Do you know what the Sikh Wedding, Non – Religious Ceremonies mean?
The week leading up to an Anand Karaj ceremony can be full of rituals and ceremonies. Many would be brides and guests constantly ask us what do these rituals signify? We reached out to Dolly Brar to shed some light on these ceremonies. Dolly holds a degree in Punjabi Literature and has attended hundreds of Sikh wedding ceremonies.
The main purpose of these rituals is to get together with family and friends and celebrate the union of not just the bride and groom, but of two families. It is about creating beautiful memories to cherish for years to come. Nothing is set in stone, and there is no right or wrong way to perform these ceremonies. The focus should be on the intention behind these ceremonies and what resonates with you. You can keep these very simple or you can elaborate as much as you desire. You can also combine ceremonies for both sides. Whichever you choose to do, do it with love, do it with joy and be fully present.
1. Chunni Chadana:
Symbolically when you drape a chunni on a girl's head, it means that you promise to protect her honor and dignity as your own. Therefore; the significance of this ritual is to accept and welcome the bride into her new family and for the two families to become one. The boy’s family shows their commitment to love and support the new bride. For this occasion, the boy’s parents and relatives visit the girl’s house. The boy’s mother drapes the bride with a red Chunni and some jewellry i.e. bangles, necklace etc. All of the family members give their blessings with sweets and money for the bride to be. This can be followed by an engagement ceremony, where the boy and the girl exchange rings in front of family and friends.
2. Sagan (Shagan):
This ritual is Sagan which is held at the groom's house, but can also be held at a banquet hall. The groom´s side usually has paath and kirtan performed at their home and after the Ardaas (prayer), the ceremony of Shagan starts. This is the time when bride’s family shows their love and commitment to the groom and his family. The bride´s family arrives at the groom's place bearing fruit baskets, thalis (platters) filled with sweets and dry fruit, covered with beautiful celebratory covers and wrappings. At this occasion, the bride's family may also take personal gifts for the groom's immediate family and also anyone else they want to acknowledge and honor. A special gift is chosen for the groom, i.e. a karra, bracelet, gold chain or a watch. The father of the bride applies tilak/tikka (made with kesar-saffron) on the groom's forehead and offers him gifts, money, dry fruit/dates and sweets along with his blessings and then the rest of the family gives the groom their blessings (usually with money).
3. Mehndi and Sangeet Ceremonies:
Mehndi is applied on the bride’s hands and feet either by a family member or by a professional. Besides beautiful color and patterns to the hands and feet, mehndi is a very powerful medicinal herb. The initial practice of applying mehndi in ancient times began in order to protect the couple and keep them healthy. Weddings can be stressful, and often, the stress causes headaches and anxiety. As the wedding day approaches, the excitement mixed with nervous anticipation can take its toll on the bride and groom. Application of mehndi cools the body and keeps the nerves from becoming tense. This is the reason why mehndi is applied on the hands and feet, which house nerve endings in the body.
Mehndi and Sangeet Ceremony (Ladies Sangeet) is one of the most interesting and fun filled occasion of the marriage ceremony. A night or two (sometimes a week) before the wedding day on every night till the marriage day, relatives and friends get together for singing sessions both at the boy`s as well as the girl`s house. One day is fixed for special sangeet gathering which is attended and celebrated by both the sides together. Ladies sing folk songs with dholki while mehndi is being applied on the bride.
And now for the party! The ladies perform Jaago which literally means “wake-up”. Centuries ago, invitations were not sent to invite people to weddings. Relatives of the bride or groom would go around the village on the night before the wedding day with pots on their head that were decorated with oil candles, singing and dancing as an open invitation to attend the wedding. The candles were used for light as this is before electricity was established! The traditional folk song is “jaago”, so they would encourage people to wake-up and join in the festivities.
5. Maiya and Choora Ceremonies:
Maiya - In olden days, unmarried girls did not wear any makeup or wore fancy clothes (they were to be kept for special occasions such as her wedding day). So, the night before she was to sit on the ground and have vatna (made with gram flour, oil, milk and turmeric) applied on her face, arms and legs to brighten her complexion for the big day. A colorful Rangoli (beautiful mandala like pattern made with colored rice and flowers) is displayed in front of her while family members and friends take turn mothering her with the paste, singing folk songs, preparing her for the most important day of her life. Afterwards she bathes and gets ready for the Choora Ceremony. (Note: Boy´s side does this at their home as well - only Maiya).
6. Choora Ceremony:
Traditionally choora (21 red and ivory bangles) are put on each arm by her maternal uncle and aunt, strengthening the family bond as they give her their blessings. Odd numbers are considered auspicious in Indian culture. Nowadays, the number of bangles worn and their design are now dictated by the bride’s choice. Bangles were usually worn by a bride for a full year as a symbol of her being newly married. The coconut-shaped decorations (kaleeray) were historically significant because many girls would be married in towns or villages that were miles away. As they were expected to be shy and reserved, they would seldom say if they were hungry. So, dried coconuts were given to them during the choora ceremony to wear on the wedding day, and to have as optional food when they depart for their marital home. Now, kaleeray are decorated as an accessory to compliment the bridal look.
7. Wedding Day:
Dolly Brar was raised in a Sikh family, roots originating from Sialkot, Pakistan. She grew up listening to the oral history of family migration of 1947. She was born in Bangalore.....spent most of the childhood in Jammu, Kashmir, Sirhind and Dehradun. She got her love for Gurbani and Kirtan from her mother, who was trained in classical Ragas. Being in the military family, had an opportunity to live in various parts of India, appreciating all religious, cultural holidays and festivals. She earned her B.A. degree in Punjabi Literature from Punjabi University, Patiala. She is also a Gyani from Punjabi University. Gyani is an academic course for proficiency in Punjabi language and literature, it involves intense study of ancient and modern poetry, Punjabi Prose, history of Punjabi Literature, novel and plays, with additional study of either Hindi, Sanskrit or Urdu.
She moved to the U.S after getting married at 18 years of age. Her very first job in the U.S. was as a multi lingual consultant for a head start program for children in Central Valley where a lot of punjabi farming community were established. Worked as an office Admin for 15 years for a construction company.
Married to Judge Brar, who was born and raised in Clovis, CA His father has immigrated to the U. S. in 1913, one of the pioneers, who worked as a farmer after arriving in the States and later on owned his own farm. Judge studied marine biology in college and worked as a marine biologist for a few years, later on started his own company specializing in highway irrigation and landscaping with Caltrans (State Department). In 2010, after making a life changing decision, both Dolly and Judge live happily in Costa Rica where Judge is close to his first love (ocean) as Dolly enjoys her walks, hikes in the rain forest, surrounded by lush nature.
Daughter- Valarie Kaur is a Stanford, Harvard, Yale graduate. She is known to be an American interfaith leader. As a lawyer, filmmaker, and Sikh activist, she helps communities channel their stories into movements for social change. She has made award-winning films and led multimedia campaigns on a wide range of issues: hate crimes against Sikh and Muslim Americans, racial profiling, gun violence, marriage equality, immigration detention, and solitary confinement.
Son- Sanjeev Singh Brar is a Berkeley and Expression College of Digital Art graduate. He is working as a senior project manager and app architect. Sanjeev's award winning work spans TV, film, games, and apps. Sanjeev started his creative career producing digital media for SETI as an undergrad at UC Berkeley. He is also a music writer and a percussionist.