Is Valentine's Day a Good Idea for Sikhs?

"Prem Dhey Theer" (Arrows of Love) in Sikhism

Sharing a bond of spiritual love.
Sharing a bond of spiritual love. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Valentine’s Day History

Valentine’s Day history can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman fertility rites which took place in mid February about 3,000 years ago and involved the blood of animals sacrificed to Pagan gods.

The idea of Cupid began with Greek and Roman mythology and the fable of Eros (pronounced Arrows) the son of Aphrodite the Goddess of Love. Eros had magic arrows which caused whoever they struck to fall in love.

Through the centuries the image of Eros has been transformed from that of a young man into a chubby child like cherub.

The name Valentine’s Day is attributed to as many as 11 Catholic priests who bore the name of Valentine. In particular one Saint Valentine defied the order a Roman Emperor who decreed that young men should become soldiers rather than marry. The priest performed marriages in secret The Emperor discovered his betrayal and had him imprisoned and executed.

The Catholic Church in its effort to replace Pagan rites with Christian observances, encouraged and perpetuated tales told of his martyrdom. Valentine became known as the patron of couples in love. His story became romanticized into a fantasy which says that he had helped to wed couples visited him in prison bringing him gifts to show their thanks. The story goes that He became acquainted with his jailer’s blind daughter and performed a healing miracle so that she regained her sight.

The legend evolved to include a letter written to the girl just prior to his execution signed “From your Valentine.”

In the mid 1800’s love letters exchanged between lovers and sweethearts evolved into a commercialized enterprise. Gifts of Valentine cards, candy, and flowers became a craze which persists until today.

Modern Valentine's day is celebrated in the United States on February 14th.

Couples in Sikh Tradition

In Sikhism, families are involved in arranging marriages between couples. Traditionally in the past, bride and groom did not meet before their wedding day. This is still very much the norm in many parts of the world, though it is increasingly more common for couples to meet before hand, or after being engaged.

Prior to marriage, girls and boys are instructed, and expected, to think of each other as brother and sister. Physical relations between persons outside of the bond of wedlock are considered to be spiritually inappropriate. Lust is considered an act of ego which perpetuates a sense of duality, or separation of the soul from the divine. The purpose of Sikhism is to foster within the soul a sense of union with the divine.

The Sikh matrimonial rites put much emphasis on the mystical aspect of marriage as the wedding of the soul bride to the divine groom. Bride and groom merge to share one divine light illuminating two mortal bodies. Love and respect go beyond mortal ties and bonds to include the divine.

Love in Sikhism

Love is often expressed between Sikhs who are in love with the Divine Beloved.

This is a kind of friendship which, regardless of gender, exists between souls beyond the realm of physical boundaries. Sikhs consider each other to be their sakhi or the soul sister-bride of the divine groom Waheguru. Soul brides help each other to remember Waheguru by exchanging "Prem Dhey Theer", or "Arrows of Love," which pierce the heart through to the soul. This is accomplished in the manner of:

  • Shabad Kirtan – Singing hymns together.
  • Naam Simran – Contemplating Waheguru as a group.
  • Paath – Reading or reciting scripture as a group, turn by turn.
  • Gurbani Tuk – The sharing of lines from verses of scripture.
  • Kathaa – Explaining the meaning of scripture.
  • Itihas – Sharing stories about the gurus.
  • Saakhee – Sharing inspirational stories.
  • Vichar – Spiritual discussions.
  • Seva – Selflessly serving.

    Exchanging of "Prem dhey Theer" is encouraged and may be enjoyed at any time, day or night, without being restricted to any particular day, or any special time of year.

    In the scripture of Guru Granth Sahib, a composition by Guru Nanak Dev advises giving up the ego to experience the ecstasies of divine love:

    "Ja-o ta-o prem khae-lan kaa chaa-o"||
    If you desire to play the game of love,

    Sir dhar ta-lee g-alee me-ree aa-o||
    Then take your head in hand, and step onto My path

    Et maa-rag pair dha-ree-jai||
    When you place your feet on this path,

    Sir dee-jai kaan na kee-jai||20||
    Lay down your head, and pay no attention to public opinion." ||20|| SGGS 1412

    Read More:
    The Sikh Marriage Ceremony
    Love and Romance in Sikhism
    Falling in Love - What Does it Mean?