Mixed marriages in gurduaras

| I.J. Singh & Guruka Singh | Opinion | 31 Aug 2015 | Asia Samachar |
The knots in mixed marriages in gurdwaras.
The knots in mixed marriages in gurdwaras.

By I.J. Singh & Guruka Singh

Oh! what a mess it is that we sometimes make with the best of intentions and all in the name of God and love for our Gurus.

Recent incidents in Great Britain and elsewhere show us that all hell seems to be breaking out around a simple issue–and seemingly for the most sensible reasons.

A hot debate is in progress on the Internet these days, and it’s getting hotter by the day.

What to do when a young couple, visibly infatuated with love, wants to marry when only one of them is a Sikh and the other is not? Should they be allowed to marry in a gurduara and enjoy the blessings of the Guru and the sangat in congregation?

Believe us, this is not just a tempest in a teapot, even though some would like to dismiss it as such. There are just as many or more on the other side that believes a Sikh wedding ceremony is exclusively permitted only for a couple where the bride and groom are both Sikhs. They claim that when only one, either the bride or groom is a Sikh, it becomes a hodge-podge and an anathema – an insult to centuries of hallowed Sikh tradition.

The issue is not new nor is it unique to Sikhs. It is also amenable to a little common sense, and that’s what we need. Let’s unravel the matter a bit.

It is true that communities and religions have a code of conduct that emphasizes the common values and practices of a community. This promotes and assures unity and security. Such codes define boundaries between different but neighboring communities much as good fences make good neighbors. But fences remain porous; they should never become stone walls for that would kill communication among neighbors, destroy their path to progress and undermine human societies.

All of us understand that practices like marriage and lifestyle are the fundamentals of a family. They become sacred because they guarantee continuity of a people. But the fences between neighbors do tend to morph into impenetrable stone walls.

For instance, not so long ago, if a mixed-faith couple wanted to marry in the Roman Catholic tradition, the non-Catholic partner was required to sign a binding agreement that all children would be raised in the Catholic faith. The past 30 odd years have seen a fair degree of rethinking and turnaround in such practices, but that’s not under the lens here today. Such restrictive binding agreements diminish the fundamentals of humanity and love in the marriage by undermining the faith of one partner or the other.

Many religions have similar laws that are binding on the believers. One must wonder about the origin of such laws. Perhaps they come from a fear of dilution of the faith, or possibly to create an insular barrier to “outsiders?” Or perhaps they are rooted in an attempt to ensure a successful marriage? If the latter, then we would say that the aim has been rather unsuccessful. We see many unhappy and broken marriages between people of the same faith, whether Sikh or not, and many successful and loving marriages between a Sikh and a “non-Sikh.”

As an example we offer Siri Narayan Kaur Khalsa and her husband, who have been happily married for 53 years. Years ago, she received Guru’s Amrit and always dresses in full bana while her husband, a physicist, remains an agnostic. She says that her Lavan ceremony was deeply and profoundly meaningful, a joining of two souls into one, and that her husband has always been supportive of her daily practice and her Sikhi. And then she mused upon the question, “Was Guru Nanak’s wife (Mata Sulakhani) a Sikh?”

The very foundation of our Sikh faith is openness to all. The Harimander Sahib (Golden Temple) was designed and built by our Gurus with four doors open to all four winds so that everyone is welcome.

The determination of who is and who is not a Sikh is, in fact, not up to us to decide. Who lives as a Sikh is determined, not by birth, but by the Guru. The Guru chooses his Sikh, not the other way around. Who knows when or if Sikhi will blossom in the heart of a spouse by the Guru’s divine touch?

This is emphatically not to say that we should enter marriage blindly.

We can all understand that part of required premarital counseling for a mixed-faith couple should be a meeting with the priests (or equivalent) of both faiths for a serious conversation about the fundamentals of both faiths, so that a dose of reality gets added to the blinders of love.

If the couple can decide on the one religion that would define their new entity as a family, then it should not matter which rites they choose.

If, as some do, they want wedding rites in both faiths, one after the other, then there is an inherent problem that may surface now or years later when identity of the family and children become the issue. Because this may indicate that at some level each partner is still equally attached to his or her own tradition and that irreconcilable differences might emerge weeks, months or years later.

But there is no rhyme or reason that suggests that a faith tradition should ban mixed-faith marriages in its place of worship.

When a person enters a gurduara for a service – a keertan, for instance – no one has the right to question what kind of a Sikh or how good a Sikh he/she is. No one has the right to prevent someone, even if clearly a non-Sikh, from any of the functions in a gurduara, as long as proper respect is shown.

Even if you see mixed marriage as akin to a pothole in the road of Sikhi, it is not one that will close the road down or destroy the vehicle.

Be not afraid of non-Sikh “strangers” coming into gurduaras and participating in most seminal of our rites and practices.  Welcome them!

Remember, when you first meet anyone, he or she is always a stranger.  It is only time and engagement with each other that transforms a relationship into that of the best of friends and soul mates.



[I.J. Singh is a New York based writer and speaker on Sikhism in the Diaspora, and a Professor of Anatomy. This article was dated 28 Aug 2015. Email: ijsingh99@gmail.com]


[Guruka Singh is the CEO of Sikhnet, a popular Sikh portal]


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]



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WORSHIP…Love of God: Greed or Mortal Dread (Asia Samachar, 8 July 2015)

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  1. Interesting views.Many personal views.Many understandable views.Many views also expose the bankruptcy of the reasoning and rationale behind why the Anand karaj marriage cannot be used by a non Sikh, or one who has no commitment nor intends to commit to the message in the lawan, that graduate to be part of the Guru Granth sahib-universal message to humanity.

    Many are harp about the “openness” of the Guru Granth sahib.Some use unparalled reasoning, eg discrimination against the “others”.

    Would any of these give a free for all when a stranger walks into your own home and decides they do not like your set up, and wish to have you whine to their needs, and set things the way they wish and feel like?If you do not,then accuses of you of discrimination!I would say he /she would be justified too.
    The 4 doors of Harmander invites and welcomes everyone regardless of race, age, caste and sex or ethnicity.

    What if that some one decides , they pray to idols, snakes, or a cow and sets up a cow,a snake and an idol,in the Harmander sahib?If Sikhs say, this is not our way, then the person calls the Sikhs racist, communalists, anti Chinese, anti tamil etc?Do you think they are justified?If We take the line of reasoning offered by the rationale of most people above, I would say that person is “justified” to call Sikhs racists etc and also call the Gurbani racist!

    Would these same people advocate that person is right, and we are restricting their wishes, their freedom and demands?Then I would say, forget trying to be called Sikhs, or be part of Sikh religion as you are not at all distantly reflecting from the message of the Guru Granth sahib.You are excercisng a personal freedom to give an opinion, that does not fall in with Sikh principles at all.That said, one is free to voice, aimlessly.

    What these so called “enlightened ” people fail to understand is that the rehat maryada is based on the messages from Gurbani.It is not a man thought,or discussed and man made law of Sikhism.It is a law based upon severely strict guidance from Guru Granth sahib.I shall not go deeply into defining those Gurbani based instructions regards a Sikh anand karaj.

    The bottom line, is not about anyone’s freedom, or choice, but the abuse to the Guru Granth sahib’s message, and the commitment asked in the lavan by the Gurbani based anand karaj; if one is not a Sikh, or being a Sikh is using this lavan as a sense of perceived legalisation of their personal whims, without any respect or intention to follow the Sikh faith.

    Yes, many will say Sikhs don a turban on the day of wedding, and cannot wait to be clean shaven just after; and appear at the reception with a bottle of alcohol in hand.Yes, this wrong too, just as wrong as the non Sikh demanding to be married according to the anand karaj.

    This is a dilemma Sikhs now face.How do we resolve it without belittling Gurbani and without kow towing to the fanciful whims and demands of those who have no qualms about abusing the Gurbani guided anand karaj to fulfil their so called “international, open mind”; an assumption their feel others may lack!

    Would one say, 100 motorist jumped the red light, but I was caught, is now discrimination?The gurduara refusal to carry such inter faith and inter race weddings [where the non Sikhs has no intention or commitment of becoming a Sikh]under the anand karaj act, are not discriminating,nor stopping the wedding, they are simply guarding the law of the Gurbani based upon anand karaj.

    Interestingly, the people advocating such inter marriages, would not hesitate to point that one is sitting with their back to the Guru Granth sahib, nor stop from holding aimless akhand paths, because their personal belief is they are being religious.They are very selective in what they want to follow.

    However, it has been also known many begin their anand karaj based upon lies, around their name, where relatives add SINGH or Kaur, and hope the jugo Jugo attal-forever omnipresent living GURU will not notice, their hoodwinking cleverness to get around the Gurus message based anand karaj!Wow!

    These people need to understand when they are confronting the inter race-religion and claiming discrimination, they are basically saying the Guru Granth sahib is wrong, and the Gurus got it wrong!

    The Sikh learned who set up the guidance of rehat maryada, did not pluck this out of their own pockets and endorsed the rules, as they felt like.They consulted the Guru Granth sahib,every line related to marriage and finally after almost 24 years endorsed this guidance to the entire Sikh nation.

    Morgan Singh Sidhu and Manjit kaur are the only two who seem to speak correctly and touch the point and core message of Gurbani.

    I wonder if these people think, they can go into Islam, or Christianity and demand the marriage is held to their whims?No.They will be thrown out.

    It is clear, while talking about humans rights and perceived discrimination, they prefer to discriminate against the Guru message, rather accept personal weakness.It is clear there no real understanding of the Sikh, code and instructions.

    Nothing stops a registered marriage in such circumstances,for Sikhs, but it certainly appears these like to dictate to the Gurbani – and make demands, knowing full well it is wrong.

    Respect the Sikh law, have a registered wedding, then go and hold a path and ardas without going through the process of abuse of the anand karaj wedding.

  2. COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Morgan Singh Sidhu First of all you must know n fully practise Sikhism to be able to comment. ‘Siapa makan chili dia merasa pedas’ so at your age before gaining any knowledge you cannot comment from all aspects.in other religious practices holy verses are not used and their messenger or the like is not used as witness and by merely saying I do, I do, I do, they r married off but in Sikhism its not like that Gurmat sikhia is given and importance is given to Our Guru which non sikhs either may not believe or be able to follow as after sikhia is given agreement is requested by d giani for the sikhia and d couple must acknowledge before anand karej is initiated so where do you stand, if after you agreed but dont follow then you r a hypocrite. If you borrow money but dont oay back you will be taken to court likewise its so

    COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Kaur Sera Seriously like who is this brilliant person who came up with such bakwas theory??Who r we to stop a non sikh to marry a sikh in d gudwara?? U ppl should put e full stop to all this rural thinkin…!!

    COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Jaginder Singh If you don’t want others to discriminate you then why are you discriminating others? Malaysians Sikhs especially, who oppose this, should not complain when the government is prejudice then tongue emoticon

    COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Amarjit Kaur I don’t know. Are we pushing them away or encouraging the others if we allow them to marry in the gurudwara.

    COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Manjit Kaur There is a rule in Sikhism and its called rehat maryada. If those who do not wish to follow the rules of sikhi then u shall just get marriage registration.

  3. COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Jasmail Singh When religion becomes an organized institution, it loves to control everyone. I tried once to get clearance for a mix marriage but failed. Today the couple are happily married with grown up children and they are probably better Sikh than I am. At one time in the 60’s up to the 80’s caste was a big factor in Malaysia. I am glad that has changed.

  4. COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Manmohan Singh We Asian are and should feel proud that a man and women decide to tie the knot before living togther and have kids. Getting blessings of family and Gurus or Holiness is a beautiful tradition and should alwayd be open to all seeking. If and buts if there should teach us to make it even better. If in Sikhi Way marriage is firstly making them understand values, then our holy side should also know ways to forwarding the message through. In marriages , all different walks of life and age participates or direct or indirect effect should be possible. Refusal should not be the way out. Judging should not be the way. Marriage is no crime and if we get to fully support in a responsible way, Dharam is born.
    The above is offered as a Sansarik and believe in line with Godly way ….

  5. COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Satpal Kaler I think it’s the religious bodies that are coming up with this preposterous rules that you can’t do this and that. If you take the Adi Granth as the last Guru, it clearly states that final guru is The Guru Granth Sahib and that there is no higher authority ; “guru granth ji manio pargat gura ki deh, jo prabh ko mil boch hai, khoj SHABAD mileh”

    Also, given the fact that Guru Nanak abolished any form of caste system. And also that Sikhism states that there is no man or woman or race or religion; there is the human soul and that is the ultimate. Sikhism remains as one of the religions that have no say against homosexuality because it’s is, a human soul. Sexuality, consecutively, is a human’s creation.

    So I don’t really see the point of arguing this. Sikhism is not, I think, intended to be a religion. Rather an awakening that reiterated the core values of what most religions do actually teach.

    So I say, forget the Sikhi Rehat Maryada, follow the book because that is where the meat of the matter is. Not a bunch of wanna be aristocrats deciding what is right or wrong based on their personal opinions.

  6. COMMENTS ON ASIA SAMACHAR FACEBOOK BY USER NAME Caroline E K Sandhu: If a Sikh and non-Sikh wish to marry in a gurdwara, I think that is a wonderful thing. It would be done with much consideration and understanding of the meaning of the traditional ceremony. Equally, if they want a civil marriage with a celebrant this should be honoured and respected also by both families. Whatever ceremony they choose is only a droplet in the ocean of what it takes to have a successful marriage.

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