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Kaur & Singh: Destination Weddings Commit Beadbi By Appropriating Sikh Anand Karaj
"'Such practices centre individualism and materialism, and demonstrate no understanding of Laavan, which centres Guru, Sikhi, and Sangat."
Beant Kaur and Furmaan Singh
July 4, 2023 | 3 min. read | Opinion
Recent images of a couple appropriating the Anand Karaj have rightly caused outrage.
This beadbi is part of a wider pattern of “destination weddings” and wedding planners taking over Guru Sahib’s Darbar. Such practices centre individualism and materialism, and demonstrate no understanding of Laavan, which centres Guru, Sikhi, and Sangat. “Destination weddings” have become a trend, particularly amongst the Sikh/Punjabi diaspora in North America, with even prominent figures taking part.
“Destination weddings” are carried out by a handful of misguided individuals to serve a consumer demand created by couples from Sikh families that see Anand Karaj like any other wedding, and through a lens of maya as their “big day.” So no expense is spared as couples spend tens of thousands trying to craft the perfect “moment.”
Even Guru Sahib becomes an ornament for the couple's desires, with justifications coming in thick and fast about how the couple actually has more respect than the average Sikh or Gurdwara.
Wherever Guru Sahib is present, the boundary of that area becomes a Gurdwara. This means Langar, a Nishaan Sahib, and maintaining respect for Guru Sahib’s Darbar. This is not possible in a hotel, and having a wedding there centres the desires of the couple, not Sikhi or the maryada of the Panth. “
Destination” or these highly orchestrated performance weddings are in complete contrast to Sikh traditions which teach us that Sikhs should decenter ego and have a simple Anand Karaj, just like the lives that we strive to live.
However, people continue to co-opt Sikhi as a 'tradition' or 'culture,' without a commitment to understand or live Gursikhi, and even using words like “Indian” or “Punjabi '' to describe Sikh culture. Part of the issue is parents of couples that have a repressed sense of shame at their child being westernised and encourage them to have their non-Sikh partners dress up as Sikhs to save face in their community. Part of the problem is couples not understanding or being able to connect to Sikhi beyond a vague notion of “tradition” or “religion.” And part of the problem is Gurdwara management not taking a stand on Sikh principles and practices.
These dynamics are further compounded when offended individuals begin to present Sikhi as the problem, as if the basic maryada they do not understand or respect is some kind of “orthodoxy” or worse, “religious fundamentalism” that is holding back individual desire and “progress.” You won't hear such nonsense from Singhs and Kaurs who actually do seva in our Gurughar, read Baani at Amritvela, or carry out Akhand Paat rhauls.
Even though Singh and Kaur have become a 'surname' and a claim to a 'cultural identity'’ the reality is Singh and Kaur are tied to Amrit and bestowed to Sikhs that take Amrit. If you have Singh and Kaur as part of your name, it is because your ancestors took Amrit.
We should be thinking about and honestly discussing how we got to the point where the ancestors of Amritdhari Gursikhs are today mutilating themselves by cutting their own hair and marrying white people in cowboy hats. What we are seeing is, in fact, a reflective impact of our displacement from Sikhi and is evidence of the lasting violence of colonisation.
When we centre Gursikhi then we can lose the materialism, individualism, and empty notions of “equality,” “inclusivity,” and “progress” to cultivate meaningful connection and love for Sikhi. Our culture is not an identity or costume. Guru Sahibs Darbar is not a place to centre yourselves. Sikh culture is Amrit, Seva, Simran, Sangat, and Shaheedi. It is an embodied reality, not something to be consumed or used as a backdrop for individual material fantasy. If you love Guru Sahib and Sikhi, give your head to Guru and walk the path of Gursikhi.
Beant Kaur and Furmaan Singh are sevadaars with the National Sikh Youth Federation (NSYF).
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