Agra: A 'bania' (traders' community) groom marrying a dalit girl, a 'brahmin' girl marrying a 'thakur' - the city of love on Sunday witnessed a rare mass marriage where 38 couples of different castes entered wedlock transcending rigid caste barriers.
Organised by the Chetna Sewa Samiti, the brides and grooms from Agra region marched in a procession from the Saraswati Shishu Mandir school to the Mathur Vaishya Bhavan, where the mass marriage programme was conducted with dignity and fanfare in the presence of prominent citizens and social activists.
The family members showered flower petals and offered gifts to the couples while lauding their courage for charting their own destiny.
While many of the couples were known to one another, there were others whose "matching" was done by the organisers.
The inspiration behind the event, 78-year old Satya Prakash Jaiswal told IANS: "How long will we suffer the rigid caste system; the barriers have to be brought down."
"Then there are several practical problems these days. Girls are highly educated and earning. Parents often find it difficult to find grooms within their own castes, according to the level of the girls. We have several cases where the girls are more educated than the boys, we do the fixing and bring the families together.
"Those who want to marry on their own and cannot, for whatever reasons, organise a wedding are also helped by us. Last year our tally was 27 couples, this year it is 38," Mr Jaiswal said.
Kumar Lalit, a key organiser, said: "The caste walls came down. It's no mean achievement for the city of love, and the event has definitely sent out a very strong message. More than 2000 people joined the ceremonial banquet and blessed the couples."