Varmala is the garland for the groom or the “phool mala for the var” thereby, denotes a proposal of marriage. Varmala is also called as Jaimala.
It’s a big moment in the Hindu weddings as its the first ritual that signifies that bride’s acceptance of the groom as her husband.
In Hindu Weddings, Varmala is an important ceremony. Another aspect of garlanding is to express our gratitude towards someone. Example, the guest of honor for some function is garlanded on his arrival.
When is it used?
The bride extends a warm welcome to her groom by putting a garland of fresh flowers around his neck, just before the kanyadaan, on their first meeting.
How to source?
A customized fresh garland can be made-to-order well in advance in flower shops. Online procurement is also an option.
Varmalas come with weightless flowers like rose petals and can be ordered to match the wedding outfit. Varmalas today are made not only with fresh flowers but also with artificial ones.
How is it used?
On the arrival of the baraat, the groom is then taken to a temporary, elevated stage in the wedding venue. The bride enters the stage escorted with her friends and sisters. In some communities, the bride is ushered into the mandap pandal by her brothers and maternal uncle. Then she is made to stand in front of the bridegroom for varmala. In South Indian weddings the maternal uncle hands over the garland to the couple.
This occasion is packed with fun and frolic. The male friends or relatives of the groom lift him, so that the bride is unable to put the varmala around his neck. As a response, the male members of the bride lift her too. The two groups try to deter each other, making the moment memorable with teasing and fun.
Image Courtesy: Arjuns Tryst with the camera
According to the tradition, the bride puts the garland around the groom’s neck first. This symbolizes her acceptance of the new relationship with the groom. After her, it’s the groom’s turn to garland the bride, which signifies a warm welcome into his life with a promise to love and respect her forever. Therefore, the varmala depicts mutual acceptance of the wedding.
The garland used varies from region to community. Varmalas used down south were extremely heavy and long in size when compared to the ones used in the North, but these days they are being replaced by weightless ones. The flowers mostly preferred are red roses. Sometimes orchids and carnations are also used.
The fresh flowers in the garland symbolize happiness, color, beauty, harmony and enthusiasm. The thread is a symbol or medium to secure these feelings and emotions. As thread and flowers are inseparable despite they dry and lose their charm, similarly, the married couple take a pledge to never leave each other despite the various ups and downs of life. The exchange of the garland which is a ring or circle signifies that there is no beginning and end to the union of the couple.
The significance of exchange of Varmala is the same as the exchange of wedding rings! Most wedding cards also come with these Varmala’s embedded in them to signify that the card is of a Wedding!
The concept of Varmala is derived from the ancient times when the bride with the garland in hand would choose her groom from a swayamvar. The varmala was actually a proposal by the bride and acceptance thereafter. For example, the swayamvar of Sita in the Ramayana and Draupadi in the Mahabharata are classic cases.