SUN, SAND… & “SATKAAR”

I am writing this in response to the mixed viewpoints on the recent “destination” Anand Karaj carried out by the scenic beaches of Cancun for the union of a Sikh couple. It sounds wonderfully romantic when you look it at like that, something many couples dream about, spending months organising supported by the growing industry that goes with customising these events.

The union articulated in the Anand Karaj goes beyond the union of the bride and groom on the day and enters a divine union with the Almighty Akaal Purakh (timeless one). Central to this union is the lava(n) around Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji.

The challenge for the GurSikh is that on a daily basis we are confronted with a wide range of Gurmat ethical dilemmas. For many of us Gurmat ethics become something that is not easy to define, let alone comply with. Rehat Maryada and Hukumnamas further expanded by Sandeshs and Aadeshs issued by Sri Akal Takht Sahib have been put in place to guide and implement Gurmat decision making. It is there to help with the grey areas.

However, the sophisticated intellect of the human will always find creative ways of using semantics, circumstances or interpretations to manipulate the outcomes to suit them. We often refer to that as Manmat. The question is who is right or who is wrong? When does one man’s sharda become another man’s beadbi.

I was disappointed and heartbroken that a leading global Sikh figure head, someone I deeply admire, chose to perform his Anand Karaj as a one stop shop destination event, even more disappointed that prominent Kirtaniya and Sikhs were involved. No matter how much I view the performance of the physical Satkaar in the form of chaur sahibs, jaikaras, lavish palki sahib etc., I cannot see beyond the long term damage this could potentially kick start. The impact on the Satkaar of the Anand Karaj itself.

Following photo was found on social media of an Anand Karaj that took place on the beach in Thailand

There has been a history of upholding the Satkaar of the Anand Karaj in the UK. We witnessed the Respect For Guru Granth Sahib Ji Campaign during the years of 2004 to 2006 which actively condemned the growing trend of performing Anand Karaj’s in banqueting suites, hotels, bars. This evolved into the Satkaar Campaign UK from 2010 to 2012 looking at Gurdwara properties allowing alcohol and parties on premises more than often linked to an Anand Karaj booking. And then the more recent protests led by Sikh Youth UK at the abuse of the Anand Karaj by Gurdwara committees not following Rehat Maryada and permitting mixed faith couples to participate in the exclusive Sikh wedding ceremony.

There is no denying that these campaigns had experienced hostility and went head to head with the mainstream culture which often framed the above practices as “community progression.”

Our worldly intellect acts as a barricade and we may never physically see that divine union but the essence of the union is clear in the translation of the four Lava(n) composed by Sri Guru Ram Das Ji. Walking respectfully around Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji Maharaj, as a central point, is a clear symbolic message that the teachings of the Gurus will be central to that couple’s life.

As a diaspora, the Sikh migrants have always prioritised the setting up of the Gurdwara even before setting up their own homes. The generations before us were keen to establish Gurdwaras in the early days of settling. These overt symbols of identity stood boldly as a deceleration, ‘we are here and we are proud of who we are.’ As the years passed, each town with a Sikh population was able to open a Gurdwara. The need to use the local pub or bingo hall disappeared as the community established itself with institutes and infrastructure to maintain the Satkaar of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Sikh Maryada.

However, as the affluence and extravagant preferences of the community evolved so has the structure of the Gurdwaras, perhaps to our detriment as we started to see the culture of the ‘wedding orientated Gurdwaras’ targeting high volume of wedding bookings over other activities such as education, outreach and community welfare.

Now if the charm of the chandeliers and staircases in the Gurdwara is no longer good enough, there is an industry out there waiting to be exploited for destination weddings on beaches, castles, stately homes. Event organisers, third party venues, caterers all waiting for their profit margins at the expense of Sikh Maryada. Lavish palki sahibs superficially display Satkaar, making great photo opportunities. The sun and sound of waves temporarily replace the serenity of the Guru Ghar. It all looks great on camera and makes great memories for the guests while they get on the beach. The after party is just a short walk away, it is all so convenient, perfectly organised, controlled and contained…

After Guru Granth Sahib is removed from the venue a beach party with alcohol occurs.

But look at what we lose. This is about setting examples and foundations. For the GurSikh, the Anand Karaj is all about sharda, embracing humility, the union with the One. It is divine. The act of physically going to visit the Guru in the Gurdwara to seek blessings is hugely symbolic and profound. The protocol around respecting Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji’s pavitar saroop during transportation is paramount. We lose this all for what, great photos… There is no reason why the Anand Karaj cannot take place in the Gurdwara, especially when there is no shortage of Gurdwaras in North America. We can leave those beautiful beaches for the honeymoons.

I will always admire the political achievements of my brother, his global profile is great and his sphere of influence is vast. But with all of this comes the responsibility for the GurSikh, it is not only about the gimmickry nor is it about the trends we set or the trails we blaze but most of all the Gurmat we uphold.

ਮੈ ਤਾਣੁ ਦੀਬਾਣੁ ਤੂਹੈ ਮੇਰੇ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਮੈ ਤੁਧੁ ਆਗੈ ਅਰਦਾਸਿ ॥
Mai Thaan Dheebaan Thoohai Maerae Suaamee Mai Thudhh Aagai Aradhaas ||
You alone are my strength, and my Court, O my Lord and Master; unto You alone I pray.

ਮੈ ਹੋਰੁ ਥਾਉ ਨਾਹੀ ਜਿਸੁ ਪਹਿ ਕਰਉ ਬੇਨੰਤੀ ਮੇਰਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਤੁਝ ਹੀ ਪਾਸਿ ॥੨॥
Mai Hor Thhaao Naahee Jis Pehi Karo Baenanthee Maeraa Dhukh Sukh Thujh Hee Paas ||2||
There is no other place where I can offer my prayers; I can tell my pains and pleasures only to You. ||2||

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