Pre Wedding Rituals
A Ceremony of Bliss: The Sikhs refer to a wedding as anand Karaj or a ceremony of bliss. The shopping for the wedding begins with the purchase of Rumalla Sahib - a set of four pieces of cloth that are usually embroidered and are used to cover the Granth Sahib. The bride's maternal grandparents and uncles also spend for the wedding on clothes and jewellery. They also host one meal on the occasion. This is publicly acknowledged as their contribution to the wedding.
Engagement: The formal engagement or kurmai is usually a family affair. The bride's family goes to the groom's house carrying gifts that include sweets, clothes and jewellery. The bride's father or guardian gives the groom a gold ring, a kada (bangle) and gold mohre (coins). Later, these coins are strung into a black thread and given to the bride. She wears it round her neck and it is akin to the mangalsutra worn by Hindu women. But amongst Sikhs, the bride wears this thread only during special occasions.
The Wedding Veil: After the engagement, the groom's family visits the bride's house. For this ceremony of chunni, only close relatives and friends are invited. The groom's mother and aunts give the bride a chunni or veil that usually has ornate phulkari, which is the traditional embroidery of Punjab, done on it. The groom's mother applies mehendi (henna) on the bride's palms. The bride is also given jewellery and clothes. In the days gone by, Sikh weddings were a long drawn out affair and after the engagement, the bride and the groom were confined to the house till the actual wedding took place. Nowadays, this period of confinement is just a day. Maiyan signals the beginning of the confinement with the ladies of the household singing songs to the beat of dholkis (drums).
Vatna Ceremony in Sikh Wedding: The vatna ceremony takes place a few days prior to the wedding. In the early hours of the morning, a paste of turmeric, sandal, cream and rosewater, called ubatan, is applied on the bride's body. The bride is scrubbed clean under the shade of a bagh. Bagh is a piece of hand made cotton cloth with phulkari work. It is usually passed on from one generation to the next. A similar ceremony takes place in the groom's house too.
Jaggo Ceremony: This usually takes place in the late hours of the night before the wedding. The maternal relatives of the bride assemble the night prior to the wedding. They decorate a copper vessel, called gaffar, with diyas (lamps) made of atta (wheat flour). They light these lamps with mustard oil wicks. The bride's maternal aunt (mami) carries this vessel on her head. Another one of the ladies carries a long stick with ghungroos (small bells) tied on it and the ladies then visit the houses of their relatives in the village. In cities too, this custom is followed, but as the distances are large, the ladies travel by a vehicle. They are welcomed at every house and served sweets. The ladies sing and perform giddha, a traditional dance. The family that they visit usually pours some oil into the diyas.
Usually the mehendi and sangeet ceremony follows that of jaggo. Mehendi is applied on the bride's hands and the other girls of the family too apply mehendi. There is singing and dancing followed by a feast.
On the day of the wedding, in the morning, the groom's sister-in-law and other female relatives go to a gurduwara and fill a gharoli (earthen pitcher) with water. This water is used to bathe the groom during the khare charna ceremony. The groom is made to sit on a stool for his bath and four girls hold a cloth to his head. A similar bathing ritual is performed at the bride's house as well. After the bridal bath, the bride is made to wear the chura - 21 red and white bangles. Then, her sisters and friends tie kalerien - golden metal plates - to her bangles. She wears her bridal attire, which is a heavily embroidered salwar-kameez or lehenga-chunni. She wears a tikka (a hair ornament) in the parting of her hair and a nath (nose-ring) on her nose. The other jewels that Sikh brides wear include chaunk- a round head ornament made of gold or silver, kaintha - a gold necklace (like a choker), thick bangles called gokhru and pajeb or silver anklets.
Meanwhile the groom gets ready to leave for his bride's house. Usually he wears a brocade ashcan (long coat). The groom and the male members of his family wear pink turbans. When the groom is ready to leave, his brother's wife (bhabhi) applies surma (kohl) to his eyes and the groom gives her money as a token of his gratitude. After this ceremony, referred to as surma pawai, the groom leaves for the bride's house on horseback, accompanied by his friends and relatives.
The baraat arrives at the bride's house amidst music, singing and dancing. The male members of the bride's family welcome the baraat. This reception is called milni. A raagi (professional bard) sings shabad or the holy verse. The members of both families exchange garlands and gifts. The groom is taken in-doors and this is the time for the bride's sisters and friends to engage him in a session of light- hearted banter.
A Sikh wedding usually takes place before noon. The families of the bride and the groom assemble at the gurudwara. Raagis sing asa di var or the morning hymn. Then the couple is made to sit in front of the Adi Granth. A priest first tells them about the obligations of married life. Then he sings the hymns of marriage from the Granth Sahib. During lawaan, the groom and the bride each hold one end of the scarf. The groom leads the bride around the Granth Sahib. At the end of the fourth round, the groom and the bride are pronounced husband and wife. All those assembled bless the couple and give them shagun or gifts in the form of money. A feast follows the ceremony of lawaan.
Post wedding Ceremony
When it is time for the bride to leave her house for her new home, she throws wheat grains over her shoulder signifying that she is paying off her debt to her parental home. She is carried to her husband's house in a doli, or palanquin. But this custom is rarely followed these days. Upon her arrival, the groom's family welcomes the bride and gives her mukh dekhai or money to behold her. Usually, the groom and his mother, give the bride jewellery as mukh dekhai.
The couple visit the bride's parental home a day after the wedding. A welcome feast is held in their honour and the bride and the groom are given gifts.
More on Indian Religious Weddings
More on Indian Wedding Accessories
More on Types of Marriages