Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Village calls off marriages after cow's death

It can only happen in incredible India. All marriages have been put on the hold in a Madhya Pradesh ( a province) village after a cow died. Local custom and belief decree that till such time there's a marriage in the family that owned the cow, no marriage can take place in the community. There's a problem though: There is nobody of marriageable age in the household.

The story begins four months ago when a villager, Chandan Dhanak, while coaxing his cow, Sona (gold), to get inside the cowshed, hit her with a cane. Sona dropped dead, leaving Dhanak, his family and the entire village stupefied. Convinced that Sona died because of a curse, Dhanak and his son have gone on pilgrimage and done Gangasnan (holy dip in river Ganges - a sacred river for Hindus), not once but thrice.

Despite his act of penitence, people in Chhapara village, 82 km from Vidisha district town and 40 km from capital city Bhopal, are not convinced. They insist that the curse can be shaken off only after a marriage is solemnised in the Dhanak household. Meanwhile, ever since Sona's death, all marriages that had been fixed have been postponed.

Vidisha district is known for its conservative society where tradition rules over modernity. So, although the panchayat (a village assembly) has not endorsed the collective community decision, the people say it is the right thing to do. "This is an ancient convention and nothing can change our view," said a villager.

Dhanak has been pleading with the villagers not to postpone or put off their children's marriages, but in vain. Nor is anybody willing to relax the rules of the 'ancient convention' and thus spare him from solemnising a marriage in his house, regardless of the fact that there is nobody in the family whose marriage can be immediately solemnised.

Dhanak finds himself in a fix as his elder daughter and son are already married and his younger daughter is only 15. Village Sarpanch (judge) Balbir Singh, in an effort to resolve the piquant situation, has come up with a solution: He has suggested that the marriage of Dhanak's granddaughter (his elder daughter's child) could be solemnised to break the curse. She is 20 years old.

Singh told The Pioneer that in spite of his efforts to root out superstition, the villagers remain rooted in their beliefs. "These will go with time. I know superstitions are stumbling blocks for society to develop, but they cannot be removed overnight," he added.

Deputy Director of Social Justice Department PC Rajak said there were no marriages in the village in the last marriage season. After this, he contacted Singh who has come up with a possible solution. According to Rajak, if all goes fine, "Dhanak's grand daughter's marriage will be solemnised in the next season".

Source : The Pioneer


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