The first woman Hindu priest in West Bengal, Nandini Bhowmik is giving patriarchal society a progressive outlook. In her decade-long stint as priest, the Kolkata-based woman has solemnized weddings in a unique way. She has performed rituals for as many as 40 marriages.
A Sanskrit professor at Jadavpur University, she recently solemnised her daughter’s marriage. She is also a drama artiste in her free time.
Bhowmik simplifies Sanskrit hymns to English and Bengali for the bride and the groom to chant while her troupe sings Rabindra Sangeet in the background
Bhowmik is passionate about her work. Though she dons many hats, she doesn’t get weighed down by her hectic schedule. Besides being a teacher and priest, Bhowmik is involved in over 10 drama groups. But before all these jobs, she takes out time to marry couples — mostly inter-religious, inter-caste and inter-ethnic couples throughout Kolkata and its suburbs
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Bhowmik said she considers herself as a reformist.
“I do not perform Kanyadaan as I consider the practice regressive in which women are treated as commodities. I try to keep the rituals short and simple and complete the entire programme within an hour,” she said
Despite going against the traditional practice and promoting inter-caste marriages, Bhowmik does not feel threatened by the moral police.
“I respect the traditional priests and I am not in confrontation with them. Though my husband sometimes feels threatened due to the growth of aggressive Hindutva, I have not yet received any personal threats,” added the mother of two daughters.
Bhowmik says her inspiration is her teacher Gouri Dharmapal.
Last but not the least, this priest with a difference donates most of her earnings to an orphanage in Balighai near Puri in Odisha.
The country needs more such brave women who would change the stereotype. Hats off you Nandini Bhowmik!
Feature Image Credit: The New Indian Express