahiguru's Name rids one any perceived evil eyes or bad luck. Secondly, a Sikh lives by the principal of seeing every other woman as his daughter, sister or mother. Throughout Sikh history Sikh's have been known for their high moral character, and this was without the help or reminder of a Sehra or face veil.


(4) Jai Mala (Hindu)
The Var Mala ceremony is known as Jaimala also. The reference of this ritual is found in Vedic literature. In ancient times (during Vedic age), the kings used to arrange the system of selection of the groom by their daughters. They used to invite the son of kings (raaj-kumars) of the friendly states, a grand ceremony was arranged and the girl (or bride) was given the opportunity to select the groom of her choice. In this system, she was free to put the garlands in the neck of her groom of choice. The same concept is followed in modern times too, but with the changes that there is only one bride and groom.

Note: A Sikh couple's union in Gurmat is bound by Gurbani and blessings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji when one bows before the Guru and walks around the Guru to indicate the Guru is the centre of their lives. A Sikh's union is not made with garlands or necklaces, but bound by the Guru.


(5) Ring Ceremony (Christian)
Early Christian marriages had a ritual to wear the wedding ring in the third finger. As the priest recited during the binding, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, he would take the ring and touch the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger; then, while uttering “Amen”, he would place the ring on the ring finger, which sealed the marriage. Nowadays, it is worn on the fourth finger. The church considers it as a symbol of love and faithfulness. It stands for the promise made between a man and a woman that binds them for eternity in love.

Note: A Sikh wears no symbol of any other religion or belief. A Sikh wears the Panj Kakkaar as their jewellery and symbol of commitment to the Guru.


(6) Throwing of Rice (Hindu/Christian)
In Hinduism as the bride steps out of her parent’s house to be a part of her husband’s family, she pauses at the doorstep to throw handful of coins and rice back over her head thrice. Throwing rice and or money, is a manifestation of Goddess Lakshmi (the Hindu Goddess of prosperity and wealth). The bride wishes that her parent’s house always remain prosperous. Coins signify wealth, whereas rice is a symbol of health. This ritual also symbolises that the bride has repaid her parents for her upbringing and for everything they have bestowed on her.  In Christianity, the rice throwing tradition at weddings originates from Paganism. Throwing of rice in marriage ceremony is the same as throwing salt over ones shoulder. It's casting a spell for good luck and a blessing for fertility. In Christianity it was re-interpreted as a reminder to the couple that the primary purpose in marriage is to create a family that will serve and honour the Lord. Therefore, guests symbolically throw rice as a gesture of blessing for the spiritual and physical fruitfulness of the marriage.
 
Note: According to Gurmat as one acts, he reaps. To throw rice as a blessing is not Gurmat. To wish someone well and give blessings in Sikhi is through reciting Gurbani and doing Simran.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is very useful to know where theae traditions come from. What does Sikhi say about divorce?

mistermasood said...

This is common culture that brought Punjabi together. Even Muslims in Pakistan follow these traditions. A lot more traditions have origins in Sikhism. Like serving meal after ones death and at Mazar's resembles with Sikh concept of Langer. Lighting up of stick during Shab-e-Bharat resembles with Sikh concept of Lori. Whenever humanity live together they produce common culture that binds them together. Don't purge Sikhism from these traditions otherwise you lament later in life. Like what Wahabism is doing in Pakistan which us intolerant. Punjabis were very tolerant nation in the world. In my childhood , being Muslim old people would say Allah won't forgive over much prayers and fasting but purity of heart. Bakshan lagay tay thora gal tay cee Bacha dainda agar pakran lagay tay baree ibadat tay vee pakar lainda. This was tolerant and beautiful Punjab. Please don't destroy it in your side.

Anonymous said...

In Sikhism there is no such thing as divorce.

Manvir Singh said...

Anand Karaj is for life, however in extreme circumstances there may be exceptions, which can only be agreed by the Panj Pyaare.

Anand Karaj is solemnised with the authority of the Guru. And in any exceptional circumstance only the Panj Pyaare, ie the Guru, has authority to sanction civil divorce or separation. No individual can make this decision. In Gurmat tradition, all matters should go through the Guru.

Anonymous said...

Guru Nanak Dev Ji took aspects of the prevailing religions in India at that time, Hinduism and Islam, which resulted in Sikhism. But most of all, Sikhism is about tolerance of all faiths, so I don't see why it isn't Sikh to include these traditions in our weddings.
I'm sure most of these traditions are not followed for the specific reasons mentioned, such as the Mehndi being applied due to differentiating between men and women or wearing rings as a symbol of Christianity, but rather as a sign of love between the partners.

