CHAR LAVAN IN A SIKH WEDDING
A Sikh wedding ceremony incorporates four circumambulations around the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji while a shabad, Suhee M 4, is sung.
First of all we need to appreciate that the Suhee M 4 was NOT written for a Sikh marriage ceremony or Anand Karaj. All of Gurbani is spiritual and hence any union spoken of in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji (yog, vivah, viah, kurmayee etc) is between man and God.
For the sake of uniformity, the architects of the Sikh Rehat Maryada decided on Suhee M 4 to be sung. Otherwise everybody will be singing any selection of shabads. This creates a standard Maryada but it does not take away the original meaning and original intention of Guru Ramdas ji.
So while the shabad itself is spiritual and Guru-made; the lavan, how many fayrey, which way to walk, who will lead, when to walk, when to stand and when to sit are all man-made. We abide for the sake of uniformity. Nothing more.
We therefore need to keep this distinction in mind when wanting to understand the shabad. Blurring the line between what is guru-made and what is man-made must not confuse us. We must not slide so much into the man-made part that we lose sight of the guru-made part, which should be our primary focus.
Here are some examples of this blurring.
We use the term “laavan walla shabad.” The truth is that there is no such shabad. The title of the shabad is Suhee M 4. The word lavaan does not appear in the title. The assumption is that the ceremony (of circumambulations that are named four) is spiritual. The truth is that before implementation of the Sikh Rehat Maryada, there were no circumambulations. The couple sat together and the four paras were sung.
The Sikh Rehat Maryada fixed the number four to the circumambulations to fit the four paras of the chosen shabad. The shabad came first. The idea of four circumambulations came later. If the Sikh Rehat Maryada committee had picked the five Khands of Japji we would have had five lavaan. Had they picked Guru Nanak’s ‘Pehley Pyaar Lagaa’ shabad we would have had ten lavaan.
We need to apply the message of the shabad to Anand Karaj and not the other way round.
FIRST we understand the meanings of the four paras of Suhee Mahala 4 from the point of view of a marriage (union of Atma and Paramatma).
THEN we apply these messages in our daily lives – married life is included but not limited to that. Those in other marital situations (single, divorced or widowed) also can and need to apply the messages. This is the REAL beauty of Gurbani. It’s for all.
In Sikhi, Dharma is 100 percent redefined and has nothing to do with duty or righteousness etc because both are man-defined, arbitrary and subjective. What is righteous to one is not to the other. What is duty of one is compulsion to the other. Guru Arjun in Sukhmani says that,
ਸਰਬ ਧਰਮ ਮਹਿ ਸ੍ਰੇਸਟ ਧਰਮੁ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕੋ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਕਰਮੁ ॥
Sarab Dhharam Mehi Sraesatt Dhharam || Har Ko Naam Jap Niramal Karam ||
Of all religions, the best religion is to chant the Name of the Lord and maintain pure conduct. (SGGS 266)
And Mokhsha is rejected (Mukath N Chaaho) and not even re-defined, by Guru Arjun in Devghandaree.
ਰਾਜੁ ਨ ਚਾਹਉ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਚਾਹਉ ਮਨਿ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਚਰਨ ਕਮਲਾਰੇ ॥
Raaj N Chaaho Mukath N Chaaho Man Preeth Charan Kamalaarae ||
I do not seek power, and I do not seek liberation. My mind is in love with Your Lotus Feet. (SGGS 534)
Bani is enlightening and liberating. There’s so much of ‘wow’. That’s why Bhagat Kabeer Ji says this in Raag Gourree Chaethee.
ਦੇਖੌ ਭਾਈ ਗ੍ਯ੍ਯਾਨ ਕੀ ਆਈ ਆਂਧੀ ॥ ਸਭੈ ਉਡਾਨੀ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਕੀ ਟਾਟੀ ਰਹੈ ਨ ਮਾਇਆ ਬਾਂਧੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Dhaekha Bhaaee Gyaan Kee Aaee Aaandhhee || Sabhai Ouddaanee Bhram Kee Ttaattee Rehai N Maaeiaa Baandhhee ||1|| Rehaao ||
Behold, O Siblings of Destiny, the storm of spiritual wisdom has come.
It has totally blown away the thatched huts of doubt, and torn apart the bonds of Maya. ||1||Pause|| (SGGS 331)
Enlightenment (Gyaan) is the shabad that came like a storm (Aaandhhee) and blew away (Ouddaanee) all discarded and defective spirituality that I was holding on to.
Let’s dwell into this Suhee M 4 and be blown away and get liberated from discarded stuff. There’s the ‘wow’ factor in all four paras. We only need to get the meaning. Among other things, we may want to pay special attention to the concept of Nirmal Bhao. Bhao is fear. Most people walk the path of spirituality in fear that God will get upset with them if they stayed away. The majority of Sikhs go to gurdwara out of fear that guru ji will be displeased if they didn’t. This is akin to being spiritual out of fear.
But Gurbani tells us to stay clear of the spirituality of fear. As we know in the manglacharan, God is defined as ‘Nirbhao’ or fearless. If our God is fearless then we cannot realize Him through a spiritual journey based on fear. Thus bani tells us to realize the fearless Creator and diminish all our fears. Fear none and nothing.
ਨਿਰਭਉ ਜਪੈ ਸਗਲ ਭਉ ਮਿਟੈ ॥
Nirabhao Japai Sagal Bho Mittai ||
Meditating on the Fearless Lord, all fear departs. (SGGS 293)
ਭੈ ਕਾਹੂ ਕਉ ਦੇਤ ਨਹਿ ਨਹਿ ਭੈ ਮਾਨਤ ਆਨ ॥
Bhai Kaahoo Ko Dhaeth Nehi Nehi Bhai Maanath Aan ||
One who does not frighten anyone, and who is not afraid of anyone else (SGGS 1427)
Why are we told to be fearless? Because Sikhi is a spirituality of Hukum and Rzaa which cannot be followed through fear. And because in fear there can be no love.
So the meaning of the words Nirmal Bhao has to be understood in the context of the meanings of all four lavs (union with God), and Gurbani’s core messages on fear. There can be no union in fear. And Gurbani tells us to not to undertake a spirituality of fear.
Sikhi is a spirituality of love and bliss, Anand. As such, the contextual meaning of Nirmal Bhao is not Godly-fear but love-based respect that culminates in Anand. If we read the full verse of the lav we get a better understanding. The first half is Niramal Bhao Paaeiaa. The second half tells us how the Paaeiaa happened. The answer is Har Gun Gaaeiaa -singing the virtues of the omnipresent GOD.
ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਭਉ ਪਾਇਆ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਇਆ ਹਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ਰਾਮੁ ਹਦੂਰੇ ॥
Niramal Bhao Paaeiaa Har Gun Gaaeiaa Har Vaekhai Raam Hadhoorae ||
In the Fear of God, the Immaculate Lord, sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord, and behold the Lord’s Presence before you. (SGGS 774)
Singing is of course a process with a flow chart as outlined in Guru Nanak’s JUP. It starts with Gaaveeai then Suneeai then Muneeai and ends with Parvaan, acceptance.
ਗਾਵੀਐ ਸੁਣੀਐ ਮਨਿ ਰਖੀਐ ਭਾਉ ॥
Gaaveeai Suneeai Man Rakheeai Bhaao ||
Sing, and listen, and let your mind be filled with love. (SGGS 2)
Let’s look at the background as well as context to the words Pervertee Karam. The word Karam appears in two meanings in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. When used as a Persian word it means grace. Its equivalent in Sanskrit, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu/Arabic is Parsaad, Kirpa, Mehar, Bakhshish and Nadar. All these words are used in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji. Guru Nanak in Raag Asa uses Karam to mean grace.
