Those who consider themselves respectable have generally stayed away from this village of prostitutes - Wadia. But on Sunday, all roads led to this dusty hamlet as it made history. For the first time after Independence, eight young girls - daughters of prostitutes - got married to grooms from Saurashtra and Rajasthan.
It was a sight to behold as grooms armed with swords strutted into the wedding venue, wearing ceremonial turbans bedecked with twinkling lights. The sparkle competed only with the gleaming faces of the grooms, who rode in on their choice of vehicles, ranging from bikes to autorickshaws and a truck.
The celebrations also saw 12 minor girls being engaged to youngsters in front of 3,000 people who had gathered to witness the weddings. "In Wadia, if a woman gets married or even engaged, she is not forced into prostitution by the villagers. We have effectively protected these girls from the flesh trade," said Raju Param of Vicharti Jaati Samuday Samarthan Manch. The manch has been spearheading reforms in Wadia.
State water supplies minister Parbat Patel along with several other officials and a host of media people were witness to the mass wedding. Banaskantha collector A H Vora played the role of maternal uncle to all the girls getting married. He gifted sarees as blessings to the newlyweds. Traders and businessmen of Banaskantha also pitched in by gifting 28 different household items including a solar light to the couples.
Interestingly, no one had cooked in the village on Sunday as they all enjoyed a post-wedding feast. Kanji Saraniya, brother of one of the brides, said, "I believe many other girls will follow in my sister's footsteps and get married. It is time this tag of the village of prostitutes vanishes." "Three other families wanted us to include their daughters into the wedding at the last minute," said Mattal Patel of the manch.
"We could not include them this time, but it shows that we have made the right beginning. We plan to have such weddings every year."