The Concept Of Marriage In Sikhism Religion Essay

Sikh is a Punjabi word that means in the Punjabi language is ‘disciple’. According to another school of thought, the word Sikh derives from ‘Seekh’ which means learner. Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the ‘Ten Sikh Gurus’. The wisdom of these teachings in Sri Guru Granth Sahib is practical and universal in their appeal to all mankind.

A Sikh is any person whose faith consists of belief in One God, the ten Sikh Gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib and other scriptures and teachings of the Sikh Gurus. Meanwhile, he or she must believe in the necessity and importance of `Amrit’, the Sikh baptism.

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According to Sikh code of conduct “Rahit MaryA?dA?” :

“A Sikh is any person whose faith consists of belief in one God, the ten Gurus, the Guru Granth Sahib and other scriptures of the Sikh religion. Additionally he or she must believe in the necessity and importance of amrit (the Sikh baptism ceremony.)” [1]

The religion was founded by Guru Nanak who was born in 1469 and began in the Punjab, the upper part of the Indus Valley at the beginning of the 16th Century CE. When India and Pakistan became independent, this region which is the historic homeland of the Sikhs has been divided in two. Lahore, the ancient capital of the Sikhs, is now in Pakistan, while Amritsar, the site of the most famous and important Sikh holy building the Harimandir (Golden Temple), is in India.

By the time, the last of the ten living gurus (Gobind Singh) died in 1708, Sikhism had developed a distinct and separate identity, as the succession of nine gurus who followed Guru Nanak each made contributions to and refined the tradition. The tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, decreed that his successor should be Siri Guru Granth Sahib ji, the collection of holy writings of the Sikhs.

The Akali and Singh Saba movement propagated the Sikh beliefs and rituals. These movements fold all Hindu custom from Sikh community. They realized the problem and significance of Sikh Identity. These movements make popular Anand Marriage ceremony. [2]


Marriage is named differently in different cultures and at different places. It is called wedding, Shadi, Viyah or Nikah. This ceremony is called Anand Karaj in Sikhism.

Marriage is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all othersIn other words marriage is an act of taking girl as wife by her husband from the house of her father-mother. Marriage is the central, cardinal institution of natural society. [3]

Further, the basic unit of society is the family, not the individual, it starts the reproductive cycle of human life. Marriage is an institution in which a mating gets social approval and the pairing of men and women are regulated. All known societies today, have the custom of marriage. Marriage is an essential ingredient of any society, and it is just like as religion in the society.

Marriage and the family changes from place to place, religion to religion, caste to caste, tribe to tribe and moreover from time to time. So it is really a hard task to find out a universal definition of marriage. Some of the definitions of marriage focus upon legal aspects of marriage, while others center upon the social aspects of marriage but in almost all definitions of marriage the stress is upon the union of male and female. The marriage ceremony is a special step for couples which require serious thought in any society. During the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom make a public commitment to honor and support each other in their lives together as wife and husband. [4]

Marriage institution is the most oldest and natural institution. During the last few thousand years of our cultural history, marriage and extended family has been the basis of our social structure.

According to Lal Singh, “Marriage is an oath taking ceremony of two souls desirous of physical, intellectual and spiritual union.” [5]

According to Promila Kapur, “Marriage is a Sanskara and as such it is a sacrament and a religious bond which cannot be broken under any circumstances. Ideally, it aims not only at the individual’s biological, emotional, social and spiritual fulfillments and development through union with a person of the opposite sex, but also at the development, fulfillment and welfare of the family, and through it of the society and mankind.” [6]

In general terms, marriage is described as the union of a man and a woman to live together as husband and wife according to the standard set out in the Holy Scriptures, which is socially permitted, legally agreed and religiously allowed.

Marriage as more of a religious ritual than a social in east or legal affair like that in west and is considered a sacred institution in most cultures and religious traditions. Marriage is a spiritual identity, not just a love affair between two people.

Marriage in Sikhism is regarded as a sacred bond of mutual help in attaining the heights of worldly life and spiritual bliss. It is a unity of mind and soul. It is a means to attain spirituality and not an end in itself. The real goal of marriage in Sikhism is union of both souls with Almighty Lord. [7]

Marriage in Sikhism and its Developments

The Sikh Gurus had a very high regard for the state of marriage, and they themselves entered into matrimony. They insisted that marriage is not merely a civil or social contract, but that its highest and most ideal purpose is to fuse two souls into one so that they may become spiritually inseparable.

The concept of Sikh Marriage is explained by Guru Amar Das, the third Guru of the Sikhs that marriage is an attempt of uniting the individual soul to the Universal Soul.

“They are not to be called husband and wife who only sit together; rather they are husband and wife who have one spirit in two bodies” [8]

The Sikh Marriage ceremony is called Anand Kiraj literally (anand means bliss and Kiraj means occasion or ceremony) “Blissful Occasion”. The anand marriage ceremony was initiated by the third Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Ram Das. Varias Guru Bilas and most of the history do not properly dilate on the subject of Sikh marriage in old times. Various Guru Bilas are in poetry and in language that is not quite easy to be followed by everyone.

