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Laavan: The Wedding Hymns

Translation & Essay by INNI KAUR



In the revered Guru Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, dwell the Laavan [GGS:773]. Channeled through Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Nanak, and composed in the Suhi raag (musical measure), they unveil a path to divine realization within marriage.

The Guru Granth Sahib defines marriage as:

"They are not said to be husband and wife who merely sit together. They alone are husband and wife who have one light in two bodies." - [GGS:788-11]

The laavans are sung at the Anand-Karaj (the Sikh wedding ceremony - literally, the Ceremony of Bliss) of a Sikh couple. Its four verses carry a profound spiritual message which illuminates a way to live in the materialistic world at the highest spiritual level. A message that initiates the couple to attain divine realization in marriage. This is imparted to the "one light within two bodies."



Raag Suhi M. IV


Divine First Link:

A worldly blessing

Resolutely designed.

Bal Ram jeeo.


The Teachings

Reveal Divine Wisdom.

Be resolute in this Wisdom.

Renounce your transgressions.

Bal Ram jeeo.


Resolutely live in Divine Wisdom.

Consciously meditate on Naam.

Resolutely contemplate on Naam.


Meditate on

The Divine Teacher.

The Absolute Teacher

Through whose Wisdom

All major transgressions

Are vanquished. 


Intuitive bliss emerges.

Blessed consciousness experiences

Divine Sweetness.


Being Nanak says,

The first link initiates the wedding. (1)


Divine Second Link:

The Divine Teacher

Initiates you to the

Timeless Reality.

Bal Ram jeeo.


Fearless, reverent

Becomes consciousness.

Ego, filth vanishes.            

Bal Ram jeeo.


Virtuous reverence realized.

Divine virtues resonate.


Divinity manifest universally.


Divinity permeates.

Realized the Timeless Reality -

Universal, Everlasting, Omnipresent.

Inside, outside -

The One.


Amid saintly beings,

Blissfully chant.


Being Nanak says,

The second link initiates

The Infinite Shabad within. (2)


Divine Third Link:

Fervent becomes consciousness.

Pining yearning arises.

Bal Ram jeeo.


Saintly beings bring forth

Divine meeting.

Divine awareness awarded.

Blessed becomes destiny.

Bal Ram jeeo.


Sacred Divine realized;

Divine Virtues articulated;

Divine Word enunciated. 


Saintly beings encountered.

Blessed becomes destiny,

For they enunciate

The Divine's inexpressible narrative.


In the heart,

Divine Sound arises.

Divine contemplation -

Forehead sanctified.


Being Nanak says,

In the third link, Divinity materializes;

Soul-filled yearning permeates consciousness. (3)


Divine Fourth Link:

Consciousness intuitively rises;

Divinity Realized.

Bal Ram jeeo.


Divine true nature revealed;

Mind, body lovingly unite.

Bal Ram jeeo.


Divinity becomes sweet;

My Lord-Husband approves.

Continuous Divine contemplation attained.


Consciousness enhanced;

Lord-Husband realized, attained.

Divine Reality rejoices within. 


Divinity arranges

Lord-Husband's wedding.

Blessed heart where

Naam pervades.


Being Nanak says,

In the fourth link,

The Divine Lord Eternal attained. (4)



My Thoughts:

I marvel at the tight construction of this verse. Each word is a micro-universe in itself. I have resisted the temptation to add words for a better poetic flow. I have also intentionally kept some words in their original form and have tried to provide a detailed explanation of their multiple meanings. 

Bal Ram jeeo - A complete, fervent, willing, loving surrender to the One Universal Life - The Ultimate Love. I feel that Bal Ram jeeo could also be an invocation. 

Naam - The primordial essence that binds the entire creation as one integral whole. It is used to express the essence of all existence. 

"The essence of Naam is in all." Siddh Gosht, Verse 50 

Shabad and Naam at times seem to mean the same thing. But Siddh Gosht reveals that Shabad is the medium through which the ego is destroyed, allowing the Truth-Oriented individual (Gurmukh) to experience Naam. Naam is also the manifestation of Shabad

Therefore, it is impossible to translate Naam in a single word when it has so many dimensions.

Shabad - Translating Shabad as the Sacred or Divine Word is very limiting.

