Frog might be treated as a lowly creature and detested as skin-irritants by many, but for villagers living in Villupuram district, 180 km south of Chennai, it “wins girls handsome grooms and protect their homes”.
As part of the ongoing Pongal (harvest) festivities, villagers here marry their daughters to frogs with the belief that their endemically ‘short’ girls would grow taller and will attract grooms. Besides, the villagers believe the ‘marriage’ will save their houses from disasters, particularly from fire.
On Friday, 12-year-old Vigneshwari was offered as kanya dhaan to a ‘bridegroom frog’ in a symbolic wedding. The wedding, presided by the village headman, witnessed traditional chanting of mantras and music of melam (drums). “Thavalai Kalyanam (Frog Wedding) is a custom we observe religiously every year. This ritual is going on for at least 200 years now,” said the village panchayat president K. Jayaraman. He traces its origins to an ancient myth about goddess Paravathi having once cursed Lord Shiva, who tried to disturb her prayers, to turn into a frog in the nearby pond.
“So we catch a male frog every year for this ritual and try to appease Lord Shiva to help
our daughters grow up well and find good grooms,” he said. The custom is common among 500 Dalit families, who work as labourers in fields in the village.
“We are convinced this is no child marriage but a way of expressing devotion to the Gods,” said District Social Welfare Officer Amrita Gouri.