Marriage is a sacred entity in nearly all creeds, religions and ethnicities. Included in that is the art of arranged marriage in the Sikh religion, a topic discussed in a seminar last Wednesday night. Des Moines resident Gurwinder Kapur, a devout follower of the Sikh religion, illustrated to the attending students the traditions of arranged marriage.
Sociology Professor Laurie Linhart has been longtime friends with Kapur and recently contacted him to do this seminar for her sociology students.
She said her intentions were “to broaden students’ perspectives not only in Sikh and Indian religion but to understand the concept of arranged marriage.”
Kapur was born and raised in Singapore, Indonesia, but received his college education at the University of Kansas. He now works at Principal Financial in downtown Des Moines.
It is common practice in the United States to choose one’s own lifetime partner in dating to find someone they love and then marry them. Kapur and his family have only known arranged marriage because it is tradition.
“The aura of growing up Sikh is ingrained in us,” Kapur said. “We see our parents, aunts and uncles go into arranged marriages. We see them 20 years down the line and they are still happy.”
Family plays a predominate role in who makes decisions on finance, family matters and also marriage. He explained that there is a patriarchal system where the father is the head of the family, the uncle is next in line and the family must respect the head’s decisions even if they disagree. This is especially evident when decisions are made about marriage.
After the family decides who their child is going to marry by cross referencing the children’s birth dates, birth times, castes and horoscopes, they begin to plan the wedding. Kapur’s was over seven days long but said it will vary due to the wealthiness of the family. For a Sikh wedding, the bride and the groom cannot see each other until the actual ceremony. The point of the wedding is for both of the families to meet and become one “bigger family.”
Arranged marriage for Sikhs living in America has become more of a struggle in the past because of their loss of direct connection to family. Kapur has even seen a change in his family, especially in how his son treats the issue.
“We are dealing with a lot of (change) right now. The generational change of being Americanized. We are living in a culture far away from home,” Kapur said of his son Hadjid. “Growing up in American schools, his beliefs are going to come from his friends. To accept that my son is different and my decision to let him marry who he wants will be hard, but I have to make it.”
The Sikh culture is still being practiced in a staunch manner by those in the United States and they are very eager to show off their religion to anyone who asks. Kapur offered to Professor Linhart to have any of her students come and visit him at the temple.
He extends this open offer because he would like for non-Sikh Americans “to break their fear of someone who has a turban. To approach them, talk to them and find out that they aren’t much different than you.”