Sikh Council UK Develops Guidelines of Approach to Inter-Faith Marriages in Gurdwaras

BIRMINGHAM, UK—The Sikh Council (UK) have developed a consistent approach towards marriages in Gurdwaras where one partner is not of Sikh origin.

The guidelines have been developed through a comprehensive consultation which took place over a 2 year period.  In developing the guidelines Sikh Council UK consulted with Gurdwara Sahib Committees, Sikh Organisations and individuals. Consultation methods included:  emails, mail-shots to Gurdwaras across UK, regional meetings, workshops, telephone conversations, and face to face discussions.

The purpose of the document is to progress towards agreeing a consistent approach to Anand Karaj (Sikh marriage) ceremonies across Gurdwaras in adherence to the Sikh Rehat Maryada (the Sikh code of conduct & conventions)  for circumstances where one partner is not of Sikh origin.

2014-10-24- anandkaraj

Below is the 5th and final version of the guidelines as approved by the General Assembly of Sikh Council UK on 11th October 2014:

1.Purpose 
1.1. The purpose of this document is to progress towards agreeing a consistent approach to Anand Karaj (Sikh marriage) ceremonies across Gurdwaras in adherence to the Panth Parvaan Sikh Rehat Maryada (the Sikh code of conduct & conventions)  for circumstances where one partner is not of Sikh origin.

1.2. There are many communities which have a historical tradition of following many tenets of the Sikh Faith and regularly engage in religious ceremonies and contribute to the Gurdwaras.  This document does not address any issues relating to their practices as it is a subject of separate discussion as to how they can be supported to better understand and follow the Sikh Rehat Maryada.

2. Background 
2.1 On several occasions considerable discussion has taken place in the Executive of the Sikh Council UK reiterating the need to set out a process to ensure that marriages take place in accordance with Sikh Rehat Maryada and the supporting Sandesh (edict) of Sri Akal Takht Sahib (as attached). The matter has also been discussed by the Board of Jathedars. 

2.2 The Sikh Rehat Maryada Article XVIII clause k states that “ਅਨਮਤ ਵਾਲਿਆਂ ਦਾ ਲਵਆਹ ‘ਅਨੰ ਦ’ ਰੀਤੀ ਨਾਿ ਨਹੀਂ ਹੋ ਸਕਦਾ |” meaning persons professing faiths other than the Sikh faith cannot be joined in wedlock by the Anand Karaj ceremony.  Also at XVIII clause b, “ਲਸਿੱਖ ਦੀ ਪਿੱਤ ਰੀ ਦਾ ਲਵਆਹ ਲਸਿੱਖ ਨਾਿ ਹੀ ਹੋਵੇ |” meaning a Sikh’s daughter must be married to a Sikh.  In the Sikh spirit of gender equality, it is implied that a Sikh’s son must also be married to a Sikh.  

2.3 On 16 August 2007 Sri Akal Takht Sahib issued a Sandesh clarifying that the Anand Karaj ceremony can only be conducted for Sikhs and that any person of non-Sikh origin wishing to take part in an Anand Karaj must adopt the Sikh faith and have Singh or Kaur added to his or her name on relevant identity documents. 

2.4 In spite of this clear guidance marriages have taken place in Gurdwara’s where one partner is not a Sikh. 

2.5 There are examples where the partner claims to have accepted Sikhism and goes through a sham wedding in a Gurdwara to appease the parents of the Sikh partner.  In other examples two religious ceremonies take place one in the Gurdwara and the other at the religious place of worship of the non-Sikh partner. 

2.6 Some examples have emerged where the Anand Karaj has taken place without the non-Sikh partner accepting the Sikh faith.  Then the Sikh partner is converted for the second religious ceremony.  A particular example illustrates this issue whereby a Sikh girl had an Anand Karaj first and then had a church wedding where she was converted to Christianity. Sadly she died shortly afterwards and she was buried according to Christian rites.  It was only at this point the distraught family realised what had actually happened. 

2.7 Mainly as a result of some Gurdwara management committees not adhering to the Sikh Rehat Maryada, examples have emerged of local tensions and there continue to be risks of breach of the peace and litigation.  The development of a consistent approach aims to prevent this predicament in the future. 

2.8 The responsibility lies both with individuals and Gurdwaras to ensure that there has been a formal acceptance of the Sikh religion.  The definition of a Sikh in the Rehat Maryada is: “Any human being [man or woman] who faithfully believes in: One Immortal Being; Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh; the Guru Granth Sahib; the utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh.” 

2.9 From a practical point of view it is important to ensure that there is a genuine acceptance of the Sikh faith, a commitment to live the life of a Sikh and to also raise any children as Sikhs. 

2.10 It is noted that there is considerable variation in practices of Gurdwaras towards testing the genuine intention to accept the Sikh faith. Some Gurdwaras have developed good practice and the proposed approach builds upon it. 

