An epithalamium is a song celebrating marriage. It is a poem written specifically for the bride on her way to the nuptial chambers (thalamos in Greek.)
In the case of Sikhs, the third Guru, Amar Das, started a ceremony called the Anand (joy) Karaj (derived from Sanskrit Karya, which means undertaking.) The term thus implies the Joyful Union that binds the couple in holy matrimony. The sacred ceremony is conducted in the presence of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji: it binds a man and woman in a spiritual union where the spouse is a companion and life partner with whom to tread the divine path of Sikhi. The fourth Guru, Ram Das, inscribed the Laavan, the four-stanza hymn for the wedding ceremony of his daughter Mata Ganga with Guru Arjan Dev in 1579. One stanza is recited for every circumscribing of the holy Guru Granth Sahib in the Gurdwara (temple) by the couple that has tied the knot.
The Anand Karaj replaces the Hindu marriage ritual of seven circumambulations around the fire. The custom was originally legalized in India through the passage of the Anand Marriage Act of 1909 by the British and is now overseen by the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh code of conduct and conventions) that was issued by the governing body of the Sikh community, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC). In 2012, India also passed ‘The Anand Marriage (Amendment) Bill,’ under which the Sikhs may now register their marriages instead of the Hindu Marriage Act. Anand Karaj may only be solemnized in a Gurudwara. Any Amritdhari (baptized) Sikh may perform the marriage ceremony.
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