Come October 16, 42 women from Odisha’s Kurmi community will tie the knot with Patidar men at a mass marriage ceremony in Surat. The selection of the eligible Patel bachelors was done at a two-day “swayamvar”, organised by the Samast Patidar Samaj (SPS) in Katargam area of Surat, that ended Saturday.
Such weddings were started two years ago as an “experiment” by the SPS, a social group of Leuva and Kadva Patels, to overcome the problem of “bride shortage” in the Patidar community because of the skewed sex ratio. Patidar men had already started choosing brides from tribals in south Gujarat.
Two years ago, Surat wing of the SPS began to organise marriages of Odiya women with the Patels in Surat. In the first year, seven Odiya women married Patels. In the second year, it rose to 22. This year, 42 women from different districts in Odisha came to Surat to choose their grooms.
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Bharati Pradhan, a 25-year-old woman from Ganjam district of Odisha, was among those who came to Surat to choose their groom. Her brother, Santosh, told The Sunday Express, “We are from the Kurmi Kshatriya Samaj and to marry off our sisters and daughters, we have to spend at least Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh. Since we cannot afford it, this is a good solution.”
Asked how their women would adjust to Gujarati families since they did not know the language and most of them were non-vegetarians, Santosh said, “They will have to adjust and live like their husband’s families. As for language, our samaj in Surat will train them.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Ravindra Bhagwan Bhalani (Patel) is originally from Bhavnagar, but has been living in Surat for the last 15 years. He will get married to Bharati. Bhalani said, “In our community, the percentage of girls are less so the youths face great difficulty in getting married. We learnt about the Samast Patidar Samaj organising inter-state marriages. We do not have any issue about the bride’s regional background. Bharati chose me as her life partner as I met all her criteria.”
Bhalani said that before applying for the mass marriage event, he had met a Patel in the neighbourhood who had married an Odiya woman two years ago. He observed that they were happy and the women had even learnt to speak Gujarati. “I also hope that my marriage will be good. My parents agreed to accept an Odiya woman as their daughter-in-law,” he says. He works in a diamond firm and earns Rs 20,000 per month. The family has property in Surat and farmland in Bhavnagar.
The match-making event began on Friday evening at the Samast Patidar Samaj Wadi at Ramtalavdi in Katargam where the biodata of the women were collected and advertisements were published in local dailies. The biodata of the men were also invited beforehand.
The initiative began three years ago at a mega sammelan of Akhil Bhartiya Patidar Samaj in Surat where Patidar community leaders from 22 different states participated and discussed issues related to their communities, says Dr Jagdish Patel, committee member of SPS, who is also a BJP corporator of Surat Municipal Corporation. Patel said, “While interacting with Odisha Patidar community leaders, we came to know that the percentage of women in their community was high, but they faced great difficulties, like selling their agricultural fields, taking loans and selling valuables, to get their daughters married off.
The Patidar community of Gujarat faces a contrary issue of fewer brides. So, we mutually decided to arrange the marriages of Odiya women with Gujarati Patel bachelors.”
The entire expense of the marriage is borne by donors from the Patidar community in Surat, says Patel.
Mathurdas Sawani, another SPS member, said, “This year, we got the detailed biodata of around 3,000 youths. We shortlisted 160 youths for 42 women. The selection and interaction procedure will continue for a few more days.”
Describing the process, he said that the men had been given a serial number and they would give their introduction with their jobs, salaries and other details. “The girl shortlists a few and is allowed to interact with her prospective groom. Then, the parents meet and further meetings to fix the marriage happen,” Sawani said.
The SPS takes up the responsibility of the woman and even looks after her during her stay at her in-laws’ place. Patel said, “Till now, not a single marriage we arranged has broken. The girls adapt to the lifestyles of Gujarati Patel families easily.” The couples’ age range is between 21-30 years.