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Towards Wedded Bliss: Who is the Anand Karaj for?

Jim said that it would be quite an upheaval for himself, his bride to be, and their families to partake of 'amrit s...

Wed-a (39K)January 20, 2016: On January 14, 2016, Jacqueline was married to Jim according to Sikh rites at our Sikh Retreat in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

They are both caucasian Americans from Austin, Texas. They are both in their 40's and Jacqueline's 12 year old daughter from a previous marriage, Annabelle, carried out the 'pela' ceremony, being the only one present in Guru’s Darbar closest to both the bride and groom.

Jacqueline is of Jewish background and is a gemologist and an executive in the jewellery industry while Jim, from a Christian background, is a former attorney now teaching yoga, mainly in prisons and schools in and around Austin.

Jim Freeman got in touch with me over a year ago enquiring about our kirtan music albums and then purchased all of them. He started listening to them and asking questions about Sikhi. I suggested that he listen to Japji Sahib at dawn and Rehras Sahib at dusk, concluding the day with Sohila to get his first feel of Sikhi.

Our correspondence then shifted to the more serious side of Sikhi and he expressed a wish to know more. Then he requested if I could come to Austin to conduct his Anand Karaj as he had found his soulmate in Jacqueline.

My views about Anand Karaj are quite simple. I believe that the sacred Anand Karaj -- the Sikh sacred wedding ceremony -- is for a couple professing the Sikh faith and way of life and expecting to stay in the Sikh faith for life. Jim said that it would be quite an upheaval for himself, his bride to be, and their families to partake of 'amrit sanchar' which he had read about. I informed him that 'amrit sanchar' and joining the ranks of the Khalsa were still far away for him. All he and Jacqueline needed to do in the first instance was to sincerely profess the Sikh faith and thus embark on the path of Sikhi.

I informed him of the Sikh initiation rites - the Janam Sanskar - and also the Naamkaran ceremonies. I explained that the Sikhi I was born in meant that a child born to Sikh parents underwent these ceremonies to decide on a Sikh name and also to be welcomed into the Sikh faith. The Janam Sanskar entailed the preparation of amrit by the recitation of the Japji Sahib by one amritdhari sevadar and then administered to the child.

The choosing of a Sikh name was according to their initial Hukamnama, the name to begin with the first letter of the vaak. Both ceremonies could be rolled into one.

Wedding-b (78K)I asked them to come to our annual Australian Sikh Youth Family Camp which is held early on at the beginning of every new year where their initial rites would be carried out and then their Anand Karaj could be conducted. Meanwhile I requested all three of them to discipline themselves to listen and start learning how to recite Japji Sahib at dawn, Rehras Sahib at dusk and Sohila before retiring for the night. They were also urged to do naam simran on Waheguru and the Mool Mantar daily.

We discussed the issue of keeping hair unshorn, or rather, not removing hair. Besides that, to refrain from eating or drinking anything that would be detrimental to their health; indulging in any other clandestine relationships with others, which might affect their loving relationship and any actions which might harm others. They also decided to go through a registration marriage as they wished to live together. Meanwhile, our dialogue about Sikhi continued.

Jim has struggled with keeping his beard and succumbed on two occasions, but appears to be doing well on his third attempt! There is no problem about the hair on his head because he barely has any! Jacqueline and Annabelle are doing fine.

So, early this year they arrived in Australia and on January 11, all three of them underwent the Janam Sanskar / Naamkaran ceremonies at our family camp in Sydney. Jim chose his name as Kamal Singh. Jacqueline took Chandani Kaur and Annabelle is as yet undecided on a name starting with the Gurmukhi letter 'Dh'.

Wed-c (42K)Yesterday (at the time of writing this) Jim Kamal Singh Freeman and Jacqueline Chandani Kaur Freeman were joined in holy matrimony in front of Guru Granth Sahib in holy sangat which comprised Sikhs, Christians, Jews, Hindus, a Muslim tabla player who accompanied me, members of the Scientology Church, a Zoroastrian couple who also brought a lovingly cooked 'daal' and, importantly for me, my entire family. A Jewish rabbi also conferred his blessings upon the couple, as Jacqueline is a Jew by birth.

Kamal Singh and Chandani Kaur again professed the Sikh faith for the rest of their lives at the Anand Karaj ceremony. After samapti, Kamal Singh carried Guru Sahib upon his head with Chandani Kaur doing the chaur as Guru Sahib was taken to the Visram Ghar.

The 'laavan da paatth', ardaas and hukamnama were read and explained by my good friend Bhai Sarjit Singh. Guru ka Langar was served after the short but very moving ceremony.

I know of a time, about six decades ago, when a Sikh couple had to join the ranks of the Khalsa before they were allowed to present themselves before Guru Sahib for Anand Karaj. Then came a time, about ten years later, when the couple were advised to partake of 'amrit' to become Khalsas at the first available opportunity. Then, Sikh granthis and celebrants were told not to bring up the issue at all.

Today, a 'free-for-all' reigns. Personally, I do not blame those who feel hurt over increasing indiscretions and contraventions, but I also quite disagree with their tactics and abhor their disruption of Anand Karaj ceremonies when they are distressed by the goings-on within. We are not against mixed marriages and even non-Sikhs (who become Sikhs) wishing to go through the Anand Karaj sacred ceremony. But if both parties or one party has no wish to profess the Sikh faith. then, the Anand Karaj ceremony becomes a farce and a mockery - merely a meaningless ritual.

We wish both Kamal Singh and Chandani Kaur a long and happy life on the path of grihast (family life) and in Sikhi.

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