"The Shabad is the Guru, and the awareness of its sound is the disciple." Siddh Gosht, Verse 44

"Shabad is the medium through which Truth-Oriented individuals come to an understanding of Ultimate Reality - Ik Onkaar." Siddh Gosht, Verse 58 

Shabad is the Guru, the Eternal Guru or Ultimate Reality. Understanding, meditating on the Shabad gradually increases one's awareness. This leads to a gradual overcoming of ego, which allows one to experience the Ultimate Reality - Ik Onkaar

Other dimensions of Shabad:

- It purifies the heart and makes it a place where evolving spiritual knowledge finds a receptive home

- A necessary aid for the attainment of Truth

- A revelation, which is experienced in the heart

- A means to realizing the "divine inner reality"

- The Ultimate Reality itself


Raag Suhi, M. IV  -  The Essence

Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh, poet, scholar, mystic and theologian (1872-1957) writes: "The Sikh faith looks at life from a universal, elevated angle. So therefore marriage should also be looked through those lenses - the journey of the ‘being' (jeev). How does the ‘being' recognize its own divinity and true inner nature? How does the ‘being' journey to attain the Ultimate Union with its Creator?"

"The Guru enunciated the Laavan Bani. The ascetics assumed it to be a sermon about transcendence, while the householders considered it to be legitimizing the gratification of their carnal desires. However, a deeper study of the bani indicates that it is not merely an expression of supreme sentiments. The purpose is to elevate the mind and control it from the path of chasing its natural tendencies - a path which in fact is the innovator of the path of renunciation itself. It is like a diamond perforating a hole in another diamond. It is this propensity, which elevates the mind from the false precept (towards the Divine). It appears to be an affair of the materialistic world but in reality it is the sort of materialism that nullifies materialism and raises it to spirituality. It is a part of the enigma to which although it is attached in the beginning - it becomes the very cause of its break through. It seems as if two individuals have been separated from their parents to be joined together for mutual benefit. But Gurmat takes it up in a different light. It feels that the couple is now ready to impart and bestow pure and selfless love to humanity, rising above the periphery of parental love. Nay, they have to further inspire the sentiments of love - flying high on its wings to reach the fountainhead of love, its very abode. They themselves did not get tied up with the strings of perversity and immorality; instead they went on cutting the strings of illusionary attachments like a farmer cutting his field. They have given up their hovel of worldly ties and have taken refuge in the ocean of love and made the bodily togetherness a shield to protect themselves from falling and faltering."

This exquisite spiritual teaching is imparted to the couple whose aim is "divine realization" - hence they are referred to as "one light in two bodies."

The first link reveals that marriage is a worldly blessing (parvarati karam). Bhai Vir Singh describes parvarati karam as "any act that is in accordance with the laws of nature and keeps the Creator's creation in harmony." He further states that, "Marriage is that parvarati karam whereby the couple, in accordance with highest laws of creation, are mutually united and transformed." This worldly union is to be lived at that highest spiritual level. 

Live by the teachings of the Absolute Guru. Make these teachings firm within. When the teachings become part and parcel of your being, they will be your guide. These teachings will provide you with the knowledge in differentiating between virtuous (dharam) and unvirtuous (adharam) living. How does one determine what is virtuous? Any deed that brings you closer to experiencing your divine nature is considered virtuous. And anything that takes you away from that experience is considered unvirtuous. Integrate this knowledge in your daily life. Live in that wisdom. When this wisdom becomes part and parcel of your being, you will be incapable of any transgressions. And when that happens, the heart is becoming pure and the teachings find a conducive home.

The teachings will acquaint you with naam. Concentrate your consciousness on naam. By consciously concentrating on it, meditation (simran) sets in. What is meditation? It is the constant conscious remembrance of the pure form of divinity. Through this form of meditation, naam becomes resolute. A form of "sweetness" descends and you experience intuitive bliss (sahaj anand). It is for this highest purpose that you are married. The first link towards divine realization is to make the teachings firm, connect with naam and make your home a "retreat."

Bhai Vir Singh writes, "The couple that turns its face away from gurbani goes against the first divine command of the laavans. That couple becomes faceless. That couple becomes invisible."

In the second link, the divine teacher (The Teachings) initiates you to meet the Timeless Reality. Your consciousness fills with pure love and awe. Worldly insecurities fade away. The "I" vanishes and you experience pure wonder. You see divinity pervading everywhere. A deeper understanding of the all-pervading nature of the timeless reality is realized. However, even at this stage, the "I" can creep in. Continue pursuing the teachings. There are many more stages towards divine realization. Search for a congregation of saintly beings (sadh sangat). They will help you realize your ultimate desire. In their company, absorbed in naam, you will gradually begin to hear the Infinite shabad within. It is as if you are hearing, "Everywhere it is You, You, and only You."

Experiencing the all-pervading nature of divinity, hearing the Infinite shabad within, leads to intense joy and a bliss-filled longing. That intense joy is your true, pure, natural self. Your inner self is experiencing waves of bliss. This is the second stage towards divine realization.