The first serious attempt at the revival of the Anand marriage ceremony was made during the time of Ranjit Singh by Baba Dyal, founder of the Nirankari movement.

The second attempt was made by the Namdhari Guru Baba Ram Singh who also adopted the Anand ceremony, but with a major difference.

The third and the most important attempt at the widespread propagation of the Anand form of marriage were made by the Singh Sabha movement. The marriage ceremony as propagated by the Singh Sabha resembled the Nirankari rather than the Namdhari version of the Anand marriage.

Sikh Marriage Ceremony

In Anand Karaj, four lavan’ (name of Hymns) are recited from Guru Granth Sahib (the Sikh Holy Book), and with each Lavn’, the boy followed by the girl, circumambulate (goes around) Guru Granth Sahib.

The Anand Kirraj Ceremony can be conducted in boy home or in Gurdwarain the presence of Sri Guru Gant Sahib. The couple to be married will be sitting in front of Guru Gant Sahib on flour and the family and friends will set down. Customly “Asa the var” is recited and then the welcoming hymns is recited. The Granti make it sure that the couple have agreed to the marriage require them and their parents stand up. The rest of congregation remains seated.

Then the advice or instruction is given by the Granthi. Usually it is the summary of the Sikh philosophy of marriage and married life. He asks the couple to aspire for a truly religious life devoted to God and to get initiated into the order of the Khalsa. Through the sweetness of their manners and behavior they should ingratiate with their in-laws. Loyalty and fidelity to each other are the highest virtues. Adultery is strictly forbidden. Here the Granthi recites hymns of Guru Gobind Singhs and Guru Amar Das and Guru and even Baba Fareed Shalok.

The bride and groom bow to Siri Guru Granth Sahib in acceptance of the instructions.

Then the marriage Lavan reads the Granthi which are composed by Guru Amar Das, the forth Sikh Guru. The four lavans are reading and with each lavan the couple is rotating the Siri Guru Granth Sahiband at the end of rotation to the Siri Guru Granth in acceptance. The four lavan and rotation is basically the four promises.

In last everybody (congregation) will stand up and the Granthi will read the concluding prayer. After this the Granthi reads the Ardas which summary is that the God is unique..Also Karah Parsad is distributed to congregation. Usually it is first offer to the couple and then to others people of congregation. [9]

Sikh Marriage Act

In 1908 A.D Tikka Ripudaman Singh was member of Imperial Legislative Council who sent the bill to the Imperial Legislative Council. After Tikka Singh, S.Sunder Singh Mahajitha became the member of the Council. On August 27, 1909 A.D S Sunder Singh presented the Anand Kirraj Bill to the Councile. He told to the council that Ananad marriages were already practiced by Sikh community since last 30 years. The Bill was sent to Select Committee, and its members were Mr. Sinha, Sir Herbert Rezli, and S. Sunder Singh Majithia. On September 10, 1909, the Select Committee placed the Bill before Council with its recommendation. Meeting of the Council was held on October 22, 1909, and Anand Marriage Act 1909 was passed. [10]

But it is strange that in India today magistrates issue the marriage-certificates on the forms of Hindu Marriage Act.

A young Sikh from Patiala Banta Singh said in his statement, “it was like giving a Hindu in Pakistan a Muslim marriage Certificate. The Hindu polytheistic and Muslim or Sikh Monotheistic civilizations simply do not add up. It was therefore obnoxious and sinister of the Indian government to replace an enactment with one that insulted its important minority by way of statutory manipulation.” [11]

Sikh Marriage Act (Anand Kirraj) was submitted by “The World Muslim Sikh Federation” to government of Pakistan in 2007 A.D. The Government of Pakistan has accepted demands from Sikh community to registered their marriages under the Anand Karaj ceremony and introduced Anand Marriage Act in line with the Anand Marriage Act 1909 that was passed by the British in the subcontinent one hundred years ago. The 1909 Act extended to British India (Indian Sub Continent) now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. [12]

The Sikh Marriage Act does not explain the Sikh Marriage Ceremony (Anand Kirrraj) but just explain that the marriage ceremony conducted under Sikh religion and sacrosanct among the Sikhs called “Anand Kirraj” is valid and the Government of Pakistan, through the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee shall issue appropriate marriage certificates under the Sikh Anand Marriage Act.

Statement of the Problem:

Most of the articles on Sikh Rituals are non Scholar writings. There are a very little scholarly writings on Sikh marriage ceremony especially in Peshawar. But I have tried my best to get the academic books, journals, articles and some reports on the issue that I am going to address.

Sikhism has often been described by scholars as a way of life and is the world’s fifth-largest and youngest organized religion. There is a dearth of writings on Sikh rituals and customs. So, it can be best understood by studying the life of the people professing it.

Sikhism is close to Islam in some very basic beliefs and there is currently a need for more comprehensive study on rituals (as Marriage) practices by Sikh community.

Marriage is the most celebrated life event but different religious communities use distinct symbolic tools to legitimate the institution of marriage.

It is possible to urge that living in same city but with different religious practices distinct the social practices.

