Nandini Bhowmik is trying to do away with the patriarchal mindset where parents treat their daughter like a commodity, renounce her custody, and give her away as daan.
We live in a patriarchal society where most rituals are performed by a male priest. One would have hardly seen a female priest performing rituals at a wedding or any other auspicious occasion. However, women are now fighting these social barriers across all spheres.
One of them is Kolkata’s Nandini Bhowmik, a woman priest who is solemnising wedding ceremonies without performing patriarchal rituals like kanyadaan.
Apart from her role as a priest, Nandini also works as a Sanskrit professor and a drama artist. She challenges age-old patriarchal setups in all her roles, and is the first woman in West Bengal to adopt the role of a priest.
While speaking with The New Indian Express, Nandini said,
"I do not perform kanyadaan as I consider the practice in which women are treated as commodities regressive. I try to keep the rituals short and simple, and complete the entire programme within an hour."
Nandini recites the difficult Sanskrit shlokas in either Bengali or English so that the bride and the groom can understand them. Weddings performed by her have Rabindra Sangeet playing in the background.
Nandini recently presided over the wedding of 27-year-olds Arka Bhattacharya and Anvita Janardhanan. Arka feels that women will not only break patriarchal mindsets, but also add value to priesthood. While speaking with The Times of India, he said,
"I have heard so many male priests reciting mantras wrong. At a friend’s wedding officiated by Nandini and her friends last year, I was instantly drawn to the way the Sanskrit lines were vividly explained in English and Bengali."
Nandini has been doing this work for the past 10 years, and has solemnised over 40 weddings till now. She has a daughter, and has performed rituals at her wedding as well. She believes in making a difference with her work, and donates most of her earnings to an orphanage in Odisha.
Read the story in Hindi