A 'Baba' who begs to get poor dalit and tribal girls married

Last Updated : 19 November 2018, 09:32 IST

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Popularly known as ‘Bhikhari (beggar) Baba’, he is the ‘mahant’ (chief) of a Shiva Temple at Ramgarh in Uttar Pradesh’s backward, remote  and  tribal dominated Sonebhadra district, about  400 km from Lucknow.

As the name suggests, he, like the other ‘babas’, also goes about seeking alms from the people, including the professionals, businessmen and politicians, but the comparison ends here. He does not raise funds for running his ‘ashram’ or for living a comfortable life. His objective is to collect enough money to get the poor girls, especially those belonging to dalit and tribal families, married in a decent manner. The saffron-clad man has lost count of marriages conducted by him - although they are not less than 600, according to a conservative estimate.

“This year alone the Baba has helped solemnise marriages of over a hundred  poor girls”, the local residents said adding  that in June last a grand mass marriage ceremony was organised at the Shiva Temple premises. Well known throughout the Sonebhadra and the nearby districts, even in the neighbouring Madhya Pradesh, the ‘baba’ says that he has been engaged in this work for the past several years.

“I have been organising the mass marriage ceremonies since 2005. It has been going on uninterrupted owing mainly to the generous donations from the philanthropists of the area,” he told Deccan Herald from his ‘ashram’. “I have always received good support from the district officials. During the June ceremony, the district magistrate and the police chief were among those, who welcomed the baratis (guests) at the ashram,” he said. The marriages are performed in accordance with the Hindu traditions but no dowry is paid to the grooms' families. “The girls are, however given all essential household goods so that they can live comfortably,” the Baba said.

“I am dead against payment of dowry and those, who demand dowry are not
allowed to even enter the ashram,” he says.

“Accordingly, gifts like watches, cycles, sarees, utensils, cosmetic items and other things are given to the newly-married couple by people attending the ceremony,” he said adding that a grand feast was also organised on this occasion in which thousands of people from the nearby villages took part. Great care is taken to ensure that the ‘baratis’ (guests from the grooms’ side) are accorded due attention and provided with all comforts during their stay at the ashram for a night.

The Baba also helps in finding a suitable match for the poor girls. In fact, he commands such a respect in the area that the families of the prospective grooms do not say no if he makes a request to them to agree to a particular proposal. 

The ashram of the Baba is filled with people throughout the year. A majority of these people comprise the families of the poor dalit and tribal girls, who throng the ashram to inform about the wedding proposals.

“When a large number of proposals are received, the Baba fixes an auspicious date in consultation with the astrologers and then the preparations start,” the residents said. And the preparations for holding marriage of 101 poor girls have already started. “The marriages are likely to be held in June 2011,” the Baba said adding that the prospective donors are being contacted to contribute generously.

At a time when the ordinary man struggles hard to mobilise funds for his daughter’s marriage, the Baba is excited about holding a mass marriage.

Published 06 November 2010, 16:18 IST

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