Nandini Bhowmik

Nandini Bhowmik

Nandini Bhowmik, West Bengal’s first woman Hindu priest, made headlines for solemnising a wedding ceremony without executing the patriarchal rite of Kanyadan. “I want to do rid of the patriarchal mindset in which parents appear to be relinquishing control of their Kanya (daughter), treating her as a commodity, and giving her away as dana (gift),” Nandini Bhowmik stated. Nandini Bhowmik, a symbol of women’s liberation, officiated at the wedding of Anvita Janardhanan and Arka Bhattacharya on February 24. Bhowmik, a Sanskrit professor at Jadavpur University, has a unique manner of solemnising as many as 40 marriages in ten years.

Several References to Female Priests

“There is nothing in Hindu texts that prohibits women from becoming priests,” Sanskrit professor and Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri said. In reality, the Vedas contain several references to female priests engaged in spiritual and philosophical disputes.” The practice of a female priest officiating at marriages is gaining popularity among today’s youths, who have begun contacting Nandini via social media. Bhowmik, who officiated at her daughter’s wedding and now this one, will be seen officiating at another wedding ceremony alongside her team shortly.

Breaking all Boundaries

Despite her busy schedule of teaching and being a member of over ten theatrical companies, she finds time to perform wedding ceremonies for the most inter-religious, inter-caste, and inter-ethnic couples in Kolkata and its surroundings. Gouri Dharmapal, Bhowmik’s teacher, is her source of inspiration. In reality, she contributes the majority of what she gets from her sittings to an orphanage in Balighai, Odisha. She was joined by Ruma Roy, a college friend and fellow priest, as well as vocalists Semanti Banerjee and Poulami Chakraborty, on February 24. The ensemble sang Rabindra Sangeet in the backdrop as Nandini and her crew reduced the Sanskrit hymns to English and Bengali for the bride and groom to repeat.

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