“The following post is an independent opinion and not a reflection or personal opinion in regards to any family member for the weddings attended and participated from where these observations were derived.”
The Sikh religion is over 300 years old and sure enough times are changing and the Western influence dominates cultures all around the world but when it comes to weddings, most traditional rites and rituals remain.
I have had the opportunity to witness a Sikh Wedding in Kenya, United Kingdom and India and here’s what I see.
Kenya is home and growing up I have known weddings to have at least 5 to 7 functions before the actual day and then a big reception. Recently however the spending is hitting roof tops and there is a growing competition to show off. Once the function known as “Chunni” used to be a small affair where the groom’s family comes to the bride’s house and give her gifts, now it has become one big party and leaves nothing much to enjoy for the post wedding reception. So much attention is paid to how the house/venue and tables/chairs and food looks than feels. Few forget to welcome their guests at home/venue, attend to your tables/chairs and/or check the food. And last but not least, the competition for outfits outdoes the actual wedding ceremony. The atmosphere at the Gurudwara is social and a fashion parade as the audience waits with bated breath to see how the bride looks and hardly pay attention to the “laava” where the couple goes round 4 times. In fact during the “laava” the bride’s brothers are busy laughing and talking. After the “Anand Karaj” which is the proper name for a Sikh Wedding, come lectures and photos, photos and more photos. Nowadays due to the new Marriage Law in Kenya there is also a civil ceremony to be carried out. The best part for the Kenyan Sikh Wedding comes to the lunch time. Women, men, families all sit together and share their joy freely.
India is where the roots come from but it is a complete mix of Hindu and Sikh rituals, sometimes nobody really knows what is happening. You would expect that the ceremony will be more solemn and organised, but there is more attention paid to the gifts. The Anand Karaj is not carried out at the Gurudwara and at no point do you event visit one, everything is done in hired halls with hired priests. It is chaotic and full of begging waiters and wide-eyed on lookers.
United Kingdom has taken the lead in replicating the true traditions of Sikhism, perhaps it is called keep the culture alive in a cosmopolitan country. Heading to Birmingham Gurudwara, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and many things come out. The Anand Karaj is considered sacred and the entire ceremony is conducted in only one manner for both rich or poor families. Yes the air is stiff and formal, but the benefit is this, your focus remains the joining of two souls and families forever. A quick breakfast and straight to the Darbar Hall and the Kirtan is underway. Soon the bride steps in and the “laava” are conducted with no brothers around, it is considered their personal journey of 4 circles where they must have their own strength, wisdom and love that they are giving to each other their lives and will stay together no matter what. Almost no lectures and photos and straight to the lunch, where again the menu has been a fixed one. There is no decorations burden or room for pompousness, you are all equal.
Religion has mostly been a dividing factor, it would be great to see that the most important time in a person’s life, his/her wedding come to an all in one way. Let decorum be made equal, but this is an impossible task, after all differences in wealth, castes and other cultural influences weigh in heavier. Fashion trends are more important than the meaning of the Anand Karaj and family politics are bigger than the words of the Guru Granth Sahib that bind the couple and their families together. Finally this is the closest explanation I could find that may prove to be useful when you make your wedding choices: