Jain weddings have always fascinated me from childhood, so when a Jain friend of mine invited me to his wedding, I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I was keen to observe their customs and traditions. What I learnt before and after the wedding left me in awe!
How do Jains marry? Jains marry by undertaking Jain rituals into three main areas of marriage: pre wedding, wedding and post wedding rituals. The actual wedding consists of the Mangal Pheras ritual, seven complete rounds (pheras) around the holy fire. Pre-wedding rituals include the Lagana Lekhan, Sagai, Lagana Patrika Vachan, Mada Manda to post wedding rituals, Aashirvad, Sva Graha Aagamana, Jine Grahe Dhan Arpana and the post wedding reception dinner.
Each ritual symbolizes something special, which explains why all the rituals are mandatory. Each ritual in a Jain marriage ceremony is elaborate. It is also important to note that apart from the bride and the groom and their immediate, extended family members also have active roles in many Jain marriage ceremonies.
How Many Pheras Are There In Jain Wedding?
Of all Jain rituals, the Mangal Pheras stands out as the most important Jain marriage ritual. It is where the couple take seven complete rounds (pheras) around the Jain holy fire. As they do this, all the ladies present at the ceremony must loudly sing the Mangal Geet. The bride becomes part of her husband once they complete the seventh round.
Jains refer to her new phase of life as Vamangi. It is important to note that it is only after the bride becomes Vamangi that she can exchange vows with the groom. Taking the rituals into account, it is safe to conclude that Jain wedding ceremonies always guarantee a combination of simplicity, sophistication and fun! Like you’re about to find out though, there is much more into Jain wedding ceremonies than just the seven pheras around the fire.
Pre Wedding Rituals
As already hinted, Jain wedding ceremonies can be divided into three main segments. Note that it doesn’t matter where a Jain wedding ceremony is held. Whether it is held in India where Jains abound or even in the Western world, all rituals must be strictly observed. This is particularly where both the bride and the groom both profess the Jain religion.
Lagana Lekhan is usually the first pre-wedding ritual. Immediate family members gather for a small ceremony at the bride to be’s home. The priest must be present to help the families decide on the date and time of the main wedding. The ceremony is also referred to as the muhurat. It is a simple ceremony, which hardly ever lasts four hours.
Unlike many other Hindu customs where engagement usually means exchanging or vows as well as wedding rings between the bride and the groom, Jains first have the Sagai or the Puja. The event must be held at the groom’s house. The brides brother puts ‘teeka’ on his ‘jijajis’ forehead then proceeds to shower him with gifts such as money, clothes or even jewelry. All these events must be attended by close family members from the bride’s and groom’s side.
Note that family relations in the Jain culture are somewhat complex. Jijaji for instance, may mean elder sisters husband although that’s not always the case. It doesn’t’ have a perfect equivalent in English but it is meant to refer to a very specific relationship within family circles.
Lagana Patrika Vachan
The Lagana Patrika Vachan takes place during the aforementioned Sagai ceremony. Once the families agree on the date of the wedding ceremony in the presence of a priest, the date must be sent to the groom’s house. The priest will then perform a short Vinayakyantra puja and read out the wedding notice for everyone present to hear. This act is referred to as lagan patrika, which loosely translates to ‘wedding notice’.
The Mada Manda is yet another common Jain pre-wedding ritual. The ritual is held twice and separately at the groom’s and the bride’s houses. It mainly involves pujas and sharing of meals in the presence of a Jain priest.
Jain weddings are usually colorful and elaborate. Dance, music, food and drinks are just but examples of the perks that come along with Jain wedding rituals. That’s not all though as each wedding ritual has something unique.
Baraati and Aarti
The Baraati and Arti refer to the groom’s main procession on his way to the wedding venue. The procession is usually colorful with lots of dancing, singing and celebrating. Once the groom and his entourage reach the wedding venue, they are met and greeted by the bride’s brother. It is at this point that the brother applies tikka on the groom’s forehead. The groom must also return the favor by also applying tika on the forehead of the bride’s brother. He must then present his soon to be brother in law with gifts. As this happens, married ladies sing and dance.
It is a vital ritual for one simple reason – the Kanyadaan involves the bride’s father. He must place 1 Rupee and 25 paise with some grains of rice on his daughter’s (bride) right hand. The bride must then hand over what she received from her father to the groom. As this happens, the priest chants ‘yedic mantras’ as the priest gently pours holy water on the bride’s and groom’s hands. This must be done thrice as the chanting goes on.
You must’ve heard of the phrase ‘tie the knot’ before. It is mostly used to refer to weddings and the act of saying ‘I do’ by exchanging rings. The phrase has its origin in Jain weddings. It is referred to as the Granthi Bandhanam which directly translates to ‘tie the sacred knot’.
During the Granthi Bandhanam, the couple are tied together before taking the seven pheras. The bride’s brother then ties a plain white cloth on the bridal sari. The other end of the sari should be loosely draped over the groom’s shoulder. The knot doesn’t just symbolize union in matrimony. Jains also consider the knot as a symbol of unity between the groom’s and the bride’s family.
Then there’s the garland made of pure cotton. It may also be made of a gold threaded string referred to as a ‘Varmala’. The garland contains no knots which is yet another symbol that the marriage should have no breaks. Once the couple have tied the knot, they must place the garland around each other’s neck. Once the couple have garlands on their necks, they are considered married and unified in mind, body and soul.
Post Wedding Rituals
There aren’t so many post weddings rituals in Jain marriage ceremonies. Close family members and friends may or may not give speeches. Gifts may also be presented during any of the post wedding rituals.
Aashirvad involves elders of the bride’s and the groom’s families. They must come forward to give the couple their final words and bless them.
Sva Graha Aagamana
Sva Graha Aagamana takes place at the groom’s house. Once the newlyweds arrive at the groom’s home, the bride must be welcomed in pomp and color. This should be done by the groom’s family – mostly his sisters, aunts, cousin or even the mother.
Jine Grahe Dhan Arpana
Jine Grahe Dhan Arpana is an act of gratitude. It must involve the bride’s and the groom’s families going to a Jain temple to give gifts and donations to the less fortunate.
The reception is more or less like the wedding dinner only that it is usually arranged and held by the groom’s family. It brings together two families and friends. The event can last for hours with all participants enjoying food and drinks alongside music and other forms of entertainment.
Jain wedding ceremonies feature several rituals. To non-Jains, the rituals may not mean much. To Jains though, a wedding isn’t complete without going through all the rituals. That explains why many Jain wedding ceremonies take days to plan.