The new Guru Nanak Darbar Gurdwara in Gravesend was formally opened in May 2011. It is used by the local Sikh Community, Sangat and visited by thousands of people from all over the world. One important role of the Gurdwara is to be the place where the Anand Karaj is performed. The is page provides some guidance on the Anand Karaj for those organising or attending a marriage at this Gurdwara. Some basic rules of conduct are provided and the Anand Karaj ceremony is described in more detail.
The Anand Karaj ceremony is normally conducted in the Prayer Hall of a Gurdwara a Sikh place of worship. The service is traditionally conducted in Punjabi, according to the principles set out in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji in the Gurmukhi Script. An outline of the ceremony is provided here in English to enable wider understanding to the Service. The families and friends of the Bride and Groom gather in the Prayer Hall, for the the Anand Karaj - the blissful union. The congregation assembles together in the presence of the Guru Granth Sahib (Holy Scripture). The Groom enters the hall and bows before Guru Granth Sahib Ji and awaits the bride. At the start if the Anand Karaj, both the bride and groom bow before Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and then sit side by side at the front of the hall. The couple and the parents stand up to offer Ardas (prayer), signifying the that the parents have given their blessing for the Anand Karaj to take place. Everyone else remains seated while the Ardas is read, a prayer for the success of the marriage. The musicians, who are called Ragis, sit on a low stage and sing the hymn 'Keeta Loree-ai Kaam', to seek Gods's blessing and to convey a message thats a successful martial unions is achieved through grace:
"Whatever work you wish to accomplish, tell it to the Lord
Your affairs will be resolved the True Guru gives his guarantee of truth
In the society of saints, you shall taste the treasure of the ambrosial nectar
The Lord who is the merciful destroyer of fear, preserves and protects those who serve him,
O Nanak, singing the glorious praises of God, ones see the unseen Lord" (Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
The Ragi councils the couple with the verse 'Dhan Pir Eh Na Akhee-an'. They are advised that the marriage is not merely a social and civil contract, but a spiritual process uniting two souls so that they become one inseparable entity. The couple is reminded that the spiritual nature of family harmony is given emphasis by the example of the Sikh Gurus' who themselves entered matrimony and had children:
The husband is to love and respect his wife, encourage her with kind consideration, recognise her individuality, regard her as his equal, offering guidance and support. The wife is to show her love respect and loyalty, support her husband, harmonise with him, and share in happiness and sorrow, prosperity or adversity. The couple are to ally themselves with each other in an endeavour to achieve a harmonious union, intellectually, emotionally, physically, materially and spiritually. The Bride and Groom, affirm the acceptance of their martial obligations, and bow together before Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The bride sits to the left of the groom directly in front of the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
The Groom's sister then drapes a long scarf or length of turban cloth, called a palla around his shoulders, and places the right end in his hand. The Brides's father takes the left end of the pall, arranges it over his shoulder and gives the bride the left end to hold, signifying that she is now leaving his care to join her husband. The Ragis sing the hymn: 'Pallai Taiddai Lagge' symbolising joining the couples by the palla to each other and God. Lavan, the Four Anand Karaj Rounds the Granthi (Sikh Priest) initiates the four Anand Karaj hymns of Lavan representing four stages of love.
The hymns describe the development of martial love between husband and wife, which is parallel to that between the soul (bride) and God (the husband). The Bride and Groom will walk around the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, as the Ragis sing the words of Lavan. Holding his end of the pall, the Groom walks around the Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the bride follows the Groom holding on to her end of the palla. The couple makes their first martial adjustment by keeping in step with each other. They bow together before the Guru Granth Sahib Ji concluding the first Anand Karaj round they will resume sitting. Every time the bride and groom arise or sit down during the ceremony they will bow down to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji out of respect by touching their foreheads to the ground. The second, third & fourth Lavan are conducted in the same manner.