What is Anand Kaaraj?
The Sikh wedding ceremony is called Anand Kaaraj which literally means ‘Ceremony of Bliss’. Marriage is a spiritual identity, not just a love affair between two people. The focus of marriage is not romantic love or physical liaison, though these aspects of marriage naturally bring their own delight. The Sikh marriage is all about love, but what kind of love? It is the Love of the Soul-bride for God, that longing to merge with the Infinite. A Sikh marriage is two people trying to help one another in this merger. The highest love is assisting another in the merger of the soul with the infinite, helping the Beloved to find the true purpose of their life.
The four marriage rounds (Laavan) were written by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Raam Daas Ji, for his own wedding. In them he tells us that the first commitment is for one to be true to one’s own soul, to be committed to righteousness, be on the spiritual path and communicate with the soul through personal spiritual practice.
Then the Guru tells the couple that they have met the True Guru, they can get out of their ego identification and sacrifice to the unity, to the merger, and rise above their personalities and judgements. Commit to the institution of marriage as part of one’s spiritual path.
Next, the couple are told by the Guru that they have been blessed to be a part of the Saadh Sangat (the Company of the Holy), and that their lives should be an example of service and divinity to all around them, to fulfil the great destiny they have been given. Finally, the Guru says that the merger has taken place with the Infinite, because one has followed his advice. Each has inspired the other towards that merger.
— Gurmukhi & English Translation —
ਸੂਹੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੪ ॥
ਹਰਿ ਪਹਿਲੜੀ ਲਾਵ ਪਰਵਿਰਤੀ ਕਰਮ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਇਆ ਬਲਿ ਰਾਮ ਜੀਉ ॥
ਬਾਣੀ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਾ ਵੇਦੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਹੁ ਪਾਪ ਤਜਾਇਆ ਬਲਿ ਰਾਮ ਜੀਉ ॥
ਧਰਮੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਵਹੁ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਇਆ ॥
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਆਰਾਧਹੁ ਸਭਿ ਕਿਲਵਿਖ ਪਾਪ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥
ਸਹਜ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਹੋਆ ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਮਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਇਆ ॥
ਜਨੁ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਲਾਵ ਪਹਿਲੀ ਆਰੰਭੁ ਕਾਜੁ ਰਚਾਇਆ ॥੧॥
“In the first round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord gives you His Instructions for performing the daily duties of married life: Sing the Guru’s Bani (sacred hymns) instead of the Vedas and be constant in the performance of your righteous duty; thus the errors of the past shall be washed away. Be confirmed in righteousness and contemplate God’s Name; embrace and practice the remembrance of the Name. Reflect upon the True Guru, who is ever perfect, and all the errors of your past shall be washed away. By the greatest good fortune you shall know that bliss which passes all understanding, and thoughts of the Lord will become sweet to your mind. Slave Nanak proclaims that in this first round the marriage ceremony has begun. ||1||”
“In the second round of the marriage ceremony you are to recognise that God has caused you to meet the True Guru. Filled with the awe of the Infinite, your ego dissolves away. In awe of the One who is forever pure, sing His wonderful praises and see God in all. The Lord – the Supreme Soul, is the Master of the Universe; He pervades everywhere and fills all places with His Being, and His songs of rejoicing are heard in the company of His servants. Slave Nanak proclaims in the second round, the divine music resounds. ||2||”
“In the third round of the marriage ceremony the mind is filled with the Divine Love. By the greatest good fortune you have come to meet the Lord God in the company of the holy. Singing His praises and speaking the divine Word, the Immaculate Lord is found. It is by very great good fortune that the pious attain the Lord and tell that story which can never be told! The music of God resounds within the heart; meditating on God, I have realized the great destiny inscribed upon my forehead. Slave Nanak proclaims that in this third round of the marriage the love of God has been awakened in the heart. ||3||”
“In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony the mind grasps the knowledge of the divine, and God is realized within. By the Guru’s grace God is found who fills the soul and body with sweet delight. God seems sweet to me and I have become pleasing to my Master, who fills my thoughts all night and day. I have obtained the object of my heart’s desire, my Lord, and by praising His Name I have gained the highest praise. The Lord Himself becomes one with His holy bride and the heart of the bride blooms and flowers with His holy Name. Slave Nanak proclaims that in the fourth round of the marriage we have become one with the Eternal Lord. ||4||2||”