Most of the living beings are acutely aware of their unfulfilled lives and in need of their companionable complementary half. This is true in the case of all wild life, birds, life in ocean and even human beings. What distinguishes the divine-oriented beings is that they have an even deeper divine-yearning of self-realization and union with God, our real source.
Gurbani provides us the spiritual solace and guides to the spiritual goal. It also suits eminently for observing all types of occasions like birth, marriage, death, etc. Annand Kaaraj is the Sikh way of solemnizing a marriage of a couple while it also relates to the stages of progress of individual soul for God-realization.
In performance of Annand Kaaraj, there is participation of holy congregation in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib for blessings and prayers for the success of the new married life. The couple after obeisance present themselves directly in front of Guru Sahib and take seats (groom on the right side of the bride). The Ragi Jatha sing a Shabad of invocation to start the proceedings of the ceremony for the baptised Sikh couple.
Invocation in Sri Rag ki vaar by the fourth Nanak (Page 91 in Sri Guru Granth Sahib):
Invoke divine help at the commencement of a desired goal, to acknowledge God as All-Powerful, Whose Will is ever done. Through such a prayer in the light of Guru's Wisdom, success is assured. In the company of holy ones, one acquires the wealth of God-Rememberance; NAM. O, Dispeller of all fear! Benevolent God, save the honour of Thy devotee. Thus, O Nanak, singing the Divine Praise one establishes a link with the Divine.
The Sikh congregational prayer is then recited, while standing in presence of Guru Sahib for divine blessing with the participation of all those present and for the specific permission to proceed with the marriage ceremony of the couple. The marriage is thus being witnessed and blessed by Guru Sahib and all those present. The Divine Order (Hukamnama) is then read from Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The couple are now ready to take the vow of marriage in unison by circumbulating Sri Guru Granth Sahib, as the Divine witness. For this, the bride holds the apron of the groom, which her father offers her. This signifies his approval of the marriage and unites in marriage to the boy. The Ragis sing the following holy verse:
Salok by the fifth Nanak (Page 993 in Sri Guru Granth Sahib):
This is a depiction of the state of mind of the couple and selection of the partner as the most appropriate one, as the dependable one for the earthly sojourn. O my Lord, says Nanak, I have given up both praise and slander of others. All the worldly relations I find undependable and false. Thus I now seek Thy shelter (this is the vow of companionship through thick and thin of life, with changing fortunes).
Thus we find, that the marriage is through a deliberate and thoughtful selection by the partners, affirmed and approved by the parents and the community. The Divine seal in now affixed by reciting the relevant text of LAVAN from Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The couple circumbulate around Guru Granth Sahib in accompaniment of the singing of a LAV after its recitation from Sri Guru Granth Sahib. The groom leads the bride while going around four times, once after each LAV is recited and the Ragi Jatha is singing the just recited LAV. Each time they come to stand before Guru Sahib after the round, pay their obeisance and take seats to listen to the recitation of the next LAV.
The Lavan may be described as the stages the soul goes through for a complete union with the Divine. The marital relationship has been sublimated to such a union as the partners are supposed to help each other in spiritual development besides assisting in the worldly duties. They are to remain God-conscious and become useful members of the family and society at large.
Literally, a LAV means severing old relationship to get into a new one. A divine oriented soul is to severe the worldly attachment and pride to be able to gain acceptance and finally merge with God. The four LAVAN (by the Fourth Nanak at Page 773 in Sri Guru Granth Sahib) are the four stages that a soul passes through before attaining the ultimate bliss. These are as follows:
As a first step, the Divine Wisdom leads one to engage in God rememberance. The Divine Word in the heart makes one shun all sinful activity. The following of Guru's teaching brings harmony with righteous living, where there is no sin. It is a Divine blessing that one develops love for God to enjoy the high state of bliss. Says Nanak, that Nam-meditation is the first step towards God-realization and leads to marriage of Soul with the Divine. -1.
In the second stage, the soul is sacrifice unto the Lord for the Divine favour of meeting with the Guru, who is the source of Divine Wisdom and the Divine Word. The Guru helps to dispel all the fear due to self ego and instead induces the respectful awe of God, the Almighty and pervading everywhere. The individual through such perception engages in singing Divine Praises, seeing God in all and everywhere. Says Nanak, such is the second stage of the God-oriented. Such a one experiences the unstruck Divine, ethereal music in a blissful state. -2.
O, All Pervading Lord, it is Thy favour, that the yearning for Thee is developed in mind, as the third stage towards union with Thee. Meeting the Lord for the fortunate ones is possible through the company of holy ones. The pure one is sought through singing his praises, Gurbani and thus imbibing the Divine Virtues. The destined ones always have the Lord in their minds. Says Nanak, at this third stage, one experiences a strong yearning for the Lord. -3.
