The Sikh marriage ceremony is called ‘Anand Kaaraj’, literally meaning the ‘ceremony of bliss’. The shabad, consisting of four verses used as the four marriage vows were revealed through the Fourth Nanak, Guru Ram Daas Ji. These marriage hymns, known as ‘Laava(n)’ describes the progression of the loving relationship and longing of the human soul to be in communion with Vaheguru (the Wondrous Lord), which is used as the Sikh marriage vows to illustrate the marital love, relationship and communion between husband and wife.
In 1909 the Sikh marriage ceremony was legally recognised by the British Government in India, by the passing the ‘Anand Marriage Act’. I would like to draw to the attention of the readers to a point written in the Panthic Sikh Rehat Maryada regarding the Sikh marriage ceremony, which will be the focus of this article.
The Sikh Rehat Maryada, Chapter XI, Article XVIII – ‘Anand Sanskar’ states:
(k) Persons professing faiths other than the Sikh faith cannot be joined in wedlock by the Anand Karaj ceremony. In recent years I have witnessed Gurdwaras allowing any Tom, Dick and Harry to be joined in wedlock by the Anand Kaaraj ceremony.
Radha Soamis and Narakdharis (also known as ‘Nakli Nirankari’) have been allowed by Gurdwara Management Committees to marry their children in the Gurdwara through the Anand Karaj ceremony.
A Sikh marrying a non-Sikh, for example a Christian, Hindu or even an atheist (one who denies or rejects God), have been allowed by Gurdwara Management Committees to be joined in wedlock by the Anand Kaaraj ceremony.
I read in a newspaper that a non-Sikh Christian English couple were allowed to be married according to the Sikh rites in a Wolverhampton Gurdwara a few years back.
Only a Sikh man and woman can be joined in wedlock by the Anand Kaaraj ceremony. However, we have to ask ourselves ‘who is a Sikh?’ According to the Panthic Sikh Rehat Maryada, Chapter I, Article I the definition of a Sikh is:
Any human being who faithfully believes in i. One Immortal Being,
ii. Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Sahib to Guru Gobind Singh Sahib,
iii. The Guru Granth Sahib,
iv. The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and v. the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru, and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh.
A Sikh is he or she who has a ‘nischaa’, firm faith and belief in the ‘khande di pahul’, the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Nanak, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. Therefore, a Sikh does not necessarily have to be Amritdhari, however, a Sikh is he or she who ‘faithfully believes’ in Amrit. As a result every Sikh should be committed to the aim of taking Amrit in their lifetime and becoming a fully fledged member of the Guru’s family, known as the ‘Khalsa’. According to the Panthic Rehat Maryada, the Guru Khalsa Panth has clarified that you cannot claim to be a Sikh and (i) not faithfully believe in Amrit, (ii) consider Amrit as optional requirement of a Sikh, and (iii) not ever aim or work towards the goal of taking Amrit.
As a result the implication of point k) in the Anand Sanskar section of the Panthic Rehat Maryada – "Persons professing faiths other than the Sikh faith cannot be joined in wedlock by the Anand Karaj ceremony" – is that anyone who does not faithfully believe and commit to the goal and aim of taking Amrit is to be refused being joined in wedlock by the Anand Kaaraj ceremony.
In the past in all Sikh marriage ceremonies, the couple would be asked whether they have taken Amrit (Khande Di Pahul). If the say said "no", then they were asked to "pledge" to take Amrit as soon as possible. Pledging to take Amrit is not a made up rule or a personal opinion of the Granthi Singh or Singhni carrying out the marriage ceremony. If one is a Sikh, then one has to "faithfully believe in Khande Di Pahul (Amrit)", as a consequence of "faithfully believing" one should be able to pledge to take Amrit. They may wish to pledge and beg to receive Amrit immediately, in a year, or perhaps in the near future. However, the goal and aim of every Sikh should be to take Amrit, and therefore every Sikh is required in the Anand Kaaraj that if the couple is not already Amritdhari they are to pledge to take Amrit as soon as possible. Some Gurdwaras still observe this practice and upkeep the Rehat Maryada. However, a growing trend is occurring when Sikh marriages are being treated as ‘ha ha hee hee’ and being made a mockery of.
Gurdwaras have been made into businesses and a place designed for personal comfort and convenience over Gurmat and Sikh Rehat Maryada. Weddings equal donations, and donations equals money for the Gurdwara Committees. For this reason anyone and everyone is being allowed to be joined in wedlock by the Anand Kaaraj ceremony, irrespective of whether or not they believe in Guru Granth Sahib Ji and irrespective of whether they believe in Sikhi and Amrit. What a sad state of affairs!
We have made Anand Kaaraj’s into a show and performance for the video cameras.
We have made Anand Kaaraj’s into a mockery and joke by that even someone who doesn’t even believe in Guru Granth Sahib Ji or even Vaheguru can take vows in the presence of Guru Ji and be joined in wedlock.
We have made Anand Kaaraj’s so cheap by ensuring that people are not offended and that the Gurdwara doesn’t lose its chance to make money by asking the couple to pledge to taking Amrit.
As Sikhs we have to hold Gurdwara Committees accountable for decisions they make which are contrary to the Guru’s Maryada.
As Sikhs we have to educate and create awareness in the Gurdwara on the value of  the Anand Kaaraj ceremony in the pursuit of restoring the value and sanctity of the Anand Kaaraj ceremony.
As Sikhs we have to take the stand of saying "no" and taking a stand to joining non-Sikhs or people claiming to be Sikhs but do not faithfully believe in Amrit and Sikhi, in wedlock by the Anand Karaj ceremony.
How long will it be for Sikh marriages to stop being considered as ‘ha ha hee hee’ and a performance for the cameras whereby the couple "walk four times around Guru Ji", get photos taken and then the boy and girl go to a party hall where they totally disregard Sikhi and go against the Guru’s instructions by celebrating the Guru’s blessings by opening crates of alcohol and people drinking themselves silly?
Let’s all unite and follow Guru Granth and Guru Panth, accepting the authority of Sri Akal Takht Sahib (the Sikh’s supreme seat of authority), and become Panthic activists who educate, inspire and create awareness in our local communities about Panthic Sikh Rehat Marayda, and restore the value and sanctity of Gurmat in our Gurdwaras and Sikh practices.