A Kaur’s Response to the Misuse of the Anand Karaj Ceremony

Originally Posted by Bal Kaur Sandhu on Facebook on September 13, 2016.

I have had numerous conversations with people over the last few days regards the Leamington incident, some have said to me they are surprised that as someone who advocates the ‘recognise the human race as one’ I am not in favour of interfaith marriages. So I will share my thoughts here and hopefully this may provide some clarity on my thoughts and beliefs.

I am not opposed to interfaith marriages or people from different communities marrying, if an individual meets someone they are happy with and wants to spend the rest of their life with that person, who is anyone to stop this. Love is a very powerful emotion and I wish the best to anyone who is lucky enough to meet a person they are truly happy and in love with. Thus the issue is not with the colour of someone’s skin or which part of the world they originate from. Good people come in all shapes, sizes and colours!
Interfaith means a marriage between two people following different faiths – the confusion arises when one assumes that people with white or black skin are a ‘different faith’. We all know Sikhs from many different parts of the world, white, black, yellow whatever. So if two Sikhs begin their married life with an Anad Karj there is no objection to this at all.

The Sikh marriage is not merely a physical and legal relationship but is a holy union between two souls where physically they appear as two individual bodies but in fact are united as one. Anand Karaj means “blissful union”. Anand Karaj consists of the couple revolving around Guru Granth Sahib Ji four times as the Laava are being recited. Revolving is the sign of making commitment with the Guru as a witness. In addition, revolving signifies that Guru is the centre of the couple’s life and springs life and the understanding of the journey of the soul crossing this world to be One with God. During the marriage ceremony, Guru Granth Sahib Ji represents the core while the congregation represents the support.

If one views the Ananad Karj merely as a cultural ritual, then this is an empty ritual and a reprehensible insult to the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and the Sikh beliefs. Many other faiths will not allow those following a different faith to undergo a spiritual union unless both parties are of the same faith so why undermine our Guru for the sake of a ‘nice ceremony’.

The issue arises when a person who does not follow the Sikh faith , hence has no allegiance to the Sikh way of life or Guru Granth Sahib ji partakes in Ananad Karj – this is an empty ritual and undermines the sanctity of the Sikh faith and our Guru. As someone pointed out to me yesterday by asking a person from a different faith to partake in Ananad Karj you are asking them to renounce their own religion and commit themselves to Guru Granth Sahib Ji – so ask yourself is this what we as Sikhs are about? Enforcing our faith on others? By undertaking an Ananad Karj one is promising themselves to the Guru and to follow the path of Sikhi and do their best to live a Gursikh jeevan. By carrying out an empty ritual one is starting their married life based on a lie.

Ultimately the blame for these upsets lies with those who manage the Gurdwaras booking these interfaith Anand Karj without educating the families on the meaning of the Ananad Karj. We have been failed on many fronts by our self-appointed ‘community leaders’ these issues are a result of lack of vision and self-promotion in place of community development. Basics of Sikh are working on a pre Anand Karj course – I welcome this as a much needed initiative, and would suggest this is made mandatory for all those booking an Anand Karj ceremony anywhere. What can be more beautiful than two Individuals entering a life together and understanding every word and sentiment they are being joined by.

The protests that occurred are disappointing and I fear that many young lads may now be facing criminal records, which will impact their life and future prospects. I am not in agreement of pushing our youth into these situations; it pains me to see our youngsters being portrayed as thugs or hooligans in the media. I understand the emotions and passion that is behind the protesting however I would implore the youth to think about how they appear with their faces covered up, engage with others who can provide guidance to make your time and efforts fruitful. Look for solutions to these problems and work together to bring about the change needed. The events of this weekend have polarised the Sikh community with the majority not knowing the facts of the matter or understanding the real issue.
I would also add that it is not a different case if a Sikh boy marries a non sikh girl, interfaith Ananad Karj should not take place full stop. There is no need to be abusive to girls who choose to marry a non Sikh.

I strongly believe the UK Sikh Community should seek answers from those managing the Leamington Gurdwara, why did they feel it was appropriate to make the false call to the police and escalate this matter the way they have. The management committee knew full well these youngsters would not attack the Gurdwara or harm individuals; there have been many such protests at this Gurdawra how many casualties have occurred before? Secondly what value do they give the Ananad Karj and why can anyone pay £800 and book one.

Bal Kaur Sandhu is an active volunteer with Khalsa Aid and founding member of the Safer Sikh Partnership.

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