Jai Mala Ceremony {Hindu Wedding Rituals}

March 10, 2015 - by Nadya

After the Baraat kicks off the wedding festivities with music and dancing, the Jai Mala ceremony keeps the joy going.  The nuances of the ceremony vary from community to community but in every tradition it is the first coming together of the couple.

Lesbian Fusion Indian Wedding | Steph Grant22 width=

{via Shannon & Seema's Wedding}

The Muhurat, or muhuratham, is the most auspicious time for the wedding to start and is usually noted in the wedding invitation.  The priest determines it based on the horoscopes charted for both the bride and groom.  Guests are meant to be present at the Muhurat and generally a little earlier (weddings and the cosmos wait for no one).  The baraat is supposed to arrive at the wedding venue before the muhurat.

Bengali Punjabi Indian Wedding | DKreate Photos 39 width=

{via Sneha & Varun's Wedding}

After the groom disembarks from his horse, he is greeted by the bride's parents.  With a pooja thali, the bride's mother conducts an aarti, blessing the groom and welcoming him into the wedding hall.  The priest repeats Sanskrit hymns, and everyone enters the foyer of the wedding venue.

Indian Wedding Tucson | IQPhoto 36 width=

{via Mika & Neil's Wedding}

In some regions, after the aarti and before the formal exchange of garlands, the bride and groom are first separated by a bolt of fabric in a ceremony known as Vadhu Aagman. This practice harkens back to arranged marriage tradition as the couple aren't meant to see each other just yet.

Lux Hindu Christian Wedding | H Photography 13 width=

{via Sejal & Shawn's Wedding}

When the bride arrives to the stage, escorted by her  maternal uncle and family, she is sat down on one side of the fabric while the groom remains on the other.  This signifies the independence both the bride and groom enjoyed before their marriage.  The fabric is finally allowed to drop and reveal the bride and groom.

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{via Puja & Nicholas' Wedding}

'Jaimala' directly translates to 'victory garland' as princes and kings returning home from battle were greeted with flower garlands.  This practice is repeated with the baraat being the war procession and the instant garlanding of the groom when he steps off of his horse. In the North the term is often meant to include the garlanding ceremony though in other parts of the Subcontinent it just refers to the garland.  As well, depending on the region and community, 'varmala' is often employed instead of 'jaimala' for this ceremony.  'Var' means groom and 'mala' again means garland.  Often 'jaimala' and 'varmala' are used interchangeably.

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{via Neetal & Saumil's Wedding}

Sita garlanded Rama after he strung Shiva's bow at her swayamvara and the practice has been repeated since then.   Traditionally the bride places a flower garland, a varmala, over her intended groom as a way of claiming him or saying yes to his proposal.  The groom later returns the gesture by gifting her with a mangal sutra, a more permanent garland. Nowadays the groom often also gives his betrothed a flower garland in addition to a mangal sutra.

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{via Vanita & Bryan's Wedding}

The bride and groom each try to get their garland over their partner's head first.  In some communities whoever is garlanded last will be the dominant member of the marriage.  This event becomes a game as family members from both sides try to hoist their champion high to give them the advantage.

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{via Ashmi & Tushar's Wedding}

Flowers are typical for the Jai Malas because the signify a whole range of emotion as well as vitality, youth, and joy.  The choice in flowers for the garlands varies across the Subcontinent. In the North, red roses and white flowers are preferred while in the South marigolds and bright orange flowers are traditional.  Garlands in the South also tend to be longer and heavier than North Indian garlands.  Some communities don't even use flowers - cash notes and tinsel are also woven into garlands and gifted.

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{via Tharshini & Dushant's Wedding}

The Jai Malas are the first time the couple is joined together.  The garlanding is a physical representation of how both parties give consent for the marriage.  From then on, the rest of the Hindu wedding is about binding the bride and groom together in the eyes of the gods and reaffirming that their dharmas are tied together.

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