Palla Defined: Sikh Wedding Shawl

Marriage Tether of Bride and Groom

Palla Tethers Bride and Groom
Palla Tethers Bride and Groom. Photo © [S Khalsa]


Palla is a Punjabi word having a number of related meanings:

  • A purse or pocket.
  • Courage and strength.
  • Balance or a weight scale.
  • Breeding quality of horses or cattle.
  • Border of a shawl, scarf, or other apparel.
  • Distance or space between items or objects.
  • The end or the edge of a length of cloth material.
  • A cloth spread out to gather up grain or milled flour.
  • A brush or reed enclosure used for stacking straw or grain.
  • A woven grass rope double wall apparatus having to do with well excavation.

In Sikhism, palla encompasses several of the meanings above. The greatest emphasis being the palla marriage tether of the wedding scarf or shawl. The palla tethers the bride and groom symbolizing their life long bond, signifying their both their physical union and the spiritual union of their souls with each other and the divine.

The wedding palla is at between 2 meters, or about six feet, up to 6 meters, or about 18 feet, in length. The palla may be either a scarf between 2 to 3 meters, a shawl folded lengthwise between 3 to 4 meters, or a turban folded lengthwise between 4 to 6 meters, depending on whichever is available, or deemed most appropriate at the time the Sikhism marriage ceremony.

The wedding scarf, shawl, or length of turban is worn by the groom. One end is held by the groom and draped over one shoulder.

The other end is held by the bride during the four Lavan wedding rounds of the Anand Karaj Sikh wedding ceremony.

At the appropriate time in the Anand Karaj marriage ceremony, family members arrange the palla around the shoulders of bride and groom placing one end in the grooms hands and the other end in the brides hands which they hold in their respective laps.

As Ragis sing the four hymns of Laav  the song of the Sikh marriage, the groom walks ahead of the bride circling the Guru Granth Sahib scripture. Both bride and groom clutch their respective ends of the Palla and adjust their foot steps to each others, while maneuvering through the four Lavan wedding rounds.

Pronunciation and Spelling

Gurmukhi script and English transliteration are phonetic. Various renderings differ in spelling.

Pronunciation: Palla sounds  like Paul - laa. The phonetic spelling  pallaa places the stress on the second syllable.

Also Known As: Grammatical spellings Pallai, Palle, or Pallae, Pallo, and Palloo, or Pallu, have meanings similar to Pallaa when referencing a scarf and shawl, or ceremony involving either.

Alternate Spellings: Pallaa

Common Misspellings: Paala


In Gurbani, the verses of Sikh scripture, the Gurmukhi language of the scripture the phonetic equivalent of "pallaa" is "palai" or "palae". These examples interpret various subtleties of meanings.

"Tin mat tin pat tin dhan palai jin hirdhai rehi-aa samaa-e ||
His hisdom, His honor, and His wealth are in the laps of those whose hearts have been permeated and remain entranced." SGGS||15

"Sachae setee ratiaa sacho palai paae ||
Imbued with the True One, the sentiment of Truth is gathered in." SGGS||56

"Manmukh houmai kar musee gurmukh palai paae ||4||
The manmukhs in their  self-willed ego miss it; while the pious Gurmukhs receive it in their laps." ||4|| SGGS||63

"Chouthae pad meh sehaj hai gurmukh palai paae ||6||
In the fourth state, there is spiritually intuitive balance; the pious Gurmukhs gather it in their spread shawl." ||6|| SGGS||68

"Damrraa palai naa pavai naa ko daevai dheer ||
With no money in their pockets, there will be no one to give them consolation." SGGS||70

"Naanak sabadee sach hai karmee palai paae ||2||
O Nanak, His word is true, by grace is it obtained." ||2|| SGGS||84

"Piaas na jaa-e horat kitai jichar har ras palai na paae ||
Their thirst shall not be quenched by any means, until they attain the elixir of the Lord." SGGS||921

"Kiaa lae aaiaa kiaa palai paae ||
What did he bring as he came and what shall he attain as he goes along?" SGGS||931

"Habhae saak koorraavae ddithae to palai taiddai laagee ||1||
I have seen that all relations are false, and so I hold onto the hem of Thy skirt O Lord." ||1|| SGGS|| 963

"Naanak daas dhoor jan baanchhai oudhareh laag palae ||2||97||120||
Slave Nanak longs for the dust of the humble saints feet; attached to the hem of their skirts, he is saved.

||2||97||120|| SGGS||1227

Above translations are my own.

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Your Citation
Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "Palla Defined: Sikh Wedding Shawl." ThoughtCo, Oct. 2, 2015, Khalsa, Sukhmandir. (2015, October 2). Palla Defined: Sikh Wedding Shawl. Retrieved from Khalsa, Sukhmandir. "Palla Defined: Sikh Wedding Shawl." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 17, 2017).