A grand mass marriage ceremony organised by the former Maharashtra minister and Congress legislator Vijay Wadettiwar and his friends saw a large crowd of thousands converging at Nagbhid, some 100 km from Nagpur on Thursday as chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and MPCC president Manikrao Thakre along with several ministers and celebrities reached there to bless the newly-wed couples from different religions and communities.
As many as 773 couples belonging to Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian communities got married at a huge pandal erected at the Railway Grounds. Relatives along with new couples and people from scores of villages from Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Nagpur and Bhandara started gathering at the marriage venue from Wednesday night.
"We have been arranging such events annually for last seven years. This year we wanted to bring together 1001 couples to tie the knot but could get 773 registered for the event. Next year we will arrange it on much larger scale at Bramhapuri," said Wadettiwar. In order to attract the marriageable couples a lucky draw scheme with prizes like motorcycle and bullock cart was also arranged.
One of the reasons for less than expected registration was the strict norms fixed for the candidates. They were required to get a clearance letter signed by the sarpanch, police patil and talathi of their village. This was done in order to eliminate the chances of bogus couples reporting for the event to garner gifts. Besides, a gift hamper worth Rs 3000 given by the organisers, the couples were also entitled to incentives from the state government under a scheme to promote mass-marriage.
"Such mass wedding ceremonies go a long way in saving the poor farmers' money. Normally under peer pressure big ceremonies for marriage in a family though farmers can ill-afford it because of recurring crop losses. I hope more leaders and social organisations come forward to hold such mass wedding events and help reduce the economic distress in the affected areas of Vidarbha," said the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Earlier, the "barat" comprising thousands of people dancing on tunes of band escorted by flocks of camels, horses, tractors and two-wheelers was taken to the mass marriage venue.