DURBAN – In the current economic climate, many cannot afford a traditional Hindu wedding and are forced to just get registered according to South African law. Hindu customary rituals such as the hawan, applying of sindhoor, tying of thaali and mangalsutra, placing of toe-rings, have intrinsic meaning. Thus, couples who are unable to get married according to Hindu rites feel almost incomplete.
With this in mind, the Shree Veeraboga Emperumal Temple of Tongaat embarked on the Mass Wedding initiative. The year 2011 saw 11 couples selected to participate in a mass wedding ceremony at the temple, said to be the first in the country. In 2012, an overwhelming response was received, indicative again, that a huge need still exists. Twelve couples tied the knot and pre-marital counselling with Swami Saradaprabhananda was also held a week before. The concept was the brainchild of Swami Saradaprabhananda of the Ramakrishna Centre after He discovered that there were many couples living together simply because they could not afford a traditional Hindu wedding as much as they desired it. In 2016, 10 couples will participate in the ceremony on the September 10, 2016.
The Mass Wedding Fund was initiated to ensure that the ceremonies could be conducted with the required prayer goods, thalis, garlands, appropriate clothes and food. Financial need was the deciding factor; most of those selected being either unemployed or earning subsistence wages. Each couple is allowed to bring guests to share their special day. A mini-reception and lunch is then held at the Shree Veeraboga Cultural Centre on the Temple’s premises. After the ceremony, the couples receive a grocery hamper to assist with necessities in the home.
A unique format was witnessed where Hindi and Tamil speaking couples participated in a ceremony officiated by Guru Anand Chandrasekaran and Pundit Kamal Maharaj who recited mantras in Sanskrit, Hindi and Tamil.
The Tongaat community, business houses and other religious and cultural organisations rally around the project in the spirit of unselfish seva. All clothing, jewellery, garlands, pooja items, makeup, hairstyles, photography, and even special transport to the venue are sponsored.