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Marriage, Divorce & Abortion in Sikhism

In Sikhism, marriage is obligatory for a Sikh. Sikhism rejects renunciation of the world. A Sikh must live the life of a householder. Except for unavoidable circumstances, a Sikh must not remain celibate. Sikhism does not deny the existence of a sexual being in a man:

There is no (so-called sacred) thread for sex organs
And there is no such thread for females
Because of this (sexual sins) man's beard is ever spat upon (p. 471)

But, in Sikhism, marriage is not performed for gratification of sexual desire or for enjoyment of carnal pleasure. For a Sikh, a marriage partner is must in order to check him from committing sexual sins. Similarly, the purpose of marriage is not mere creation and upbringing of children.

Secondly, in Sikhism marriage is sacramental. It is not a contract between two persons. It is a union of two souls to play their social and spiritual role in this universe. A Sikh and his/her marriage partner, while living in this world, as average social beings, have to meditate to achieve liberation (self-realisation). According to Sikhism, ideal husband and wife are one soul in two bodies:

They are not said to be husband and wife
who merely sit (live) together;
Rather they alone are called husband and wife
who have one soul in two bodies.(p. 788)

Thirdly, a Sikh, while living the life of a householder, must escape from attachment to worldliness. A Sikh must perform his duty as a husband and as a father. But, for him his wife and his children are not "everything" for him; he has a duty to his brotherhood, to the society and to God, who has created him:

The Guru-wards become desireless and attain supreme bliss
In household they remain unattached and imbibe love for the detached Lord
(p. 1249)
To be a householder, who at least gives some (charity to beggars/sadhus)
Is better than this wearing deceptive robes (of renunciation of the word)
(p. 587)

ARRANGEMENT OF A SIKH MARRIAGE

When children grow up and enter adolescent period, the parents should begin giving them necessary knowledge about sex and marriage. It should be a sort of preparation for marriage. The children should be given information about sex, philosophy of marriage, religious implications of marriage, cultural traditions, family customs etc. If we have already educated the children about their future and their marriage, there won't be any problems before or after the marriage.

It is a common belief that the Sikh marriages are "arranged". It is simply incorrect. In Sikh system, the parents, the relatives and the other friends help the boys and the girls find their marriage partner. In no case there is forcible marriage. In the case of the boys, he is given facilities to choose his would-be wife. Similarly, a Sikh girl gets facilities to select her life-partner. The young boys and girls, being less informed about the lives of their would-be life-partners and their in-laws, are, usually unable to analyse the pros and cons of choosing a partner. The youth, usually, does not have information about the personality of their would-be partners (most of the so-called courtship marriages are a result of infatuation and not understanding). The parents or the other relatives provide such necessary, important and valuable facts. The Sikh boys gets acquaintances of several girls and the Sikh girls are told about several Sikh boys. They can choose from among them the one who comes up to their expectations. After the first approval the boy and the girl meet each other. If both agree to become life-partners, the betrothal ceremony is performed. The boys and the girls are also free to tell their parents or guardians about some person already known to them and the parents analyse his nature, personality, career, family and the other credentials. If such a person is suitable, he/she is selected. This makes the job of the youth very easy; and lesser possibility of going wrong. Hence, in Sikhism, there are no forced marriages. In most of the cases where the youth had taken their own steps the results were disastrous.

There is another difference between the so-called "love marriage" and the Sikh marriage. In the case of the western society, the youth first loves for some time and sometimes even for years. These "couples" celebrate and enjoy their marriage much before the performance of marriage rites. Due to this there is not much charm in marriage; hence leads to divorce with in a short period. On the other hand the Sikh marriage is the beginning of love. In Sikhism, love begins after marriage. This tie of love, usually, goes on being tighter and tighter. In short, the western system of marriage can be defined as love marriage and divorce and the Sikh marriage system can be summed up as: marriage, love, understanding and more and more love. In Sikhism, there is no command restricting polygamy but with the exception of a few cases, the Sikhs practice monogamy.

According to Sikhism, husband-wife and, in fact, all the relationships are pre-destined by the Almighty:
Mother, father, wife, sons, relatives, lovers, friends and brothers
Meet each other as per Almighty's Order made by Him before their births
But none of them will help you at the time of final judgement. (p. 700)

CAN A SIKH MARRY A NON-SIKH PARTNER

A Sikh must marry a Sikh. If a Sikh wants to marry a non-Sikh, the non-Sikh partner must embrace Sikhism, otherwise this marriage is null and void. There is strict command of Guru Gobind Singh Sahib that "if a Sikh gets his daughter married to a non-Sikh such a person ceases to be a member of Sikh brotherhood." This excommunication does not apply if the girl has married a man against the will of the parents and these parents have not accepted this marriage and they have disowned such an excommunicated girl. However, if the husband of such a girl, later, embraces Sikhism, then their marriage can be given consent.

