In a country where marriage vows mostly remain just that, there is a community in Bundelkhand that has introduced an eighth ‘phera’ to save the girl child. The extra solemn round of the sacred fire would signify a pledge to save the girl child.
Rampant foeticide in the Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh has brought the child sex ratio here to alarmingly low levels. This prompted the Gahoi-Vaish Samaj, a trading community of Chhattarpur district, about 350 km north-east of Bhopal, to formally pass a resolution adding an additional ‘phera and vachan (vow)’ to the existing seven.
The first of the marriages to see this additional solemn round would take place on February 12. Radheshyam Bilaiya, a professor at the government college, Maharajpur, has voluntarily agreed to the addition in the rituals of his daughter’s marriage. The bride, Harsha, who is an assistant manager at a private company in Mumbai, and the groom, Sameer, an assistant manager with a mobile phone company, are happy to lead the community in the unique initiative.
Samaj president Prem Narayan Rusia told HT at a recent meeting the unique initiative to raise awareness on the social issue was discussed. It was then decided to make it a part of the marriages solemnised by the samaj.
“In the next meeting, I put the formal proposal of the eighth ‘phera’, which was unanimously endorsed. Initially, we were apprehensive that the priest may not approve of the change in marriage rituals, but he applauded the initiative.”
Rusia added chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s ongoing ‘Save girl child campaign’ was the inspiration for the 650-family strong samaj.