When Marriage Does Not Come At a Cost

In Rajasthan, a mass wedding ceremony is helping to put an end to dowry and child marriage. Marriage is usually imagined as an intimate, romantic event: two soul mates, promising lifelong fidelity and support to each other. But in Karauli district, Rajasthan, wedding is sometimes an event that has nothing in common with this popular imagery. On May 6, not less than 120 couples tied the knot in a mass ceremony. This is not necessarily less romantic, but definitely less costly for the families involved. Indeed, whereas hundreds of thousands of rupees are generally spent on a wedding, the cost of participating in mass ceremony is a mere 11,000 rupees. Besides, a few utilitarian gifts (kitchen utensils, a trunk and a bed) are given to the couple from the organisers, so that a dowry will not be missed. Thanks to this type of wedding, poor families do not have incur huge debts, as was always the case traditionally.  Moreover, it abolishes the despicable practice of dowry, that causes much despair for parents who are not able to pay, and often provokes violence against the newly bride (and even death) when the amount given is inferior to what was demanded. Money that would have been saved up to pay for the wedding or for the dowry can instead, now be spent on the girl's education. The relief from this financial stress also enables the parents to marry their daughters at a later age. Going for a mass wedding only requires some organizational skills. Every participant must register two or three months in advance, and must notify the organisers of the number of invitees. The rest is organized by community leaders. The event usually happens annually, during the months of April or May. Sunita, our Community Correspondent was very impressed by the ceremony, and by the enthusiasm of the participants. She feels events like this may help put an end to the practices of dowry and child marriage so that a wedding in nothing but a stress-free celebration.

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