3. Proposed Approach to ensure adherence to the Sikh Rehat Maryada  
3.1 Any person wishing to exercise the choice to marry in a Gurdwara Sahib through the Anand Karaj ceremony must sign a declaration (Appendix 1) that confirms:  He or she is a Sikh, believes in the tenets of the Sikh faith and owes no allegiance to another faith. He or she will adopt Singh (for males) or Kaur (for females) in his or her name as his or her middle name or surname.  The Anand Karaj ceremony will be the only religious ceremony that the person will take part in for the purposes of marriage.  He or she will endeavour to bring up any children from his or her marriage as Sikhs, to give them the middle name or surname Singh (for male) or Kaur (for female), to teach them Punjabi and the tenets of the Sikh faith .        

4. Proposed procedure for Gurdwaras 
4.1 To implement the above proposals, Gurdwaras are encouraged to adopt a procedure for meeting the couple prior to the Anand Karaj.  The following procedure is recommended:   Upon receiving a request for a booking for an Anand Karaj to invite the couple to the Gurdwara (preferably together but individually where this is not possible). 

The Gurdwara will assign trained individuals who are fluent in English and Punjabi to meet the couple to discuss about the Anand Karaj and the declaration.  The couple will be asked to reflect on the discussion and will be provided with literature on the Anand Karaj and the Sikh faith.  The couple will be invited back to the Gurdwara after two or so weeks to discuss any issues or questions and satisfy themselves that they understand the meanings of what they are accepting and agreeing to.  

If the couple are in agreement and willing to sign the declaration and the Gurdwara is satisfied of this, the Gurdwara representative will ask the couple to sign the declaration and in the case of individuals of formerly non Sikh origin to present the relevant identity documents.  A Gurdwara representative should witness the declaration signatures.  

In the case of an individual of non-Sikh origin, the Gurdwara will arrange for an Ardas to be said and for him or her to be welcomed into the Sikh faith.  An English/Gurmukhi Gutka should ideally be given with a Kara. 

At the Anand Karaj the couple will be reminded of their commitment before the ceremony and after the ceremony be welcomed to the faith and community as a couple. 

4.2 It is further recommended that Gurdwara managements should ensure the couple has awareness of the following basic Sikh tenets: 
– Belief in only One God  
– The ten Gurus from Guru Nanak through to Guru Gobind Singh Ji and their teachings 
– That receiving the gift of Amrit (Khandey de Pahul) as the aspiration of  every Sikh at some point in their life 
– Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji is the embodiment of the Sikh doctrines and the eternal Guru 
– Not to pay homage to or worship any other deity or person 
– Renounce all superstitions and to go about daily life whilst connected to the one Akal Purakh (Timeless Lord) 
– Learn and understand the Mool Mantar 
– Understanding of the rehits and kurehits (cardinal sins)  

4.3 Where a couple chooses to undertake a civil marriage in a Registry Office they should be offered the opportunity to hold an Ardas, Sukhmani Sahib Path, Akhand Path or other service to celebrate their union as husband and wife in the presence of their family, relatives and friends.

5. Documents   5.1 A standard declaration (Appendix 1) is provided to assist Gurdwara managements. 

5.2  Where a Gurdwara is unable to conduct the Anand Karaj Ceremony in any case due to non-compliance with the requirements set out in this policy, the Gurdwara will inform the couple clearly and without delay.  The Gurdwara may wish to confirm the same in writing to the couple for further clarity and to this end a standard letter (Appendix 2) is provided to assist Gurdwara managements. 

 

13 COMMENTS

  1. i want to express how grateful i am, because i finally got what i have been looking for. My husband left me and our kids i have tried all my possible best to reach him but is like every time i tried, i am making things worst for myself. But thank the God that lead me to PROPHET SULEMAN, he helped me to restore the love my husband had for me back within 3days of me contacting him. he came back just as PROPHET SULEMAN told me, he will make him come back. if you are in situation like this kindly contact email prophetsuleman@gmail.com,

  2. Ssa
    Could you please tell me I’d this marriage declaration is simply a guideline or compulsory for all gurudwara

    Regards
    Jaswinder kaur
    a

  3. The guidelines have stated requirements of inter faith marriage regarding anand karaj, and those individuals who must accept the Sikhi rehat. However what about the rehat maryada we should follow ourselves? Youths having anand karaj come to the gurdwara hung over from their pre-wedding parties / maiyan the night before, and have reception parties straight after seeking blessings of their marriage infront of guru maharaj, these parties involve meat and alcohol, will the Sikh council of UK impose these youths to take oaths not to do this straight after doing their lavan? Their party venue and details are sometimes announced straight after the anand karaj, is this right. The guidelines above state the youths must har Singh and kaur in their names however does this state those born with these names should follow the respect of our 10 gurus and Guru Granth Sahib? Should everyone be given a breath test before entering the gurdwara including the groom because of the high level of alcohol consumed the night before. If the guidelines state that any new initiated Sikh is to be told at the wedding to follow a Sikh life, are those existing Sikhs also told not to party like crazy straight after the ceremony? Are they told not to eat meat an hour after doing their matha tek? Are the aunties told not to dance to chamkila and miss pooja songs? No. The guidelines also do not state that if an individual has full faith in 10 gurus and Guru Granth Sahib ji maharaj and nothing else if they can have an anand karaj without changing their name to singh, their faith may be 100% in Sikhi. How does one go about this? Many kaurs out there and their parents believe in Mata and some semi Hindu beliefs, will they all be questioned before getting married? The gurus would never deny being a witness to anyone’s marriage even knowingly or unknowingly if the bride and groom are aware of the power, guru maharaj is the all doer, so if individuals choose to keep Guru Granth Sahib ji at the centre of their marriage their faith in the reasons should be tested not their ability to change their name. Please re think the guidelines and be fair for those individuals who do not come from a punjabi background but have full conviction in the Sikh faith. The Sikh faith is open to all four corners of the world not looking at caste colour or creed please do not discriminate, if a human asked anyone of us to be a witness to their wedding and bind a couple in a dharmic way we would be overwhelmed with this opportunity, so why deny other faiths taking blessings from our guru? The guru is our spiritual master not a murti in a mandir where we choose who should be allowed entry or not, it is he who accepts all and is the giver and taker or our bliss and fortune, do not emulate the gurus words to benefit that of current society and their influences. Thank you
    Gurbaksh Singh

  4. When was these views on marriage in the sikh religion authorised and by who???
    These views are unrealistic, unfair, hypocrytical, and against the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji.
    There has never been a conversion of a member of another religion in Sikhism, unless that person willfully wishes to do so. There has never been disrespect to another religion in Sikhism either. Followers of all religions and beliefs have always been welcomed to gurdwaras around the world, by implementing these so called guidelines to all the gurdwaras in relation to the Anand Karaj is surely going against the teachings of our Gurus. Please advise accordingly .
    thank you
    Mr B S Bhullar

  5. I’m very dissapointed by the ill informed conclusions and guidelines issued here.

    If alienating out youth is what you’re setting out to do, congratulations in achieving your aim.

    I was bought up to believe out religion is about equality, acceptance and peace; far from the reality that these guidelines encourage.

    I would think very carefully before your chose to implement this too readily. I am proud of my faith but these guidelines are frankly embarrassing. You should be encouraging unity and diversity within the religion; you can’t halt change but what you can do is present yourself in a respectable manner which opens members of other communities into the faith as opposed to alienate them. You could have issued guidelines which welcomed new members into the community whether they chose to change their name / follow the faith or not; instead you will most likely end up losing people who would otherwise have remained loyal to the religion and placed of worship.

  6. WaheGuru Ji Ka Khalsa,
    WaheGuru Ji Ki Fateh.

    This is certainly a big step towards the betterment of the Sikhs in U.K and hope soon Sikhs residing in other countries will take similar steps but the above mentioned proposals are yet incomplete.

    What if a Sikh girl decides to marry a non-Sikh and the non-Sikh partner agrees to add Singh to his last name and change it in the identity document but doesn’t agrees to keep Kesh. Will the Gurdwara Management allow such a couple to get married as per the Anand Karaj rites.

    There is a sizable Hindu community in this world who regularly goes to the Gurdwaras and do a lot of Sewa there and if they are asked to add the name Singh to their names and change it in their identity documents they will happily do it but what they won’t accept is keeping uncut long Kesh and beard.

    So, the question arises here is whether the Gurdwara Management will allow non-Keshadhari non-Sikhs but with Singh as their last names and even willing to accept Guru Granth Sahib as their Guru if they wish to marry Sikh girls as per the Anand Karaj ceremony?

    WaheGuru Ji Ka Khalsa,
    WaheGuru Ji Ki Fateh.

  7. Congratulations on establishing these guidelines. I have been witnessing all kinds of disrespect to the Anand Karaj ceremony in the US and have been discussing with my friends as to how to curtail this. I am hoping that these guidelines will be adopted by the Sikhs in the US and north America. We need to establish a Sikh council in the US as a start

  8. Love how people are making an attempt to re-write parts of Sikhi just because they have weaselled their way onto a committee. We are in the 21st Century. Peoples way of life and mindsets have come a long way, why try and go back to make life difficult. Religion is a practice and should not be altered to hinder what is already set out in that religion. Too many stories and versions have been made of original religions. This corruption of religion is the cause of many no longer believing. Keep the original religion alive and stop twisting it to suit pride. Nobody should be adding/amending religion. It is a belief set out long ago, nobody now has the right to alter it; committee nor council.

  9. Very well researched and written. I commend all those who participated in establishing these guidelines. I only wish the people here in Canada will adopt these guidelines.

    Sincerely

  10. In today’s. Atmosphere we see on face book that many of Sikh brothers post photo graphs of gods of another religion and pray as if they r our God. So do we presume that they r changing religion.

  11. Issue is not only sikh way of marriage but much bigger than that. People misunderstand that by having birth in sikh family, they automatically become sikh, without following any of the sikh tenants on daily basis. When we quote definition of sikh, it should also be explained that sikhs are prohibited for four bajar kurehats. If anybody do any one of those four bajjar kurehats, they cease to be sikhs and if we apply that, majority is out automatically. Yes, they believe in Guru sahib but do not practice on daily basis and still feel themselves devout sikhs.

Comments are closed.