Hindu couples wed at mass ceremony in Pakistan

The couples sat in colourfully designed mandaps at the YMCA Lawn during the event organised yesterday by the Pakistan Hindu Council, which bore all expenses and provided the dowry for the brides.

Each couple was allowed to bring 20 guests and the bride was given jewellery, a bed set, quilts and blankets, a television, an iron, clothes and utensils, Pakistan Hindu Council president Ramesh Kumar Vankhwani told The Express Tribune newspaper.

Some of the couples hailed from Karachi while others were from different parts of Sindh province, including Mirpurkhas, Tando Allah Yar, Thatta, Hyderabad, Jacobabad, Jamshoro and Ghotki.

The pandit gave instructions over the microphone and all couples followed in synchronicity.

The couples performed the seven rounds around the fire while rituals unique to each family were held inside their individual mandaps.

The Hindus from the Rathore community made the groom carry a dagger while taking the rounds.

Members of the community said this was a legacy of their kings and helped to ward off evil.

Dheeraj Kumar, the brother of a groom, said his brother was engaged for a year but the family did not have the money to arrange a wedding.

Groom Vijay and his bride Komal were very happy at the wedding. "It's a different experience," Vijay said.

Haresh and Dema found out about the wedding two days ago and had little time to prepare.

"I only bought my clothes a night before the wedding and had to get them stitched too," Dema said.

The couple said they would go to their village to perform other rituals with the rest of their families.

Haresh's sister-in-law said the family was planning to spend Rs 80,000 on the wedding but managed to save nearly Rs 50,000.

Though arrangements were made for 4,000 guests, many more attended the event.
An elderly woman named Mamta could not hide her excitement.

"It may essentially be a cheap way to wed for the poor but it is also good that it brings together so many people of different sects together," she said.

Pakistan Hindu and Welfare Association chairperson Mangla Sharma said the cost for each couple was Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000.

The Pakistan Hindu Council plans to arrange the marriage of at least 100 couples this year but the community is yet to open up to the idea, she said.

"However, the trend is slowly gaining popularity because poor families cannot save enough to bear all the expenses," Sharma said.

Edhi Foundation founder Abdul Sattar Edhi attended the event. "I am happy to see girls from poor families being married this way," he said.

He announced a donation of Rs 5,000 for each bride. The mass wedding ceremony has been organised since 2008, when 20 couples tied the knot.

Forty-five couples were married last year. Vankhwani was hopeful that the number would exceed 100 next year.

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