Although many of the wedding rituals are altered forms of family traditions, there are few whose existence can be traced from ancient times. One of the rituals that still have paramount importance is Jaimala ceremony. It has great historical significance since this is exactly how princesses used to choose their prince during their swayamvar. When we say Swayamwar, one of the epic Swayamwaras that comes to our mind is Rama & Seeta’s swayamvar. The tradition of exchanging flower garlands has been practiced widely across the nation for thousands of years! Even though we’ve moved on from swayamvars, couples still exchange Jaimalas during the wedding as a depiction of accepting each other as better halves, for life and beyond. In some parts of India, people prefer to call it Varmala!
A typical Jaimala is made up of jasmine flowers along with roses or marigolds. Vibrant colors like red, orange, pink, yellow and white are usually used along with certain embellishments such as pearls, stones, gold threads and strings that tie the flowers together. These days one can also go in for artificial or synthetic flowers that are made using fine fabrics such as crepe, silk or net. They look extremely authentic and are easier to maintain Also, they don’t spoil the clothes during the ceremony.
The overall size of the Jaimala may differ from one community to another. In the southern part of India Jaimalas are heavily loaded with flowers and are extremely long as well, while in the north the Jaimalas are less heavy and are more delicate in appearance and style.
The ceremony takes place once the groom has arrived at the wedding venue. The groom is then greeted at the entrance and welcomed by the bride’s mother post which the Jaimala ceremony is held. Normally the bride puts the Jaimala around her husband-to-be first, after which the groom follows the suit. In Maharashtrian weddings, Jaimala ceremony takes place once Mangalashtaka are over. In order to tease the bride, the groom’s friends keep him from getting the garland around his neck which adds the fun element to this tradition.
As the game gets competitive, you get to witness extremely funny moments where the groomsmen tease the bride by picking the groom up on their shoulders. Of course, the men on the bride’s side do not lag behind. They pick her up, almost as a reflex, to bring them both to the same eye level again. The bride then keeps trying to place the Jaimala around his neck, sometimes as if she’s throwing it to score a basket!
The Jaimala ceremony is a symbol of love and shows the sacredness of a marital bond. Indian weddings are extremely popular all over the world and this ceremony is yet another ritual which is regarded as a beautiful tradition besides many others.