The DSGPC’s initiative to bring about austerity in the Sikh weddings has been hailed as a major reformative step
Enough of the big fat Punjabi weddings. It is time for austerity and the ball has been set rolling to put an end to lavish display of pelf and power in weddings. In a novel initiative the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Prabadak Committee (DSGPC), which controls the management of the Sikh gurdwaras in Delhi, in collaboration with the International Punjab Forum has launched a campaign to persuade the Sikhs as much as the Punjabis to desist from making a loud and vulgar display of wealth at the weddings.
Kulmohan Singh, president of the DSGPC Dharam Prachaar committee, said money flaunting trend had been lately catching up in the Punjabi weddings, particularly among the Sikhs. “Instead of seeing the qualification of prospective brides or grooms, it would be “package” that had come in vogue. In a covert manner, it would assume the form of dowry where the demonstration of money power in a vulgar manner had become a practice.
Against Sikh Tenets
All this has been against the basic tenets of Sikhism. So, he said, a joint committee was formed under the aegis of the DSGPC which has formulated guidelines for weddings. Under the new guidelines, which are in consonance with the directive of the Akal Takht, the Sikhs are advised to keep the weddings simple and should preferably be solemnised in a gurudwara instead of doing it in a hotel which is a far more expensive exercise. Another guideline to which DSGPC president Manjit Singh GK has decided to lead with an example is that wedding invitation cards should be dispensed with and instead e-invitation be sent to all nears and dears. This, he said, would not only save expenses incurred on glossy expensive cards but would also help save money on sweets boxes that normally accompany the invitation cards.
The DSGPC president has already made an announcement that for his son’s wedding he would be sending e-invites only to set an example for others. “Families spend a lot time and money on extravagantly designed cards for multiple wedding occasions and on distribution. Why can’t cards be digital affairs to emailed or sent on WhatsApp to save money and energy?” he averred.
Similarly, another important message being put across in this context is that the wedding ceremonies should be without alcohol and non-vegetarian food. It is being insisted when feasts are organised within the gurdwara premises they would invariably be vegetarian and without alcohol.
The “raagis” , engaged for the purpose of performing the “anand karaj”, as the wedding ceremonies are called within the Sikh community, have been particularly tasked with conveying the message of thrift and austerity in the weddings. At a given gathering of the Sikhs, the “raagis”, after completing the “paath”, are enjoined upon to warn the devouts against social evils.
A Delhi-based businessman Dr Raju Chadha has been making added endeavours to help restore austerity in the Sikh marriages.
He recollects his sister’s wedding in 1976—a simple affair held during the day, an unlikely event in wealthy Sikh families. “Though rich families can afford big weddings, they should respect the canon and hold traditional weddings in gurdwaras,” Chadha said. “The new resolution, which will be made public soon demands the Sikh Sangat to solemnise Anand Karaj (marriage ceremony) in a gurdwara. Both the girl’s and boy’s side should reach the gurdwara on time to perform the ceremony. If possible, the wedding should be followed by langar in the gurdwara itself.”
According to the Sikh traditions, wedding is called “anand karaj” meaning “The Blissful Union” or “Joyful Union”, that was introduced by the third Sikh guru, Guru Amar Das, to distinguish it from the Hindu way of marriage. Later the successor guru, Guru Ram Das, refined it further by making four “laavaan” (hymns which take place during the ceremony) as a part of the ceremony.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandak Committee (SGPC) later codified it as a part of the Sikh “rehat maryada” (code of conduct).
Mr Kulmohan clarified that it was not just about bringing in austerity in the wedding ceremonies but was also tantamount to empowering women. Heavy expenditures incurred by parents would always tend to place budding brides on a weak wicket because, in the case of marriage not working out, the entire expenditure tended to assume the form of dowry, which was against the Sih tenets.
Additionally, if the bride’s family is expected to bear the costs of the wedding, which typically is the scene in most North Indian communities, then more lavish the wedding, greater will be the burden on the bride’s family; also, more lavish the wedding, greater the expectations for a greater dowry, all contributing to a preference for son over daughter in the family.
He said though it has been undertaken more in an advisory manner, but if people did not fall in line some deterrents could be thought about as well.
— Organiser Bureau