Asian Culture: Buddhist Marriages

candleBuddhism is a religion which originated in India and has spread over many Asian countries. Buddhism doesn’t treat marriages as holy or unholy.  Moreover no one forces an individual to get married. It is wholly an individual affair if to get married or be a monk or remain a bachelor. It doesn’t have any law relating to marriage or having children.

Buddhism respects other religions and so marrying a person from a different religion is also given equal respect and consideration. Since Buddhism has a much more importance and message to service to mankind, many people opt to live as monk than leading a married life. The Buddhist monks are not allowed to attend any weddings, but they can give blessings to the couple.

The Buddhist marriages are usually arranged by the couples parents, be it the groom’s or the bride’s. Some cases the boy himself choses his partner. When the parents find a suitable match for their child, they send a friend of theirs to the other party to enquire is they are happy with the alliance. Usually the friend takes a white coloured scarf (Khada) with him and a bottle of wine/alcohol or any other drink. The visiting of the friend to the prospective bride’s house is called as ‘Khachang’.  With the bride’s parents having interest in the proposal, the families meet with the ‘kikas’ (Something related to horoscope). This meeting decides the date of the engagement, the colour of the wedding attires of the groom and bride. They usually prefer golden and red coloured dresses for the wedding. Black coloured dresses are avoided since they are considered inauspicious. The kikas also decide the date when the girls should depart from her paternal house after the marriage, usually between the 1st and the 10th day of the wedding.

The engagement ceremony ‘Nangchang’ is presided by a lama or a rimpoche (the monks). Again the kikas are matched to find an auspicious date for the wedding. Handing over of gifts is an important part here. They gift drinks and various kinds of meats. Maternal Uncles and siblings play an important role in the Nangchang. Guest’s handover rice and chicken to the bride’s mother as a token for having breast fed the girl. An interesting part is that after marriage, both the bride and groom stay together in either of their houses till the wedding day.

Buddhist marriages have a common set of ceremonies. The groom, the bride, their families and friends assemble at a place, in front of the shrine of Lord Buddha, which will be decorated with incense candles and flowers. The bride and the groom are then supposed to light up the candles together and recite the religious prayers along with others. They then offer the flowers to the Lord.
The ‘sigilovada sotta’ or the roles and responsibilities, each wife and husband must perform are recited by the bride and the groom in turn. The husband should be courteous, faithful, handover the authority to her, should not despise here, and should provide her with adornments. The wife must be faithful, must do her duties well, must show good hospitalities to the relations, must protect what her husband brings in, and should be skilled. Once the couples recite this, only the parents and the guests would recite the marriage prayers ‘mangala sotta’ and ‘Jayamangala gatha’ to shower their blessings on the couple. After the wedding the couples, either opt to stay with the girl’s family or to stay separate.

The marriages are usually accompanied with a lot of music and dances and also a grand cuisine with various kinds of meats.