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Anand Karaj (Punjabi: ਅਨੰਦ ਕਾਰਜ, anand kāraj) is the Sikh marriage ceremony, meaning "Blissful Union" or "Joyful Union", that was introduced by Guru Amar Das. The four Lavan (marriage hymns which take place during the marriage ceremony) were composed by his successor, Guru Ram Das. It was originally legalised in India through the passage of the Anand Marriage Act 1909 but is now governed by the Sikh Reht Maryada (Sikh code of conduct and conventions) that was issued by the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC).
In a recent verdict of the Sri Akaal Takht Sahib,i.e. a Hukumnama, Anand Karaj can only take place in a Gurudwara. This has raised some controversy, as it seems the only real reason for this is to protect the financial welfare of the Gurudwara. Any Amritdhari (Baptized) sikh may perform the marriage ceremony.
Pakistan passed the Sikh Anand Marriage Act in 2007. A Sikh from anywhere in the world can register his or her marriage there, though the marriage ceremony has to be conducted in the country as it extends the provisions of the law applicable to any Sikh irrespective of his nationality. There had been instances when Sikhs from various countries had got their marriages registered in Pakistan.
Important features 
The following are other important points that must be adhered to by the Sikh couple and their families:
- Marriage is a partnership of equals. - No consideration is to be given to Caste, Social Status, Race or lineage. - No Dowry is allowed. - No day is considered holier above any other, hence no astrological considerations are to be made and no superstitions are to be observed in fixing the date of the wedding. - The religious ceremony to take place in a Gurdwara or in the presence of Guru Granth Sahib. -Burden of the cost of the wedding to be shared as equally as possible.
The Anand Karaj ceremony is joyous and festive event in which families and friends from both sides are heavily involved. Most Sikh weddings take place in the morning and are completed before noon. Following the ceremony is a langar or a formal lunch. The wedding event can last for the whole day and may spill into the next day.
Most families combine the wedding ceremony with the engagement ceremony called the "Kurmai", where the Kurmai is held just before the wedding vows or Laava. The engagement ceremony can also be held as a separate event on a different day. It is usually conducted in the Gurdwara or at the home of the Groom-to-be. It involves Ardas, Kirtan, "Sagun" (Exchange of gifts) and Langar. In the "Sagaan" ceremony, the groom is presented with a kara, kirpan, Indian sweets, fresh fruits, dried fruits and nuts. The bride-to-be's family in turn are presented with garments and sweets for the Bride-to-be.
Detailed analysis 
"Anand Karaj" literally "joyful ceremonial occasion or proceedings" is the name given the Sikh marriage ceremony. For Sikhs, married status is the norm and the ideal; through it, according to their belief, come the best opportunities for serving God's purpose and the well being of humanity, and it affords the best means of fulfillment of individuality and attainment of bliss. Sikhism repudiates vows of celibacy, renunciation or the sannyasin state.
Historically, most marriages among Sikhs, as also in India and Pakistan as a whole, have been arranged. It is regarded as a duty for the parents to arrange for, and actively contribute towards, the marriage of their offspring. Prem Sumarag, an eighteenth century work on Sikh social code, lays down: When a girl attains maturity, it is incumbent upon her parents to look for a suitable match for her. It is neither desirable nor proper to marry a girl at tender age. The daughter of a Sikh should be given in marriage to a Sikh. If a man is a believer in Sikhism, is humble by nature, and earns his bread by honest means, with him matrimony may be contracted without a question and without consideration for wealth and riches.
Today, it is accepted that Sikhs marry someone they choose themselves. Of course, in order to show respect to parents it is best to seek their approval. Traditionally, the parents of the man ask the parents of the woman he wishes to marry for their daughter's hand in marriage.
History of Anand Karaj 
The history of Anand marriage ceremony is traced back to the time of GURU Amar Das (1479–1574), who composed the long 40-stanza hymn Anand, in the Ramkali measure, suitable to be sung or recited on all occasions of religious importance. His successor, Guru Ram Das, composed a four-stanza hymn, Lavan, which is recited and sung to solemnize nuptials. During the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his successors, however, this ceremony fell into partial disuse under renewed Brahmanical influence at court as well as in society.
The Namdhari reform movement of the mid-19th century made the practice of Anand ceremony a vital plank in its programme as did the later, more widely influential Singh Sabha. But there was opposition from the Arya Samajis and Brahman priestly classes, the former anxious to prove that the Sikhs were but a sect of the Hindus and hence subject to Hindu Law, and the latter apprehensive of a reduction in their clientele and income. The Sikh form of wedding ceremonial eventually received legal sanction through the Anand Marriage Act which was adopted in 1909.