THE SIKH MARRIAGE RITES

Anand Karaj is the Sikh marriage ceremony. The exact date of its origin is not known but references can be found that the marriage of the children of Guru Sahib had been performed by way of this ceremony. Guru Sahib had made it obligatory for a Sikh not to marry except through Anand Karaj ceremony.

A Sikh marriage ceremony is usually conducted in a Gurdwara. However, there is no restriction it being performed at the residence of the parents of the bride or any other suitable place. The marriage ceremony is performed with Guru Granth Sahib amidst in the hall or the room where the ceremony is to be performed. First Asa-Di-Vaar is sung. Keertan of some other hymns follows it. By this time the bridegroom and bride take place before Guru Granth Sahib, the bride on the left side of the bridegroom (place of the bride on the left side of the bridegroom has no significance in Sikhism but, since centuries, it has been customary; however, there is no need to change it). The couple is expected to wear simple dress.

The Anand Karaj begins with an Ardaas. It is customary that only the couple and their parents stand up for Ardaas while the others keep sitting. It is possible that it might have begun in order to introduce the couple and families but it is wrong because when Ardaas is being performed every one must stand up for prayer.

After the Ardaas, the Granthi or some religious professor or some prominent person gives a brief explaining the concept and the significance of the Sikh marriage and the obligations of the partners to each other. This is followed by performance of marriage rites.

In Sikh marriage system, the couple circumambulates Guru Granth Sahib four times in clock-wise direction while Lavaan [Lavaan literally means going around], the hymns from Guru Granth Sahib (at pp. 773-74), are read and the ceremony is complete after an Ardaas (the Sikh prayer). Some Sikhs don't perform nuptial rounds around Guru Granth Sahib because they believe that this is copy of the Sapatpadi, the Hindu marriage ceremony. They profess that simple recitation of four hymns from Guru Granth Sahib followed by an Ardaas completes the ceremony. After this Karah Parshad (the Sikh sacred food) is distributed to every one. After taking Karah Parshad the couple retires to the bride's house or to some room of the building where the marriage is being performed. Here, the relatives and the friends give presents to the couple.

In some cases the relatives and the friends garland the couple and present them presents in the congregation hall. It is an un-Sikh like practice. To maintain the honour of Guru Granth Sahib, such acts must be performed in a separate place.

The hymns of Lavaan describe union of man with God. The four Lavaan are the four stages of this union. The first is the stage of understanding for the necessity of union; the second stage is that of living in His noble fear and devotion; the third stage is the stage of surrender of one's ego and immersion of oneself in Him and it is followed by (the fourth stage) the stage of union. It indicates that the bride and the bridegroom have to become one soul in two bodies and then they have to strive for union with God. Hence, the Sikh marriage is more sacramental than marriage in the other religions. According to Sikhism, the time of marriage and the marriage partner are pre-destined; and, marriage is not a contract. It is not meeting of two bodies; it is union of two souls. (See: Guru Granth Sahib, pp. 700, 778 etc.).

According to the Anand marriage ceremony, both the partners should be Sikh or at least they should declare that they accept Sikhism as their religion and promise to have initiation as early as possible. The Sikh marriage law "Anand Marriage Act" was passed, on October 22, 1909. It does not mean that the Sikh marriage ceremony has its origin from this date. Bhai Daya Singh, in his Rahitnama (code of conduct), has mentioned the Sikh wedding rites. The real Nirankaris, Baba Dayal and Baba Darbara Singh, resurrected these ceremonies, perhaps with some changes, in the early years of the nineteenth century.

DIVORCE

Divorce means legal dissolution of a marriage. In Sikhism there is no place for divorce. A Sikh Anand Karaj (marriage ceremony) is sacramental and it can not be annulled by a decree of any court. Nowadays, the laws in different countries grant the right to divorce to every resident and there is a spate of legal divorces under civil laws, but it is in contradiction with the Sikh faith. In Sikhism, husband and wife are: "one spirit in two bodies." Their union is pre-ordained by the Almighty and, hence, it is a sacred bond. So, divorce is disobeying of the Order of the Almighty and is a sin and it leads to sufferings. The Sikh marriage hymns teach that the husband and wife have to live as dedicated partners as the saints are dedicated to the Almighty. This dedication is not for the wife only, it is equally for the husband too. Both should always be prepared to sacrifice for each other. They should endeavour to purge themselves of ego. Each one should fully identify him/her with the other partner. One should fine oneself incomplete without the other. The other partner should be considered as an inseparable part of himself/herself. One should always have noble fear that the other partner may not feel neglected even for a moment. This noble fear is not fear in the real sense, it is rather height of commitment, it is understanding, it is attachment, it is sacrifice and, of course it is love and passion in its fullness.

ABORTION

Abortion is killing of an unborn child. It is against Sikh ideology. Sikhism promotes family planning through self-control but killing of a child in womb is against the Sikh ethics. Killing a child in mother's womb is disobeying the Command of the Almighty. Abortion is, usually, resorted to avoid the birth of a daughter. According to the Sikh Rahitmaryada (code of conduct) one who kills one's daughter (before or after birth) is excommunicated from Sikh Panth.

 


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