The Forgotten History of the Anand Marriage Act of 1909


THE ANAND MARRIAGE ACT 1909 by Mankamal Singh from the United Kingdom

The precursor of the larger Gurdwara reform movement of the 1920s came in the form of the Anand Marriage Act in 1909.

It can be seen in our own history that upholding the Gurmat based Anand Karaj Sansksar (ceremony) has always been a key objective to sustain our values and progress our heritage.

Anand Marriage Act was passed in 1909 by the British Imperial Legislative Council to establish legal validity of the marriage ceremony common among the SIKHS called Anand Karaj.

The origins of marriage by the Anand Karaj ceremony go back to the times of the Gurus. The practice somehow lapsed during the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and was revived as part of the religious reform followed up by the beginnings of the Singh Sabha movement of late 19th Century.

The Sikh nation faced huge challenges after the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh with the further degradation of Sikh institutions and Gurmat based sanskaars. After the Khalsa Raj, from the mid 19th century Sikhs faced an infiltration of many confusing practices within the institutes. The distinct Anand Karaj ceremony was being replaced by the Brahmanical rituals and it became more and more evident that Sikhs needed to have their social laws accepted and codified to safeguard the sanctity of the Anand Karaj.

The Anand Marriage Bill had been drafted by a committee of the Chief Khalsa Diwan. The Imperial Council referred the bill to a select committee. The bill received overwhelming support from the Sikh respondents. The bill was placed on the Statute Book on 22 October 1909.

The text of the Act reads:

The Anand Marriage Act 1909, Act No. VII of 1909. An Act to remove doubts as to the validity of the marriage ceremony among the Sikhs called `Anand`.

– Validity of Anand All marriages which Marriages : may be or may have been duly solemnized according to the Sikh marriage ceremony called `Anand` shall be and shall be deemed to have been with effect from the date of solemnization to each respectively, good and valid in law.

– Exemption of certain marriages from Act : Nothing in this Act shall apply to (a) any marriage between persons not professing the Sikh religion or (b) any marriage which has been judicially declared to be null and void.

– Saving of marriage solemnized according to other ceremony : Nothing in this Act shall affect the validity of any marriage duly solemnized according to any other marriage ceremony customary among the Sikhs.

– Non validation of marriages : Nothing in this Act shall be deemed to validate any marriage between persons who are related to each other in any degree of consanguinity, or affinity which would, according to the customary law of Sikhs, render a marriage between them illegal.

If we compare the context of where we are today as a Sikh Diaspora, we can draw many parallels and gain inspiration from the challenges our predecessor successfully overcame.

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