What is nowadays labelled as ‘Sikh’ wedding by Punjabis, in reality are a mix of Hindu, Islamic, Christian and Punjabi traditions. Most people unbeknown to them follow these rituals in good faith and enjoy them thinking they are part and parcel of Sikhi. However, it is usually the case that these rituals and customs are contrary to Sikhi and therefore defeat the objective of having an Anand Karaj, which is to receive the blessings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Due to a lack of knowledge and awareness about what a ‘Sikh’ wedding in reality should be, most people carry on following popular culture.
6 non-Sikh traditions that people think are part of “Sikh” weddings
(1) Rangoli/ Maaeeyaa (Hinduism)
Rangoli is an ancient Hindu form of drawing for special festivities. It is meant to welcome the Hindu deities into the home for blessings and is an offering of good luck. Before weddings take place, a Rangoli design is made on the floor, which consists of repeating patterns of flowers and geometric shapes made of flour and colour. In this pre-wedding ritual, the bride or groom sits on a stool before the Rangoli pattern and has a a turmeric paste applied to them. This Hindu ritual is meant to make their minds and bodies pure before the marriage ceremony. It is also used to lighten and beautify the skin.
Note: A Sikh would want to invite Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji to their home, rather than a deity or goddess. There is no such thing as good luck. Good actions lead to lead good results. Reciting and singing Gurbani brings blessings. One is beautified according to Gurmat by singing Vahiguru’s Praises and living in accordance to the Guru’s Teachings.
(2) Mehndi Ceremony (Islamic)
Dyeing the hands and feet with henna is something mustahabb
(encouraged) for women in Islam, unlike for men. A number of Hadiths
indicate that it is highly encouraged. Abu Dawood (4166) narrates, “A woman gestured from behind a screen, with a letter to the Prophet Muhammad in her hand. Prophet Muhammad withdrew his hand and said: “I do not know whether it is the hand of a man or a woman.” She said: It is a woman. He said: “If you were a woman, you would have changed your nails,” meaning, with henna. It is part of the Muslim tradition (Sunnah) for women to dye their hands with henna as instructed by Prophet Muhammad to be differentiated from men.
Note: A Sikh wears that which pleases the Guru, not another religion’s respected prophets. The Guru is pleased with a Sikh wearing the Panj Kakkaar.
(3) Sehra (Hindu/Mughal)
A Sehra is decorative veil worn by a groom that originates from Northern India from Vedic times. It consists of an embroidered rectangular piece with strings that make up the veil. The stringed veil can be either made of flowers or beads. The Sehra is tied over the groom’s turban. Alternatively the groom’s turban can have the Sehra stitched into it. First, it covers the face of the groom like a veil and protects him from “Nazar” or the “evil eye.” Second, it reminds the groom that the search for a life partner is over and a veil across the face indicates he should not look any other lady. Although it originates from Hindu culture, amongst Muslims the Sehra has been patronised and adopted into Islamic culture since the Mughal era where kings wore elaborate looking head gears encrusted with precious pearls and stones during their weddings. In fact, the word ‘Sehra’ literally means a poem sung during a ‘nikah’, Muslim wedding ceremony.
Note: Gurbani does not believe in the ‘evil eye’ concept’, and says reciting Vahiguru’s Name rids one any perceived evil eyes or bad luck. Secondly, a Sikh lives by the principal of seeing every other woman as his daughter, sister or mother. Throughout Sikh history Sikh’s have been known for their high moral character, and this was without the help or reminder of a Sehra or face veil.
(4) Jai Mala (Hindu)
The Var Mala ceremony is known as Jaimala also. The reference of this ritual is found in Vedic literature. In ancient times (during Vedic age), the kings used to arrange the system of selection of the groom by their daughters. They used to invite the son of kings (raaj-kumars) of the friendly states, a grand ceremony was arranged and the girl (or bride) was given the opportunity to select the groom of her choice. In this system, she was free to put the garlands in the neck of her groom of choice. The same concept is followed in modern times too, but with the changes that there is only one bride and groom.
Note: A Sikh couple’s union in Gurmat is bound by Gurbani and blessings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji when one bows before the Guru and walks around the Guru to indicate the Guru is the centre of their lives. A Sikh’s union is not made with garlands or necklaces, but bound by the Guru.
(5) Ring Ceremony (Christian)
Early Christian marriages had a ritual to wear the wedding ring in the third finger. As the priest recited during the binding, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, he would take the ring and touch the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger; then, while uttering “Amen”, he would place the ring on the ring finger, which sealed the marriage. Nowadays, it is worn on the fourth finger. The church considers it as a symbol of love and faithfulness. It stands for the promise made between a man and a woman that binds them for eternity in love.
Note: A Sikh wears no symbol of any other religion or belief. A Sikh wears the Panj Kakkaar as their jewellery and symbol of commitment to the Guru.
(6) Throwing of Rice (Hindu/Christian)
In Hinduism as the bride steps out of her parent’s house to be a part of her husband’s family, she pauses at the doorstep to throw handful of coins and rice back over her head thrice. Throwing rice and or money, is a manifestation of Goddess Lakshmi (the Hindu Goddess of prosperity and wealth). The bride wishes that her parent’s house always remain prosperous. Coins signify wealth, whereas rice is a symbol of health. This ritual also symbolises that the bride has repaid her parents for her upbringing and for everything they have bestowed on her. In Christianity, the rice throwing tradition at weddings originates from Paganism. Throwing of rice in marriage ceremony is the same as throwing salt over ones shoulder. It’s casting a spell for good luck and a blessing for fertility. In Christianity it was re-interpreted as a reminder to the couple that the primary purpose in marriage is to create a family that will serve and honour the Lord. Therefore, guests symbolically throw rice as a gesture of blessing for the spiritual and physical fruitfulness of the marriage.