The Four Laava: the Sikh Wedding Hymns
The four hymns of Laav are performed during the four nuptial rounds of the Sikh wedding ceremony. Each Laav describes a different spiritual stage of married life, ending with the soul-bride and divine groom realizing their ultimate destiny as one soul.
The Laava hymns are compositions of Guru Raam Das (1534 to 1581 CE), which he wrote for the occasion of his own wedding to Bibi Bhani. Symbolically, the four Laava represent the fusing of the soul of bride and groom into one conscious being who is subsequently wedded to God in spiritual union.
The verses of the Lavan are from the scripture of Guru Granth Sahib. The Gurmukhi words are spelled out phonetically here and appear above an English interpretation of their meaning. The English interpretation of the four Gurmukhi Laava is my own.
The First Laav
The first verse of the nuptial round hymn asserts that marriage is encouraged as the best state of life for a Sikh. Together, the bridal couple bow in front of Guru Granth Sahib.
Har peh-larr-ee laav par-vir-tee karam drirr-aa-i-aa bal raam jeeo.
(In the first round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord sets out His Instructions for performing the daily duties of married life.)
Baanee breh-maa ved dharam drirr-hu paap tajaa-i-aa bal raam jeeo.
(Rather than reciting hymns of the Vedic Brahman, embrace the righteous conduct and renounce sinful actions.)
Dharam drirr-ahu har naam dhi-aav-hu simrit naam drirr-aa-i-aa.
(Meditate on the Lord's Name; embrace and enshrine the contemplative remembrance of the Naam.)
Satigur gur pooraa aa-raadh-hu sabh kilvikh paap gavaa-i-aa.
(Worship and adore the Guru, the Perfect True Guru, and all your sins shall be dispelled.)
Sehaj anand hoaa vadd-bhaa-gee man har har mee-thaa laa-i-aa.
(By great good fortune, celestial bliss is attained, and the Lord seems sweet to the mind.)
Jan kehai naanak laav peh-lee aa-ranbh kaaj rachaa-i-aa.
(Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the first round of the marriage ceremony, the marriage ceremony has begun.)
The Second Laav
The second verse of the nuptial round hymn conveys the awakening feelings of love a bride has when leaving her former life and beginning a new life in partnership with her husband.
Har dooj-rree laav satigur purakh milaa-i-aa bal raam jeeo.
(In the second round of the marriage ceremony, the Lord leads one to meet the True Guru, the Primal Being.)
Nirbho bhai man hoe houmai mail gavaa-i-aa bal raam jeeo.
(Fearing God, the mind becomes fear free and the filth of egotism is eradicated.)
Nirmal bho paa-i-aa har gun gaa-i-aa har vekhai raam hadoo-rae.
(In fear of the Immaculate Lord, sing the glorious praises of the Lord thereby beholding his presence.)
Har aatam raam pasaar-i-aa su-aa-mee sarab reh-i-aa bhar-poo-rae.
(The Lord, the Supreme Soul and master of the universe is pervading and permeating everywhere, fully filling all places and spaces.)
Antar baahar har prabh eko mil har jan mangal gaa-ae.
(Within or without there is only one Lord God, meeting together the humble servants of the Lord sing the songs of joy.)
Jan naanak doo-jee laav cha-laa-ee anhad sabad vajaa-ae.
(Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the second round of the marriage ceremony, the divine unstruck sound resounds.)
The Third Laav
The third nuptial round hymn declares the bride's detachment from the world and outside influences, as she becomes more deeply devoted to her husband wishing only to live for him. Ragis sing each verse of the marriage song as bride and groom, joined by the palla wedding shawl walk around the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.
Har tee-jarr-ee laav man chaao bha-i-aa bai-raag-ee-aa bal raam jeeo.
(In the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with divine love.)
Sant janaa har mel har paa-i-aa vadd-bhaa-gee-aa bal raam jeeo
(Meeting with the humble saints of the Lord, by great good fortune God is found.)
Nirmal har paa-i-aa har gun gaa-i-aa mukh bo-lee har baa-nee.
(The Immaculate Lord is found by singing the glorious praises of God, by uttering the word of God.)
Sant janaa vadd-bhaa-gee paa-i-aa har ka-thee-ai akath kehaanee.
(The humble Saints, by great good fortune attain God when describing his indescribable description.)
Hir-dai har har har dhun oup-jee har japee-ai mastak bhaag jeeo.
(The Name of the Lord resounds within the heart while contemplating God, when one realizes the destiny inscribed on their brow.)
Jan naanak bo-lae teejee laavai har oup-jai man bai-raag jeeo.
(Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the third round of the marriage ceremony, the mind is filled with divine love for the Lord.)
The Fourth Laav
The fourth verse of the nuptial round hymn describes a spiritual union of love and devotion where no feeling of separation is possible, creating perfect joy, and contentment. Upon completion of the fourth round, the bride and groom are considered to be man and wife.
Har chou-tha-rree laav man sehaj bha-i-aa har paa-i-aa bal raam jeeo.
(In the fourth round of the marriage ceremony, the mind becomes peaceful having found the Lord.)
Gurmukh mil-i-aa su-bhaa-e har man tan mee-thaa laa-i-aa bal raam jeeo.
(The Guru's disciple meets the Lord with intuitive ease when surrendering sweetly the mind soul and body.)
Har mee-thaa laa-i-aa mere prabh bhaa-i-aa andin har liv laa-ee.
(The Lord seems sweet to the one possessed by God who is lovingly attuned night and day on the Lord ever.)
Man chind-i-aa fal paa-i-aa su-aamee har naam vajee vaa-dhaa-ee.
(The heart's mind becomes fruitful and attains its desire when the Lord's name resoundingly resonates within.)
Har prabh thaakur kaaj rachaa-i-aa dhan hir-dhai naam vi-gaa-see.
(The Lord God Master blends with the bride whose heart blossoms in the illumination of his name forthwith.)
Jan naanak bolae chou-thee laa-vai har paa-i-aa prabh avin-aa-see.
(Servant Nanak proclaims that, in this, the fourth round of the marriage ceremony the eternal Lord God is attained.)
By Sukhmandir Khalsa