In the midst of a rising cloud of ‘yagna‘ smoke, the ‘Ulu Dhwani‘ reaches its crescendo amidst the chanting of shlokas (verses). This is the typical imagery of a Hindu Bengali wedding. But, we are talking about one which wasn’t.
To begin with, there was no male purohit draped in a white dhoti, proudly holding the ‘yagnopawitha,’ the holy thread, wound around his body while chanting Vedic verses in Sanskrit.
Instead, it had a group of women, gracefully chanting the scriptures in Bengali amid some of Tagore’s most melodious songs.
Their only motto—reintroduce the culture and heritage of India to the younger generation sans the orthodoxy, ambiguity or inequality.
“The knowledge in our scriptures cannot stay hidden behind an ancient language. The couples of this generation are asking questions about what and why they do in rituals. And, it is the responsibility of the priests to help them understand. That’s exactly what we are doing,” said Nandini Bhowmik, to The Better India.
A visiting faculty at the Sanskrit department of Jadavpur University (JU), Kolkata, and a theatre actor, Nandini found her calling as a priestess a decade ago.
Guess the lottery result, make lottery posters for free Lottery Box -India’s most professional lottery interactive community.
“I was in college and our Sanskrit teacher, Gauri Dharmalal, had introduced a new and reformed way for female priests to perform Hindu rituals. So in a few years, we (a bunch of young Sanskrit teachers) began to pursue this. After a few years, with the help of few more fellow priestesses, I branched out, and together we created a more evolved script which was in-line with this generation,” said Nandini.
Since then, with Nandini and Ruma Roy reciting the hymns and Semanti Banerjee and Poulami Chakraborty singing songs, the wedding ceremonies conducted by Shubham Astu have become a unique experience.
This new script also did away with the ‘kanyadaan,’ a prominent ritual in a Hindu wedding, thus starting a new wave across the state.
The No-Kanyadaan Wedding
A byproduct of patriarchy, kanyadaan, which literally means donating one’s daughter, is a commonly practised ritual in Hindu weddings.
But, Nandini and her group are slowly changing things. They have officiated several weddings where this ritual was not conducted.
Check it out here:
When TBI got in touch with Dr Amlan Ray, the father of the bride, he explained the ideology behind the decision.
Dr Ray argues that the Rig Veda mentions eight different types of wedding, of which only the Brahma wedding includes the ritual of kanyadaan.
“And, most Hindu weddings today will not qualify to be a Brahma wedding, as it involves the wedding of one’s daughter to a Vedic scholar, among other strictures. In general, today most modern weddings come under the Gandharva marriage category, in which bride and groom know each other before marriage, and the marriage can be between different communities and castes without any barrier, and without the practice of kanyadaan,” he added.