The core of the AnandKaraj(the 'Blissful ceremony') is the 'Lavan', wherein shabads are sung with the bride and groom circumambulating the Guru Granth Sahib. The ceremony serves to provide the foundational principles towards a successful marriage and also places the marriage within the context of unity with God. Guru Ram Das Ji, composed the four stanzas, Lavan to be sung and recited as the core of the Anand Karaj. In 1579, the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji and Mata Ganga were the first couple to be married through the Anand Karaj ceremony
The ceremony is now universally observed by the Sikhs.
Pakistan passed the Anand Karaj act in 2007. The government and Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) issue appropriate marriage certificates. The gurdwaras including Gurdwara Dera Sahib, Lahore, Gurdwara Janam Asthan, Chunna Mandi, Lahore, Janam Asthan, Nanaka Sahib, Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hassan Abdal, Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh, Peshawar, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, Narowal had been accredited to issue marriage certificates. This act allows not only the Sikhs in Pakistan, but also Sikhs living in anywhere in the world to register in Pakistan with the Sikh marriage act.
The constitution of India and hence the parliament of India which first revoked the Anand Marriage Act (1909) has of late failed to even consider the amendment into the constitution which was adopted in 1950 according to which Sikhs are deemed Hindus and hence are subjec to all Hindu laws. However, recently both houses of the Indian Parliament cleared the Anand Marriage Amendment Bill 2012. The bill paved the way for the validation of Sikh traditional marriages, amending the Anand Marriage Act of 1909, thus providing for compulsory registration of "Anand Karaj" marriages.§<http://www.indiaamericatoday.com/article/sikhs-hail-passage-sikh-marriage-act-indian-parliament> It is interesting to note however that Anand Karaj is still not recognized in the UK, and a legal english marriage is mandatory.
- Tahka (or Roka) is when the immediate family of both sides meets and blesses the union and the engagement is then announced.
A month or so before the Big Day…
- Shri Akhand Path is the continuous reading of the Guru Granth Sahib, the Path is usually held by the groom’s side preceding the Kudmai.
- Kudmai (or Sagai or Mangni) is the engagement ceremony; it usually takes place on the third day of the Shri Akhand Path with friends and family of both sides.
- Chunni ceremony is where the ladies from the groom’s side adorn the bride-to-be with sinndoor, make-up, mehndi, jewelry, bangles, a bindi and a bright colored dupatta as a welcoming gesture. This ceremony can take place during the tahka or any other day preceding the wedding ceremony.
- Mayaan, a beautifying ritual performed (by the females in the brides family) by rubbing a mixture of about 11/2 cups of besan (gram flour) 2-3 tsps. of Sandalwood powder, 2 tsp butter or almond oil and 3 teaspoons of water on the bride.
The Week before…
- Sangeet: is a celebration of song and dance which usually takes place about a week before the wedding day. The event is celebrated on both the bride’s and groom’s side separately.
- Mehndi is where the bride, her female relatives and friends get together to have a henna party, usually 2–3 days before the wedding day.
The Night before:
- Churah: The bride’s maternal uncle(s) adorn her wrists with bangles (traditionally ivory) the night before the wedding.
- Jago is a festive dance that also takes place a night or two before the wedding.
Actual wedding takes place at the girl's hometown. The date of the wedding is set by mutual consultation to suit both parties.
Astrological or horoscopic considerations are discountenanced in Sikh calculations. Matters such as the strength of the barat (the bridegroom's party), timing of arrival and departure, duration of stay, are also decided mutually so that the bride's parents may make suitable arrangements. Before setting out, the bridegroom may go to a gurdwara to make obeisance and offer ardas before the Guru Granth Sahib.
What to wear?
At Indian weddings, people prefer to always stay in the latest Indian trends. Here are what most ladies and men will be wearing at these ceremonies
- Engagement(cultural ceremony): ladies: saris, salwar kameez; men: Indian sherwani, Western suits
- Akhand Paath(religious ceremony): ladies: salwar kameez; men: Western suits (casual)
- Mendhi, Sangeet(cultural ceremony): ladies: saris, salwar kameez; men: Indian sherwani, Western suits
- Mayian(cultural ceremony): ladies: salwar kameez: men: Western suits (casual)
- Anand Karaj(religious ceremony)/Doli: ladies: saris, salwar kameez, lenghas; men: Indian sherwani, Western suits
- Reception(cultural ceremony): ladies: saris, salwar kameez, lenghas; men: Western suits
Married life 
Sikhs practise monogamy in marriage. Both the husband and wife are seen as being equal. Any Sikh widow or widower is allowed to marry another person.
See also 
- Teja Singh Mangat, The Sikh Marriage Ceremony, The Sikh Missionary Society UK (Publishers), Fourth edition, 1991 ISBN 0-900692-16-2
- www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/ritesrituals/weddings.shtml (article written by Gurmukh Singh)
- Anand Karaj - Marriage
- After The Anand Karaj
- Sikh Marriage by Gurmukh Singh
- Anand Karaj - A Union of Two Souls