Every year, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8. Besides celebrating the accomplishments of women, Women’s Day is also celebrated to advocate issues like gender equality. Stereotypes about what women can and cannot do continue to exist even today, and women are constantly trying to prove naysayers wrong with their achievements. In such times, news of a wedding in Kolkata that was solemnized by a female priest and that did away with ‘kanyadaan’ is refreshing to hear. The wedding took place at a private resort in Narendrapur on February 24. Nandini Bhowmik is the name of the female priest, and she wishes to discard the patriarchal ritual of kanyadaan, reports the Better India.
In Hindu marriages, father of the bride officiates Kanyadaan. It is a concept in which parents renounce the custody of their daughter, as if she were a commodity. The couple who got married is Anvita Janardhanan and Arka Bhattacharya. Reportedly, the priestess, Nandini, is a Sanskrit teacher at Jadavpur University. She was accompanied by her team, comprising of Ruma Roy, a fellow priest and college-mate, and vocalists Semanti Banerjee and Poulami Chakraborty. News reports state that Arka, the 27-year-old groom, was awestruck by the way Nandini and her team explained the Sanskrit lines in English and Bengali. Arka feels that women priests add value to religious ceremonies.
There have been several instances in the past, where women priests have presided a wedding, and also instances where couples have chosen to do away with the ritual of kanyadaan in their marriages. This is one of the rare instances where both have occurred together. The Better India reports that the practice of women priests solemnising weddings without kanyadaans is mentioned in the earliest Hindu texts, especially the Rig Veda. It is this school of thought that Nandini wishes to propagate. In the coming days, Nandini and her team will be officiating another similar wedding, where the bride’s parents do away with ‘kanyadaan’. Reports state that this is slowly becoming a trend, as more and more youth are approaching Nandini on social media with such requests.