Banyan marries peepal, sends green signal
A colourful procession, the blowing of conch shells, the smearing of vermilion, a feast for over 2,000 guests. It was an Indian wedding in every sense - only the bride and the groom were trees.
And before you dismiss the marriage of the banyan with the peepal tree in Balia village as just another rural quirk, know that it sent a powerful environmental message - to preserve the green cover for protection from killing heat waves that threaten Orissa every summer.
The marriage was organised at Balia village on the outskirts of Balasore town, some 230 km from state capital Bhubaneswar by residents, who also believe it would bring prosperity to the villagers.
"The wedding of these trees is considered auspicious. After deciding to hold the marriage, we consulted a priest who decided that Sunday was an auspicious day for the wedding as per the Oriya almanac," Malati Das, president of Maa Thaneswari Self Help Group (SHG) of the village, said.
This SHG along with 21 other SHGs and villagers organised the wedding.
While the banyan was the bride, the peepal growing next to it was the groom. The villagers divided themselves into two groups - while Uttam Patra stood in as the father of the bride, Radha Mohan Das became the father of the groom.
The bridegroom's party came to marriage venue in a colourful procession. The ceremony was replete with firecrackers, dancing and a fire ritual.
The wedding was performed amidst the chanting of mantras by priests. They garlanded the trees and tied them together with a thread. With the sankha, sindur, tupura - all symbols of Oriya wedding rituals - in place, it was every bit a traditional wedding.
"Since time immemorial, in many village residents have arranged the marriage of banyans with peepal trees if they are found to be growing next to each other. It is believed that such a marriage will bring prosperity to the village," said Nityananda Satapathy, a village elder.
And there was a grand feast too, with food being served to over 2,000 guests!
According to the organisers, around Rs 35,000 was spent for the wedding.
"Marriages between trees are not new. Earlier, marriages between banyan and peepal trees were also arranged by childless couples to propitiate the gods and seek a child," priest Upendranath Pati said.