iconimg Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times
Kathmandu, August 18, 2010
Tuesday evening was an ‘unusual’ day in office for Mukti Neupane, a 58-year old Hindu priest in Nepal’s capital. One he won’t forget in a long while. Having conducted hundreds of weddings in a career spanning nearly four decades, Neupane was “apprehensive” and “shocked” when he was asked to officiate a gay wedding.

The ceremony billed as Nepal’s first Indian gay wedding took place at small temple in the heart of Kathmandu.

“I am a bit confused whether to worry about such a union or make merry. But it’s a sign of the times and people should take it positively,” Neupane later told the small gathering at the ceremony. 

Amidst chanting of mantras, Asif Khan, 30, a Muslim from Ahmedabad exchanged rings with longtime Hindu partner Sanjiv Sha, 42, a UK citizen of Indian origin (names changed).

Sensing that the priest might be unwilling to conduct a Hindu wedding as per rituals, the organizers had asked Neupane to preside over a short ceremony lasting five-ten minutes.

But the daura-suruwal (traditional Nepali dress) clad priest insisted that since it was a wedding all the rituals would have to be followed.

“He was apprehensive at first. But later agreed to conduct a proper ceremony that lasted over 30 minutes,” said Sunil Babu Pant, Nepal’s first openly gay lawmaker and founder of Blue Diamond Society, organizers of the event.

Neupane’s task of conducting the wedding was also difficult as Sha is a Hindu and his partner Asif, a Muslim.

“This is a wedding of a gay couple. But since the partners belong to different religions, it can also be seen as Miteri ritual tying two persons to a lifelong bond,” said Neupane.

Miteri is a centuries old form of fictive kinship witnessed in Nepal that serves to promote social interaction between various castes and religions in a complex hierarchical social order.