Research Questions

What is the impact of local culture of Peshawar in the performance of Sikh Marriage ceremony?

What is the relation between marriage and religion; and what is the position of Sikhism in this context?

Is there currently a need for more comprehensive study on Marriage practices by Sikh community in Peshawar?

How far is the practices of modern issues (such as monogamy, polygamy, hypergamy, exogamy, endogamy, abortion and divorce) in Sikhism and what are its boundaries in the religion?

Literature Review:

This is a religious study of one religion of the world. Unfortunately Sikhism has been ignored in the study of religion. There is very little scholarly literature available in Sikh rituals (especially like marriage ceremony). But no research has been conducted on the topic.

There is a book “Ethical issues in six religious traditions”, Edited by Peggy Morgan and Clive Lawton which discusses ethical issues in Sikhism but it is not a comprehensive study just discusses the one aspect of rituals in Sikhism.

The books are available on Indian culture and tradition which also provide some writings about Sikh religious ceremonies. Like “Sources of Indian Tradition” Compiled by W. M. Theodore de Bary, Stephen N. Hay, Royal Weiler, Andrew Yarrow . This book describes the civilizations of India and provides an understanding of the intellectual and spiritual traditions which are remain alive in India today. Somewhat attention is given to religious and philosophical developments in earlier times which still form part of the Indian heritage and have experienced a considerable revival in the nineteenth and twentieth century. On the other hand, attention is also given to political, economic, and social trends.

Another vocal and brief book is written on Sikh village of India “Information and Behavior in a Sikh Village Social Organization Reconsidered” by Murray J. Leaf. This is a social analysis of a village the Sikh religion in Indian Punjab. Like most anthropological village studies and this study makes upon the attention of social scientists is based not so much on the content of theory, method, or fact alone but rather on a broader and more general consideration of the pattern of relationships among them. This describes the society or culture in general.

“Understanding Faith” series book by Professor Frank Whaling that deals in various customs in Sikhism. Its another part “Understanding Sikhism” by W. Owe. Cole that describe shortly the importance of family in Sikhism and tells about the essentials of Sikh marriage ceremony.

The Anand ceremony was started by The Third Guru, Guru Ram Das and composed by the fourth Guru, Guru Amar Das. There are so many books on Teachings of tenth Guru of Sikhism which of course will help me on writing on Anand Kirraj.

The Sikh code of conduct that is “Rehat Meryada” is published by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). It is accepted as an authoritative statement of Sikh conduct and is used by Sikhs as the standard guide also discusses the essentials and features of Anand Kirraj.

The International Bibliography of Sikh Studies brings together all books, composite works, journal articles, conference proceedings, theses, dissertations, project reports, and electronic resources produced in the field of Sikh Studies until June 2004, making it the most complete and up-to-date reference work in the field today.

There is feminist article about Sikh rituals which tried to feminize the Sikh funeral and marriage rituals “Why Did I Not Light the Fire? The Refeminization of Ritual in Sikhism” by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh.

Encyclopedia of Sikh religion has also briefly introduces of the Anand Marriage ceremony.

The article was published after two years of passing Sikh marriage Act in 1911 in Journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation “British India” by Courtenay Ilbert which evaluates the acts of the Indian sub continent of period British rule. This will help me to know the history of Sikh marriage Act 1909.

Jeevan Deol wrote on “The minas and their literature”, that is published by American Oriental Society which discuss the validity of marriage between “Mians” and Khalisa sect of Sikhism.

Objectives of the Study:

Main purpose of my research is to have a better understanding of different religious communities of Pakistan and their rituals particularly. For this purpose I have selected the Sikh religion and particularly the marriage ceremony in Sikhism in the Sikh community of Peshawar.

My research will also bring a useful case study for the students of comparative religion as well as social groups who are eager to learn about this traditions, culture, rituals and such other legal bindings. . It will clarify the Sikh traditions attitude to the marriage institute (practices)


This research will be conducted drawing from both qualitative and quantitative methods. Firstly library research through content analysis and document analysis on Marriage in Sikhism will be considered, upon which background to the thesis will be laid. This will in essence not exclude the recently published materials (journal articles and newspapers) that critically analyze the Sikh Marriage System in the Sikh Community of Peshawar.

The research will also be consisted upon direct surveys in the Sikh community of Peshawar and in its surroundings which will be very useful to understand the problem. Similarly the various surveys conducted in the topic will also be under consideration.


Chapter One

This chapter will take into account the background of the studies, statement of the problem, objective of the study, significance of the study, research methodology, research questions, and review of the literature.

Chapter Two

In this chapter I will briefly highlight the introduction of Sikhism, its historical background and its customs, traditions (as Polygamy, Endogamy, Hypergamy, Dowry, Divorce and Abortion) and particularly some rituals and its developments as Anand Kirraj.

Chapter Three

This chapter will examine the marriage in Sikh community (Anand Kirraj) of Peshawar and the Marriage Act of 1909 of Indian Sub-continent (Pakistan).

Chapter Four

Data Analysis and Conclusion

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