In the third link, your consciousness is spontaneously filled with a soulful yearning (viraag). Amidst saintly beings, you now meditate and chant. Your destiny becomes blessed. Initially, your meditation was a practice, but now there is "sweetness" in your meditation. With that sweetness, you extol the Divine One.

That sweetness leads to an intense longing for a union. The intense longing overflows and your inner being gets permeated with the Infinite Sound. The Infinite Sound ebbs and flows within. And then your forehead glows with an awakening. In this third stage, when your consciousness is overflowing with a soul-filled yearning, you experience the divine within.

In the fourth link, your consciousness experiences its true intuitive nature (sehaj) and in that state, you realize the Timeless Reality. What is true intuitive nature (sehaj)? True intuitive nature can be compared to a shallow lake where there is no foam or froth, no waves are formed - a stillness. That "stillness" is the true intuitive nature of your consciousness. Desires rise like the waves, but they cannot shake that stillness. Your consciousness has reached its True Home and is at True Peace. This is the way in which the consciousness is meant to reside in the body. 

You will then experience your true inner divine nature. This is the way your nature is meant to reside within you. And then the body and mind lovingly unite. The sweetness of divinity is experienced. Day and night, you contemplate. And then the desire for the union bears fruit and you attain union with the Creator. A congratulatory echo resounds within.

The Creator stages this soul marriage. In the heart of the "woman" (one-light, the couple) the Divine radiates. She (the one-light) has attained her Lord-Husband, who is all pervading and eternal.


The laavan bani

Beckoned -

I surrendered.

Hours turned into days,

Days into nights,

Nights into weeks,

Weeks into months.

I continued....

The laavans and I

Were attached.

I chiseled

The laavans


The laavans

Chiseled me.

At times, I wondered,

Will I ever be done?

I realize

There is no end.

It is

An embryonic process.

It is

An eternal journey.

With love and reverence

I place before you

My meditation

On the laavans.



February 3, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Andrea K. Pimena (Fairfield, CT,, February 03, 2010, 12:13 PM.

Always thought of marriage as being presided over by the father, son and holy ghost - the trinity. The idea of the oneness of light is a new way of thought for me and very soothing.

2: Tejwant Singh (Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 1:09 PM.

As the Guru Granth describes true marriage in such a beautiful manner, we should follow our Guru's advice and allow the couple to walk side by side rather than the husband walking in front, because equality is the cornerstone of Sikhi.

3: Guldeep Singh Sethi (Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 7:08 PM.

A lovely and simple, yet stirring translation of the Lavaan. I do agree some words transcend translation and should be left in their original form. Really well done and truly inspiring.

4: Navi (Pennsylvania, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 10:12 PM.

Awesome! The Guru Granth Sahib has given us the perfect prescription for leading a blissful life. Presentation of this subject is beautifully done; sensitive and inspiring. Best wishes to the author.

5: Gurmeet Kaur (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), February 03, 2010, 10:24 PM.

Yet another masterpiece by Inni Kaur ji. From worldly duty ('parvirti') to fearlessness ('nirbhau'), from purity ('nirmal') to yearning ('bairag') and tranquility ('sehaj') is an hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year, back to the breath-to-breath journey of the soul bride. Today, the 'laavan', a gift so deep and meaningful given to us by the Guru, are sadly looked at merely as a ritual. Your words, I hope, will reach many hearts to help dive into the meaning of the laavan and the guidance therein. .

6: Taranjeet Singh (Delhi, India), February 06, 2010, 10:04 PM.

A really nice and enlightening article ... Actually, very timely, because I'm going to get married in a few months :)

7: D.J. Singh (U.S.A.), February 09, 2010, 9:05 PM.

Guru Ram Das' Laavan Bani is a sermon about transcendence. It describes the union of the soul (the bride) and God (the groom). Historically, how and when were these hymns included to solemnize Sikh weddings? Was there a directive from any one of the Gurus?

8: Inni Kaur  (Fairfield, CT, U.S.A.), February 10, 2010, 9:27 AM.

Bhai Vir Singh, in his explanation of the Laavan, writes: "If this was about transcendence, then the words 'parvarti karam' should be 'nirvarti karam'." The word, 'kaj' in the last line of the first pauri tells us clearly that it is the beginning of a marriage. This word was used from Bhawalapur to Lahore for marriage. A historian would be able to enlighten us as to when these shabads became part of the Anand Karaj.

9: Darmesh Kaur (Kulim, Kedah, Malaysia), January 19, 2013, 6:57 AM.

Can I get the history of Anand Karaj in Malay?

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