ਨਦਰੀ ਕਰਮਿ ਲਘਾਏ ਪਾਰਿ ॥
Nadharee Karam Laghaaeae Paar ||
Granting His Grace, He carries His servants across. (SGGS 465)
It cannot mean “action” because of the context provided by the next word Nadar. But when Karam is used as a Sanskrit word it refers to “action” as in Kabir ji’s shabad in Gond.
ਅਪਨੇ ਕਰਮ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਨਉ ॥ ਮੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਨਉ ਬਾਬਾ ਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
Apanae Karam Kee Gath Mai Kiaa Jaano || Mai Kiaa Jaano Baabaa Rae ||1|| Rehaao ||
What do I know, about the state of my karma? What do I know, O Baba? ||1||Pause|| (SGGS 870)
In Suhee M 4 first lav it appears as a Sanskrit word. Hence Karam in the first lav refers to actions.
Parvartee means foundational, root or basic. So taken together, Guru Ramdas ji is laying out the Pervertee Karam or foundational spiritual activities that need to be undertaken by a Sikh to attain union with God.
What are they? This is where Fareedkoti and Taksalees will turn to the Vedas for the whole list. If anyone has the Sampardayee Teeka of Sant Amir Singh you can turn to page 263 of Vol 6 to see the entire Vedic list regurgitated under the first lav. But that’s their folly. There is no need to go to the Vedas or anywhere else as Guru Ramdas ji lists out the Parvertee Karams in the next four verses.
1) Spirituality of banee.
ਬਾਣੀ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਾ ਵੇਦੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਹੁ ਪਾਪ ਤਜਾਇਆ ਬਲਿ ਰਾਮ ਜੀਉ ॥
Baanee Brehamaa Vaedh Dhharam Dhrirrahu Paap Thajaaeiaa Bal Raam Jeeo ||
Instead of the hymns of the Vedas to Brahma, embrace the righteous conduct of Dharma, and renounce sinful actions.
B) Acquisition of Godly virtues.
ਧਰਮੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਵਹੁ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਦ੍ਰਿੜਾਇਆ ॥
Dhharam Dhrirrahu Har Naam Dhhiaavahu Simrith Naam Dhrirraaeiaa ||
Meditate on the Lord’s Name; embrace and enshrine the contemplative remembrance of the Naam.
C) Primacy of the complete Satguru.
ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਰਾ ਆਰਾਧਹੁ ਸਭਿ ਕਿਲਵਿਖ ਪਾਪ ਗਵਾਇਆ ॥
Sathigur Gur Pooraa Aaraadhhahu Sabh Kilavikh Paap Gavaaeiaa ||
Worship and adore the Guru, the Perfect True Guru, and all your sins shall be dispelled.
D) Use of Sehej as primary method towards spiritual bliss, as opposed to HATH or forced ways.
ਸਹਜ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਹੋਆ ਵਡਭਾਗੀ ਮਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਮੀਠਾ ਲਾਇਆ ॥
Sehaj Anandh Hoaa Vaddabhaagee Man Har Har Meethaa Laaeiaa ||
By great good fortune, celestial bliss is attained, and the Lord, Har, Har, seems sweet to the mind.
These Parvertee Karams are elaborated in paras (lavs) 2, 3 and 4. Each subsequent lav takes on each of these Parvertee Karams and builds on it in terms of spiritual outcomes.
The entire Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is self-explanatory and complementary. If you can’t understand one verse, read the next one. And if you still cannot understand, then read the one before it. Keep reading and if you cannot make sense then read the next shabad or the one before it. This works because every verse in Gurbani explains another. Every verse is connected. Every shabad is complementary to another.
The Teeka people (translation folks) have missed this point. That’s why Gurbani is so heavily explained in Vedic terms. So much so that someone has commented that if the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is simply a repeat of stuff from the Vedas, Simritees and Puranas, then what was the need for it? Others have asked if the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is the fifth Ved?
Obviously the fault is with us as interpreters of Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, not the Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji per se.