In Orissa, men and women gather and choose spouses on the spot, removing the need for a dowry.
Every winter, during the month of January, hundreds of tribal people from all over Orissa gather in Biswanakan village with one goal: to find their life partner and get married. This festival has been going on for more than 250 years, creating opportunities for thousands of tribal men and women to get married, regardless of their age and social origin. The celebration, which lasts for one day, sees couples – who were strangers just a few minutes earlier – coming together and getting married by simply holding hands. These unexpected unions are usually blessed and celebrated by the respective families afterwards, but in certain cases the young couples take advantage of the festival to elope briefly and enjoy some intimacy.
This system is well appreciated among tribal people because it nullifies the payment of a dowry, which usually proves to be a burden impossible to bear by an impoverished tribal family. What’s more is it allows a lot of freedom to young men and women in the choice of their life partner. Many couples actually use the festival as an occasion to make public love affairs that have been going on for some time.
Sarita has been going regularly to this festival, that is also attended by non-tribals who enjoy the joyful and relaxed atmosphere. She decided to make a video on this event that she found rather peculiar: “It is quite a unique event in India. I enjoy this festival because it gives freedom to women to make choices about their marriage. Also, it’s a way of getting rid of the appalling tradition of dowry giving,” says Sarita.