More than 10,000 guests and thousands of cattle were part of a traditional Hindu ceremony in India, where a calf and heifer were married in the western Gujarat state.
The calf Shankeshwar and heifer Chandramouli were “married” in the Ladvi village of Surat district on Friday as part of events to observe Makar Sankranti, the first Hindu festival of the year.
Thousands of people, mostly without masks, attended the grand ceremony and blessed the “couple” during the nuptials solemnised in a cowshed operated by Shree Om Nandeshwar Mahadev Gaushala Trust, which shelters stray cattle.
Many Hindus consider cows holy. The animals are revered as parents and devotees dedicate themselves to their service, including by running shelters for cattle.
But Friday's event went beyond the usual devotion, with an ornate canopy put in place for the wedding rituals while the venue was festooned with flowers.
Elaborate invitation cards were distributed and a day-long community feast was organised for the guests. Some people also gifted silver anklets, waist bands and other gifts to the bride.
About 2,800 cattle at the cowshed were also part of the nuptials.
The wedding was inspired by the dream of a self-proclaimed seer, who wanted to spread awareness of the feelings of the animals, director of the trust Jayant Malani said.
“I organised this wedding because my guru and dear friend Pipladgiri Maharaj dreamt of a wedding of the cows. Chandramouli is his cow,” Jayant Malani told The National.
“For decades, the 75-year-old seer has been taking care of stray animals,” Mr Malani said.
Guests from far-flung villages and even cities came to the shelter to witness the wedding and bless the couple, Mr Malani said.
“People came throughout the day. Many people came to donate or offer services at the cowshed on Uttarayan [Makar Sankranti] and when they saw the wedding, they stayed to bless the couple,” he said.
He said people wore masks and maintained a social distance. But pictures and videos from the wedding appeared to show guests jostling, mostly without masks, to take pictures with the ‘newly-weds’.
Gujarat is one of the states worst-hit by Covid-19, with a positive test rate of 9.56 per cent. The state government has capped the number of guests for weddings at 150.
India in the middle of a surge in coronavirus cases. On Sunday, authorities reported more than 271,000 fresh cases, 10,000 of which were in Gujarat. Meanwhile, 314 deaths were reported nationally.