India is known for its extravagant weddings, but one such celebration this week has grabbed headlines around the world and sparked heated debates on social media.
Kshama Bindu, a blogger from Vadodara city in Gujarat, tied the knot on Wednesday in a Hindu ceremony. Dressed in a traditional bridal red sari, she performed the seven pheras — the sacred walk around the holy fire — as her smiling friends looked on. But missing from all the happy photos and videos was the groom.
"My life is not going to change after this marriage, and that is why I've always wanted to become a bride and not a wife," Bindu, 24, says in a video she shared on Instagram. "And I'm going to live my dream today."
In May, Bindu made headlines when she announced she was going to wed herself, in what is believed to be India's first instance of sologamy.
“I just want to be a bride like most women, get ready, wear the best wedding outfit and be photographed. I want to give all the love in my heart to myself. I might fall in love with myself even more,” she told The National ahead of her big day.
The wedding was set for June 11, but had to be quickly moved to an earlier date after news of the impending wedding spread and sparked a backlash.
A priest who was booked for the wedding refused to perform the rituals and the temple where the ceremony was set to take place cancelled the event after opposition from a politician.
"I'm against the choice of venue, she'll not be allowed to marry herself in any temple. Such marriages are against Hinduism. This will reduce the population of Hindus. If anything goes against religion, then no law will prevail," Sunita Shukla, a local leader of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party told Indian news agency ANI.
Undeterred, Bindu said she decided to move the wedding day and venue to her home.
"I received no threats but wanted the wedding to be peaceful, so I preponed it. It was like any other Hindu wedding. I applied vermillion and put on a mangalsutra and garland. I also took the pheras," she told ANI.
In the video she shared, she says her act of self-love was intended to break stereotypes and inspire others.
"When I talk about self-life, you are not compromising your happiness for anyone. And you're going to choose yourself over anything, whatever situations come," she says.
What is sologamy?
Sologamy is a wedding ceremony where people marry themselves. While the term has gained popularity in recent years, especially in the West, the practice itself is not new.
As far back as 2000, there have been stories of women marrying themselves in symbolic ceremonies in ultimate acts of self-love.
Brides.com describes the practice as "a cathartic declaration of self-compassion and a promise to give to yourself what you often seek from other people."
In 2003, an episode of Sex and the City titled A Woman's Right to Shoes showed lead character Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, organise a self-marriage after being mocked by her married friend.
In 2010, the hit show Glee also featured the self-wedding of the character Sue Sylvester, played by Jane Lynch.
One year after her divorce from NBA player Marco Jaric was finalised, Brazilian supermodel Adriana Lima posted a photo of herself still sporting a wedding ring in 2017.
"What's up with the ring? It's symbolic. I am committed to myself and my own happiness. I am married with me. Ladies, love yourself," she said.
While some have called Bindu's ceremony a "publicity stunt" and a move to gain more followers on social media, she told The National that her main intention was to promote sologamy and “self-acceptance”.
“I never thought that it would be a big deal but I want people to understand that one can be single and be happy," she said. "With my marriage, I want them to look at the positive sides of self-love and accept the concept of marrying [the] self.”