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 of 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. 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 their marriages registered in Pakistan.
In 2012, India passed The Anand Marriage (Amendment) Bill, after which Sikhs are able to register their marriages under the Anand Marriage Act instead of the Hindu Marriage Act, with President Pratibha Patil giving her assent to a bill passed by Parliament on 7 June 2012 in the budget session.
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 is to take place only in a gurdwara.
- The cost of the wedding is to be shared between the two sides as equally as possible.
The Anand Karaj ceremony is a 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", which 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. 
"Anand Karaj", literally, "joyful ceremonial occasion or proceedings" is the name given to 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 does not repudiate vows of celibacy, renunciation or the sannyasin state, but it does discourage it and advocates marital life as the best way of living.
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 the 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 their parents, it is best to seek their approval. Traditionally, the parents of the man ask the parents of the woman for their daughter's hand in marriage.
History of Anand Karaj
The history of the 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 the 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 priestly classes; the former due to their position that Sikhism was a sect within the larger umbrella of Hinduism and hence subject to Hindu Marriage Act. The Sikh form of wedding ceremonial eventually received legal sanction through the Anand Marriage Act which was adopted in 1909.
The core of the Anand Karaj (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 of 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, Nankana Sahib, Gurdwara Panja Sahib, Hassan Abdal, Gurdwara Bhai Joga Singh, Peshawar, Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib, Narowal were 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.
The Anand Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2012
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 subject 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. According to the amendment bill, couples whose marriages have been registered under this act will not be required to get their marriage registered under the Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths Act, 1969, or any other law for the time being in force. It is interesting to note however that Anand Karaj is still not recognized in the UK, and a legal English marriage is mandatory. On 7 May the Haryana government also approved this act.
Sikhs practise monogamy in marriage. Husband and wife are seen as being equal. Any Sikh widow or widower is allowed to marry another person (this also includes divorcees).
- Special Marriage Act, 1954
- Uniform civil code of India
- The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986
- "Pakistan passes Anand Karaj".
- "Sikh Wedding or Anand Karaj". 5 June 2008.
- Punjabi/Sikh wedding invitations samples with its symbols
- SikhNet (Aug 11, 2009). "'Anand Karaj and the Lavan'".
- THE ANAND MARRIAGE (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2012
- Anand Karaj - Marriage
- After The Anand Karaj
- Sikh Marriage by Gurmukh Singh
- Anand Karaj - A Union of Two Souls
- 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)