Jain Marriage Rituals/Procedures

There exist books on "Jain Vivaha Vidhi", and mentions on Jain practices on the subject.

First, for a Jain Shravaka, there are two dharmas, general (samanya) dealing with affairs of the world and and specific (vishesh) that deals with affairs of the soul. Authors like Haribhadra, Somdeva and Ashadhara have written about them.

The samanya dharma applies to Jains and non-Jains alike. For worldly affairs, Jainism does not automatically reject worldly practices. Somadeva Suri writes:

sarva eva hi jainAnAm pramANam laukiko vidhih |
yatra samyakatva-hAnirna yatra na vrata-dushaNam ||

The worldly practices are acceptable to the Jains, provided they do not cause loss to samyakatva or corruption of the vratas.

Marriage is largely a worldly event. It is recommeded to all Jain Shravakas (unless they have taken a vrata of Brahmacharrya) because the children born of marrriage will follow the dharma. The ritual of marrriage is largely governed by the traditional practices that may vary for different Jain communities.

Some of the rituals are common to all Jain (and Hindu) marriages. Marriage is a public declaration of a couple's intent to be together for life, and is a declaration of the community's support for the couple.

Sangave's book (Jaina community a social survey) gives two lists of 16 and 20 marriage rites. Both of them include the use of fire. Here are some of them:

vAgdAna: declaration by parents of intent to marry
pradAna: ornaments gifted to future bride
mandapa-vedi-pratishTha: making the mandap and the vedi
toraNa-pratishTha: installing the ornament

vara-ghoda: the groom rides the horse
toraNa-vidhi: rites at the gate
gotrocchAra: reciting the gotras/genealogies
paraspara-mukha-avalokana: looking at each other's face
vara-mAla: garland
vara-pratijnA: vows
agni-pradakshiNA: around the fire
kanya-dAna: fathers gives away the daughter
deva-shAstra-guru-pUja: worship of Jina, Gurus and the Scriptures
vasAskhepa: fragrant material in the fire
granthi-bandhana: tying the knot
pAni-grahaNa: the bridegroom holds bride's hand
sapta-padi: seven steps (often same as agni-pradakshiNA)
AshirvAda: giving blessings

sva-graha-Agamana: coming to bridegroom's house/camp
Jina-grahe-dhanArpaNa: donating to the temple/institutions

Note that the order may vary somewhat.

Preferrably Jain marriage should be conducted by a Jain Pandit. In some places there are Brahmins atttached to the Jain community who conduct marriages. In any case, it should be conducted by a respected person familiar with the rites and protocols.

Haribhadra Suri has some recommendations about selecting the proper match in his Dharma-Bindu.

The Jain community assemblies on various occasions have condemned the practice of negotiating a dowry before marriage.

About the length and cost of marriages. There should be no waste of money or time. However a marriage is something of far more significance than a family vacation or a birthday or a graduation. It must be celebrated as a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

Yashwant K. Malaiya