Kulwant Rekhra said...

Just FYI, lori is not a sikh practice. :)

Anonymous said...

Wedding rings were adopted by Christians. Cultures evolve. Get used to it

"It is widely believed that the first examples of wedding rings were found in ancient Egypt. Relics dating back as far as 6,000 years ago, including papyrus scrolls, show us evidence of braided rings of hemp or reeds being exchanged among a wedded couple. Egypt viewed the circle as a symbol of eternity, and the ring served to signify the never-ending love between the couple. This was also the origin of the practice of wearing the wedding ring on the ring finger of the left hand, which the Egyptians believed to house a special vein that was connected directly to the heart,[6] otherwise also known as Vena amoris."

Kiran Kaur said...

A very well written article and I do agree with the views of the author.Sadly,not many are following and will follow the true teachings of Sikhism...However,the onus is on the individual to make that difference.

Kiran Kaur said...

A very well written article and I do agree with the views of the author.Sadly,not many are following and will follow the true teachings of Sikhism...However,the onus is on the individual to make that difference.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty sure Rehit Maryada says Sikhs can divorce and remarry...

Charan Singh said...

His shoutouts to the other practices are valid things to point out that they come from a different tradition though I'd rather see him critiqueing the anti gurmat principles in them much more...if there are any. There's a lot of adopted Sikh traditions from other traditions the key is to really do veechar on what they mean to oneself verse what their original use was...at that point everything is subjective so it's more important to address the individuals thought processes and intentions instead of the ritual/tradition also what's in rehit is the only that guides as as a Panth...like Rehit has a section that mandates what should and should not be done at weddings and what the bride and groom should and should not do...it's actually extremely straight forward and simple.

I actually vehemently disagree that an Anand Karaj is just for blessings of Guru Granth Sahib Ji...it's just as equally about being in the diwan/darbar (court) of Guru Panth Sahib Ji.

Izhaarbir Singh said...

Please provide some source for your information. As it is presented, it sounds like you're acting as the sole authority on all Sikh matters. Is your source for this the Sikh Rahat Maryada?

Also, if you're worried about adoption of practices from other faiths and traditions, then you should also think about the nature of your own language. The term "solemnize" is not authentically Sikh in terms of its etymology and definition.

I have translated below what I find Guru Sahib to say in the fourth pauri of Jap Ji Sahib:

True is the Master, Truth it's Name, infinite love is the language (the means to connect) |
The Giver gives endlessly for everything asked |
So what can I give that will allow me to see the Court (of the Master)? |
What can I say through my mouth that will evoke (the Master's) love? |
This moment is precious, (the Master's) existence is real, contemplate the greatness (of the Master and of this moment) |
Through ones actions one is clothed (decorated) and by the Master's view upon you (grace) one realizes the Court |
Nanak says, in this manner one realizes the existence of the Master (truthful one) in all |

Guru Sahib says that nothing that we say or that we give (ritual donations or slaughter of animals, etc.) will help us realize Oneness. The only language that connects us to the One is love and that love is realized through our actions/our doing (karam).

So the only thing that remains to be answered is for a Sikh to ask him/herself, what is the root of my actions? Is it out of a place of love or something else?

Practically speaking, many gursikh families have adopted these traditions in a manner no longer identifiable with the traditional reasons behind them. For example, the Sehra is often written by Gursikh families as a way to encourage the couple to connect to Naam and the Sikh way of life.

Life is a lot more nuanced than simply "this is Sikhi" and "that anti-Sikhi".


Susan said...

Gur Fateh,
Could you please remove my wedding picture. I did not give permission for its use.
Thank you
Lakhpreet Kaur

Dr.Balwant Singh Bains M'sia said...

Please dont mix Tradition with religion. Traditions are colourful that adds glory and fondness to weddings. Imagine a totally religious wedding. Religion does not encourages many things like dance, jewelry, bling-blings; party; etc etc. Then rightfully weddings would look so dull and monotonous. Come on you author. Let people breath in joy. If you gave these thoughts then best keep it confined to your self. There is no need to confuse people and bring guilt it then. Religion remember does not unite anyone. It only lead a mob charge against non-believers of a faith. Gurmat and manmat is a personal inner. Need not to be enforced upon others.

Anonymous said...

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh

Wow, amazing article. Thank you for revealing the truth!

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh