The four laavan

A short synopsis of hymns sung at Sikh marriage called Anand Karaj. Manjeet Singh, a Kuala Lumpur based lawyer who runs a number of Sikhi discussion groups, shares some thoughts on them


| Opinion | 9 Sept 2017 | Asia Samachar |

By Manjeet Singh

I would start by saying, how inadequate I feel in the presence of the Guru to speak of Bani. But I have been requested by the family of the groom to give a short synopsis of the marriage hymns which are read and sung at all Sikh marriages.

The marriage ceremony is called anand karaj. Anand means bliss. So, the focus is on bliss for the lucky couple.

Guru Ramdas Ji, the fourth Guru of the Sikhs did not write the wedding hymns (commonly known as laavan) for a human marriage. The Gurus were drenched with love for God. Thus, the laavan hymns are first and foremost about the spiritual journey which culminates in union with God. Merger with God is the real “anand” – the true bliss.

The laavan are a four-stanza prayer found at Ang 773–774 of SGGS Ji. Although Sikh history is still not conclusive on this, it is believed that these laavan hymns were first used at the wedding of the fifth Guru, Guru Arjun Dev Ji (1563–1606). The practice prior to that had been to circumambulate around the fire like the Hindus.

On the spiritual path in Sikhism, we are told there are four steps to the spiritual ladder. These steps are known as “khand” in Japji Sahib.

The first stage is dharam khand, where we have emphasis on duties. In the second stage gyan khand, one becomes aware that he is part of a huge fascinating system of God and must start eroding his ego. In the third stage of saram khand, spirituality becomes fine-tuned in sadhsangat and the driving force is no longer rules as in the first stage, but rather love for God. In the laavan hymns this love or yearning for God is called bairaag.

In the fourth stage, grace is granted to the Sikh and he now is in a state of poise and eternal calmness. He sees God’s jot – Divine Spark of existence everywhere.

The fifth stage is Sachkhand which can never be adequately described since God Himself resides at that plane. That dimension “Sachkhand vassay Nirankar” is beyond words.

Interestingly, these four stages are also found in Islam and Guru Arjun Dev Ji at Ang 1083 mentions these four stages. Firstly, we have shariah. “Shara shariat le kamahvo”. In the second stage of the spiritual ladder we have “tarikat” thus Guru Ji says “tarikat tarak khoj tolavho” the 3rd stage being “marifatt” – “marifatt man maro abdallah”. The final stage of Islam is merger with Hakikat – the Truth ” milho hakikat jit firr na marra.”

In the Bhagvat Gita, a similar journey of spiritual ascent is described by Krishna Ji to Arjun.

That is the spiritual backdrop to these marriage hymns.  The virtues needed on the spiritual journey leading to blissful union with God are also necessary for a successful physical union between man and wife.

In essence, the 1st stanza

ਪਹਿਲੜੀ ਲਾਵ ਪਰਵਿਰਤੀ ਕਰਮ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਇਆ ਬਲਿ ਰਾਮ ਜੀਉ 

Har pehlarhi laav parvirti karam dhriaaya bal raam jio..

The duties of family life have been stressed. So, for a successful marriage the couple will have to follow certain rules or duties.  Of honesty, sincerity and to be loyal to each other.

The 2nd part of the laavan hymn says

ਹਰਿ ਦੂਜੜੀ ਲਾਵ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਮਿਲਾਇਆ ਬਲਿ ਰਾਮ ਜੀਉ 

Har dujhri laav satgur purakh milaya bal raam jio. Nirbhao bhay man hoi haumai mail gavahiya bal raam jio.

Thus, in any happy marriage the partners will have to erode their egos, their haumai.

In the 3rd stage Guru Ji says there must be love and enthusiasm.

ਹਰਿ ਤੀਜੜੀ ਲਾਵ ਮਨਿ ਚਾਉ ਭਇਆ ਬੈਰਾਗੀਆ ਬਲਿ ਰਾਮ ਜੀਉ 

Har tijree laav man chaoo bheya bal raam jio.

There must be “chao” to be in each other’s company and to receive the views of your spouse with enthusiasm to form a strong foundation to the marriage.

In the final stage of union there is calmness and equipoise of the mind.

