Weddings usually make headlines for the fame of the parties involved, or tales of conspicuous consumption. Very few set out to strike a blow to patriarchy as the Sahasrabuddhe-Chauthaiwale family wedding did last week.
In Nagpur, famous for its oranges and home to the saffron project of the RSS, Ashay, son of BJP vice president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe and Shivada, the niece of BJP’s foreign affairs cell head, Vijay Chauthaiwale and daughter of Shreya and Shriram Chauthaiwale, entered wedlock in a ceremony that was officiated over by a female priest, but more importantly also edited out the all important Kanyadan (giving away of the bride) sanskar, so essential to Hindu weddings.
Nayana Sahasrabuddhe, the mother of the bridegroom was especially firm that the Kanyadan ritual be edited out of the wedding ceremony. “I believe that a Kanya is not a commodity to be given away as daan . The ritual also takes away all sense of agency from the bride and is as though her parents are abdicating custody of her,” said Ms. Sahasrabuddhe, who is also the vice president of Bharatiya Stree Shakti Sanghanthana.
The firmness of this conviction, says Mr. Vijay Chauthaiwale, the bride’s uncle, persuaded the parents of the bride as well. “They thought over it and decided that they would give up on the ritual,” he said to The Hindu .
“There are, pardon my saying so, several hypocracies in our rituals. We do Kanya Poojan on the one hand and refuse to recognise the rights of a woman on the other. I feel it is important, at least in my actions, to weed out such hypocracies,” said Ms. Saharabuddhe.
The families got in touch with Padma Kasalikar, a priestess adept at Hindu rituals. “In Nagpur and Pune there are at least 1000-2000 women priests but not all of them can perform wedding rituals, some stick to smaller poojas etc,” said Ms. Kasalikar. A little diffidently she does admit that Kanyadan is an important part of the wedding ceremony, and ironically she says that with some other families a little insistence on undergoing it works, but not in this case. “Normally I do tell the families that Kanyadan is an essential part of the ceremony, but in this case, the two sides were quite firm,” she said. Her own choice as the officiating priest was part of the desire by both family to pare the rituals of patriarchal nuances.
The guest list was teeming with Union ministers, high officials in the RSS and politicians from across the political spectrum. “Usually when someone cocks a snook at orthodoxy he or she is considered a crank. When someone in public life with a sober public image does it, society is quick to adopt it,” said a senior office bearer of the BJP who attended the wedding.