CHITWAN, Feb 18: The atmosphere in a village of Chitwan was festive and a hut in the village was decked out for a wedding ceremony. The relatives of the bride were busy attending to guests.
Everything seemed normal in the entire bustle, except the bride and the groom.
After sometime, the priest called the bride for a wedding ritual. By the time the bride arrived, the groom was nowhere to be found. Guests started surmising that the groom´s relatives might have played this trick for more dowry.
Everyone started searching for the groom and at last was found playing in a field nearby. When a guest asked him to come along with him for the rituals, Bhim Raut, 11, the groom, refused. “I will come for the ritual after playing for a while,” said the groom.
Bhim was forcefully taken for the ritual and made to sit next to the bride Arati Rauth, 10. Both the bride and groom seemed least interested in what was going on. The priest then asked them to make rounds of the yajna.
Instead of following the rituals, the bride, Arati was asking her friends about Saraswati Puja. The groom, however, was eagerly waiting to be allowed to go to the fields to play.
Bhim´s father works at Bharatpur Municipality while Aarati´s father is a farmer. “It is our culture. We want our daughters to get married before anything happens to us. Now she can go and live with her husband,” said Aarti´s father. He gave the groom´s family a cycle and Rs 10,000 in dowry.
Aware that child marriage is not allowed by the law, he seemed frantic throughout the marriage ceremony. “It is our tradition. Child marriage cannot be eradicated so easily,” said Rajan Mali, a local.
Likewise, Aarati´s classmate Kiran Raut got married last year. “My parents said they would send me to my groom´s house only after I grow up,” said Kiran. The legal age for marriage under the existing laws of the country is 18 for girls and 21 for boys.