Purged of all ego and worldliness, the mind attains to a perpetual sense of bliss, a sense of equipoise and union with the Lord. This is the outcome of Guru's teachings, which has evolved God-Love in one's heart. Such ones are ever intoxicated with the Elixir of Nam. Attainment of the highest objective of life, union with the lord has gladdened the heart, which sings Divine Nam. Through this Divine Grace, one is ever blissful and in high spirits. Says Nanak, in this fourth stage one attains the Eternal Lord! -4.
This ending of the marriage ceremony brings immense satisfaction, happiness and mood of thanksgiving. Now the Ragi Jatha translate the feelings of the bride through the following Shabads:
Fourth Nanak in Sree Rag at Page 78 in Sree Guru Granth Sahib:
O, my father! With guidance from the Guru, I have found my Lord and stand united with Him through marriage. Divine Wisdom taught by the Guru has banished the darkness of my ignorance. In the light of Gurmat, I have found the precious jewel of Nam. Nam-meditation has cured the affliction of my ego and I have lost all self pride to become pure and humble before my Lord. My Lord is Eternal, to be with me forever. O, my father! I have been married to my Lord through Guru's guidance. -2.
O, my father! I ask for dowry of God's Nam. Give me the dress suits of Nam.
The wealth of Nam shall make my marriage rich with glamour and serve me in good stead. God love is what gives bliss and this gift is bestowed on me through the grace of the Guru. This has earned me repute and fame throughout. Such precious gift is above everything of this world, as the most precious. All other dowry exhibited by the egoistic people is mere show of their self pride and is useless. O, my father! Bless me with the dowry of God's Nam. -4.
Fifth Nanak in Wadhans Rag at Page 577 in Sree Guru Granth Sahib:
O, Lord! With Thy Grace all my desires are fulfilled. Thou are the repository of all the virtues, while I have none. How can I describe Thy Praises adequately? Ignoring my lack of merit, Thou have been Gracious to own me. Thus I feel all the treasures have come to me and this has become an occasion of celebration with the ethereal music. Says Nanak, I have found my Lord husband and all my sufferings have ended.
The singing is now on behalf of the Guru and the holy congregation to congratulate the happy couple and shower blessings. This is the culmination of the proceedings, which fills everybody, specially the couple with blissfulness and thankfulness, feeling of richness with humility. The Shabads could be:
Fifth Nanak in Sree Rag at Page 44 in Sree Guru Granth Sahib:
O, my mind! dwell thou on Nam Divine. Without God in mind, all else is the web of worldliness and of no consequence. -Pause.
Divine Grace, if bestowed, brings in all blessings. Singing praises of the Lord, the human life becomes successful in reaching its goal. Such destiny is realised through teachings of the Guru, if so destined. -1.
A favour of the Guru is like acquisition of a million of Kingdoms and happiness. Even a momentary dwelling in Nam brings peace to body and mind. Only the fortunate ones take the shelter of the lotus feet of the Guru. -2.
Only such time is well spent, that one
devotes to love to the Eternal Lord. With the support of the Nam, there is no pain
or sorrow. Those ferried by the Guru only cross the ocean of worldly strife. -3.
Holy is the place of holy gathering. The shelter of holy congregation is the blessing of the Guru, where, O, Nanak, there is no fear of death, rebirth or weakening with age. This is a house of absolute bliss. -4.
Fifth Nanak in Gujree Rag at Page 496 in Sree Guru Granth Sahib:
O, child! This is the blessing of thy parent! May thou never forget the Lord even for a moment, ever engaged in contemplation of Him. -Pause.
Meditate always thou on Him, the Limitless One, to banish all thy afflictions and sorrows and bring solace even to your departed elders in the hereafter. -1.
May the True Guru bless thee with love for the holy ones. May the Lord shield thy honour and bless thee with the spiritual food of daily singing of Divine Praises. -2.
Drink thou Nectar of Nam to become immortal and enjoy forever the bliss of Nam-meditation. May thou never grieve, dwelling in peace and complete satisfaction. -3.
May thy mind be ever engrossed with lotus feet of the Lord, like the rain bird yearning for the rain drop. Thus, says Nanak, may thou ever dwell with the Lord. -4.
The Ragis then sing the six stanzas of Annand Sahib. Final prayer of thanks giving and to invoke divine blessings for the new couple's long life, which may be purposeful, of personal satisfaction, service to the community and abiding faith in all the Sikh tenets. After the prayer the Divine Order from Sree Guru Granth Sahib is read.
Before the distribution of Karah Prasad and closing of the ceremony, it is customary for an elderly member or a preacher to address the couple on behalf of the holy congregation. This is for congratulating and blessing them as also to delineate the important facets of their new life, together on somewhat following lines in the light of Guru's Wisdom:
Thus, the ANNAND KAARAJ ceremony comes to a close.