ਹਰਿ ਚਉਥੜੀ ਲਾਵ ਮਨਿ ਸਹਜੁ ਭਇਆ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਬਲਿ ਰਾਮ ਜੀਉ 

Har chauthri laav man sahaj bheya har paiya bal raam jio..

Similarly, on a human level the physical union must achieve a quiet deep understanding between man and wife where any situation is faced with an inner peace and consensus.

This sadhsangat ji is the essence of the 4 laavan. As the couple walks around SGGS Ji 4 times as the laavan are sung by the ragis, the couple is declaring to all present that SGGS Ji shall be the central focus of their lives.

We, as the sangat, should quietly bless this young couple to enjoy wedded bliss.

Manjeet Singh, a Kuala Lumpur based lawyer, runs a number of Sikhi discussion groups in Malaysia. Go here to hear recordings of some of the sessions. This article was a speech delivered by a satsanggi during a wedding. He had asked for Manjeet Singh views and input in crafting the speech

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.


New website capturing Gurbani discourses by lawyer Manjeet (Asia Samachar, 1 Feb 2017)

Major Sikh orgs to conduct Akhand Path for Panth chardikala in Malaysia (Asia Samachar, 26 Sept 2016)

What goes down at a Malaysian Punjabi wedding (Asia Samachar, 14 Dec 2016)


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  1. Another interesting observation comes from the Khalsa Akhbar dated 13th July, 1894,abt a story from a village Natta, in Nabha state, where a Sikhs married off his daughter according to GUR MARYADA.Most of the popultion in the village, incluing brahmins and Sikhs became hostile.They did not allow the braat to stay in the dharamsaala, because the Sikh refused the pandits and their ceremonies to marry his daughter, indicate very large numbers of people were finding the nanad karaj weddings alien and taboo as as much as 120 years ago.

  2. regards explanation of the Four lavans, read in the anand karaj marriage of the Sikhs.Let me share some FACTUAL recorded history from the book History of Nirankaris, by Dr Ganda Singh, an eminent Sikhs historian.

    The writer claimed that is said that Guru Arjan ji carried out this procedure first, is wrong.The mariage by lavan did not exisit until around 1800s.

    This information is derived from the early history of the puratanical Sikh movement , Nirankaris.

    Baba Dayal the founder of the original Nirankari movement, a puritanical Sikh movement born in 1783.
    He was a very dedicated Sikh, far looking into the future.he was dislike by many like todays derawadhi and snatani backward looking like SGGSA chamchas, but he persisted with faith in Gurbani and was very successful in putting his opponents down

    Factual history tells, that One day baba Dyal went to visit a sewa panthi Budhu Shah.

    Visiting Budhu shah were also Bhai Charan das and his wife,who took a liking to baba Dayal, and his Gurbani exposition.

    Baba Dayal accepted the hand of their daughter,on condition that the marriage be peformed within a few days as he had travelled from far, and it was not possible for him to come back again.

    it ws the month of chet which according to to brahminical cult, is inauspicious and hence no marriage could be performed

    They searched for pandit,but no pandit would agree to perform the ceremony.

    But baba dayal then asked baba Buddhu Shah to get Bhai Charan das to bring his daughter to the Gurduara for NEW and revolutionary type of wedding!

    Bhai Charan das nd his wife agreed after some hesitation.

    Shabads and anand sahib were recited and supplicatory prayers were offered for the blessing and success of the ANAND marriage.

    This was the first step towards anand marriage reform, this took place in 1808, at Bhera.

    I would ask manjeet Singh ji to provide factual evidence abt the fact Guru Arjan ji, please.

    The above clearly indicates, until 1808 and much beyond Sikhs were consulting pandits and the marriage rites were NOT anand karaj .

    Even the lavan around the Guru Granh sahib are later additions.

  3. And all may have been nullified when couples have little faith or understanding by the couple and their families of the responsibilities detailed in the lavaan as is evidenced by the rising number of divorces.
    I was made ro understand that there is no provision for divorce in Sikh maryada so question arises:
    Is subsequent marriage where one or both parties arei divorced not like a poligamous marriage and whose validity is acceptable?
    Lavaan appears to have become more like a ritual rather than the values it has when divorce is involved.

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