KARACHI: Happy songs played at full-blast as the 62 couples sitting on little takhts and diwans surrounded by their families waited to be joined in matrimony at the 9th Annual Hindu Combined Marriages Ceremony organised by the Pakistan Hindu Council at the YMCA Ground here on Sunday evening.
Mor Chand, a peasant from Sanghar, was engaged to Jhilmil from Karachi some five years ago but the families on both sides kept putting off their wedding as they always seemed short of money. Then someone thought about helping them begin their new phase of life at a mass wedding. “Not only did this take care of our monetary problems. It also brings mass blessings for them. I believe the good spirits are with all the beautiful couples here today, showing their blessings,” the groom’s brother Hira Chand told Dawn.
Kishore, a fisherman from Ibrahim Hyderi, was engaged to Sunita of Shireen Jinnah Colony just one year ago with plans to get married at the mass wedding. “They knew about it from the start and were looking forward to it since the day they first set eyes on each other,” laughed Savita, the bride’s sister.
There was also Karan, brother of another bride, Meena, who said that he hoped to be next in line for marriage since his sister was getting married now to Raju.
Another groom, Khero from Mirpurkhas, who also happened to be a peasant, had to wait for three years to marry Karishma from Tando Allahyar. “Karishma is the eldest of my three daughters and three sons. Being a father of three girls I was under a lot of pressure. My sons being 10, three and one-and-a-half years of age, respectively, are also too young to help save up for my daughters’ dowries. This mass wedding was the only solution for a poor labourer like me,” said the bride’s father, who was getting teary-eyed every other minute.
Roopmal Singh of the Pakistan Hindu Council’s weddings management committee said that other than hosting the wedding ceremonies they also arranged dowries for the brides with cash of around Rs100,000 each for them to be able to start their new lives comfortably. “The dowries comprise a gold jewellery set and household things such as dinner sets, bedroom furnishings, etc,” she said.
With so many weddings happening all at the same time, Dhanghawari Parshotum, a young volunteer there, said that they had to start planning some four months in advance. “The last 15 days are the most chaotic as everything is being finalised and there is so much to be taken care of on our list of things to do,” she smiled. “But it is all for a very noble cause,” she added.
About the holding of the mass weddings Pakistan Hindu Council’s Patron-in-chief Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani said that Constitution of Pakistan ensured religious freedom to the non-Muslim minorities living across the country. Terming the recently-passed Hindu Marriage Act by parliament a remarkable achievement, he hoped that such combined marriage ceremonies would play a pivotal role in projecting a positive image of Pakistan on the international level.
Meanwhile, there was one blessed couple waiting up on the stage with the pandit. There were cameras fixed all around them for the others to watch on the television screens fixed behind them and copy as they took their saat pheray (seven rounds). And when done there were flower petals scattered everywhere on the floor on which the pretty brides and their grooms, some of whom seemed more dressed for the occasion than their better halves, walked hand in hand out of the marquee.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017