Only up to 50 people are allowed during weddings as per COVID-19 regulations. The functions are happening at a lower budget without much fanfare. At the same time, the ill-effects of weddings during the pandemic are also being reported.
March to May is peak wedding season in India but this year, the country was under a lockdown.
As strange as it may sound, recently the police had to intercept the marriage procession headed from Kamrauli village in Amethi district of Uttar Pradesh to Haidergarh in Barabanki district on June 19, to whisk away the bridegroom and his father to the hospital as both had tested positive for coronavirus.
Just four days earlier, returning from Delhi on June 15, the father and son had undergone testing for COVID-19, and were declared positive on June 19. When the doctor’s team arrived at their residence, it was found they had already left with the wedding procession. With the help of police, the father and son were apprehended and shifted to a hospital.
This is not all. In Deehpali village in Patna’s Paligang area, a groom died two days after his wedding on June 15. Samples of 125 baratis were taken, out of which 22 people tested positive for coronavirus. There has not been any official statement on how the Deehpali groom died, but the villagers allege it was due to coronavirus.
Life in India has resumed its course despite the increasing number of corona-affected patients. Markets have opened up and weddings are being conducted by maintaining physical distancing. The question, however, is if the country has really learned to live with novel coronavirus?
The central and state governments have allowed certain ceremonies like marriages and funerals during this crisis, albeit with restrictions. Weddings are turning low-key affairs in our country that used to fancy big-budget, colourful, elaborate weddings.
The government has fixed the number of maximum attendees for weddings to 50. The low-cost weddings are generally being appreciated, but there have been many cases that proved these gatherings unsafe as COVID-19 guidelines, including physical distancing, are being overlooked. After June there is no muhurat of marriage till October so there is rush for such weddings.
While some are not in favour of conducting weddings between the pandemic, some others are finding it beneficial. There was a nationwide lockdown from March 25 to May 31, 2020, to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country. This was the peak wedding season. The central government announced the lifting of the lockdown, in phases, from June 1, 2020, with many restrictions in place.
“This was the first wedding we attended since the lockdown. About 250 people had come. There was no physical distancing and only a handful of people had worn masks. We were scared. We ate and hurried home,” Rohit Singh, 26, who attended a wedding on June 24, near the RTI intersection of UP’s Etawah, told Gaon Connection.
Sushmita, 19, got married on May 9, in Bahmani village of Silli block in Ranchi district of Jharkhand. Her widowed mother works hard to be able to feed her children. During the lockdown, when the marriage proposal came for Sushmita, her mother could not refuse.
“My wedding cost some 15,000-20,000 rupees. No dowry was given. There were no printed invitations, no tents were pitched and we saved food expenses even,” Sushmita told Gaon Connection.
“From my husband’s side, eight to ten people had come on bikes. My family did not have to borrow money from anyone and my wedding was easily managed,” she said.
Similar views were expressed by Kamleshwar Sinha, 38, who lives in Palewa village of Kanker district of Chhattisgarh. “My sister-in-law was to wed on June 25th. We are very happy the wedding expenses are low. Nobody is going to say we are not spending because we are not well off,” she told Gaon Connection.
For many families like Sushmita’s and Kamleshwar’s, low-cost weddings are nothing short of an opportunity.
Madhukar Verma, 26, who organised his sister’s wedding on June 13, told Gaon Connection, “My sister’s marriage saved me a total of two lakh rupees. About 50-55 people had come as baraati. Nothing other than their food needed to be arranged.”
“Due to fewer people attending the wedding, we did not have to book a guest house. The wedding took place at home. It was fixed on May 29, and took place on June 13, all during the lockdown,” he said.
“We could manage a debt-free marriage despite such a short time, thanks to the low expenses,” added Verma. He resides in Bichpuri Kheda village of Jaswantnagar block in Etawah district of UP.
Rahul Kumar, district magistrate of Bihar’s Purniya district sees the savings in the sister’s wedding as an opportunity. “Dowry includes lavish weddings as well, but now, this can’t happen. Looking at the COVID-19 situation in the country, low-cost weddings may continue for some time,” he told to Gaon Connection.
“If low-cost weddings with 50-odd people attending it continue, this trend will gradually be set, giving enormous relief to the girl’s side,” Kumar added.
On being asked if the conduction of weddings require permission from the district, he said, “During the lockdown, weddings were allowed with 50 attendees with sub-divisional magistrate’s (SDM) permission. This rule still applies.”
“The sub-divisional magistrate sends a copy of the invitation to the concerned police station. Weddings have decreased considerably, and the ones organised have not been costly. There is a need to appreciate such weddings so that it can be in vogue,” Kumar said.
Alok Yadav, assistant professor of sociology at Vivekananda Gramodyog College, Dibiyapur, told Gaon Connection, “Those who could have spent well on marriages may see this as an opportunity to save money, but many people have been rendered jobless due to the collapse of the wedding business.” “This change is a good thing but it has been so sudden that people involved in the wedding business were not ready. How would the wedding band members or drummers or people who have no other skills, survive?” he wondered.