Anand Karaj (Punjabi: anand kāraj) is the Sikh marriage ceremony, meaning "Blissful Union" or "Joyful Union", that was introduced by Guru Amar Das. The four laavaan (hymns which take place during the 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 Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC).
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 Devi Singh Patil giving her assent to a bill passed by Parliament on 7 June 2012 in the budget session.
Pakistan declared that it would pass the Sikh Anand Marriage Act in 2007 and a Draft was prepared, but this Draft Act was never passed. In 2018, Pakistani's Punjab Provincial Assembly passed the Punjab Sikh Anand Karaj Marriage Act 2018.
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 laavan. 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 "sagan" ceremony, the groom is presented with a karar, kirrpan, 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 young girl. 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 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. To show respect to their parents, seeking their approval is common. 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 Sikh faith 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.
The ceremony is now universally observed by the Sikhs.
The Anand Marriage (Amendment) Act, 2012 (India)
The Assent of the President of India was received to the Anand Marriage Amendment Act 2012 on 7th June 2012. The Act 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. Anand Karaj is not recognized in the UK, and a legal English marriage is mandatory.
Punjab Sikh Anand Karaj Marriage Act 2018 (Pakistan)
In 2018, Pakistani's Punjab Provincial Assembly passed the Punjab Sikh Anand Karaj Marriage Act 2018.
Marriage of a Sikh and a non-Sikh
In 2014 the Sikh Council in UK developed a consistent approach towards marriages in Gurdwaras where one partner is not of Sikh origin, following a two-year consultation with Gurdwara Sahib Committees, Sikh Organisations and individuals. The resulting guidelines were approved by the General Assembly of Sikh Council UK on 11 October 2014, and state that Gurdwaras are encouraged to ensure that both parties to an Anand Karaj wedding are Sikhs, but that where a couple chooses to undertake a civil marriage they should be offered the opportunity to hold an Ardas, Sukhmani Sahib Path, Akhand Path, or other service to celebrate their marriage in the presence of family and friends. Some gurdwaras permit mixed marriages, which has led to controversy.
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
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- Punjab Sikh Anand Karaj Marriage Act 2018
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- SikhNet (11 August 2009). "'Anand Karaj and the Lavan'".
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 27 May 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- Sikh Council UK (25 October 2014). "Sikh Council UK Develops Guidelines of Approach to Inter-Faith Marriages in Gurdwaras". Sikh24.com. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
- 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
- About Anand Karaj in UK
- 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)