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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Two minor girls married off to frogs

PUDUCHERRY: In a bizarre ritual, two minor girls, both seven, from the remote Pallipudupet village in Tamil Nadu's Villupuram district were married off to frogs on Friday night. The ceremony, an annual feature during the Pongal (harvest) festival, is conducted "to prevent the outbreak of mysterious diseases in the village''.

The girls, Vigneswari and Masiakanni, dressed up in traditional bridal finery -- gilded sarees and gold jewellery -- married the frog 'princes' in separate, elaborate ceremonies at two different temples in the presence of hundreds of villagers.

Amidst chanting of vedic hymns, the temple priests garlanded the brides and tied the magalsutras on behalf of the frogs pronouncing the two as wives of the amphibians before the sacred fire at the auspicious hour.

The villagers threw themselves into the ceremonies with gusto. While residents living in the western part of the village acted as relatives of the brides and those from the eastern part play-acted as relatives of the grooms. The ceremonies had all the usual elements of a traditional marriage including a sumptuous feast.

However, unlike the fairy tale `Frog Prince', where the ugly toad turns into a handsome prince when the princess kisses it, the Villupuram village belles bid their amphibian grooms goodbye and lead a normal life thereafter. As for the terrified frogs, they are thrown back into the temple ponds after the ceremony.

Earlier the 'relatives' of the brides came in a procession to the grooms' houses in the eastern part of the village to fix the marriage and later went to the temple pond to catch the frogs. The frog princes were tied to long sticks decorated with garlands for the marriage ceremonies.

An elderly woman of the village said the ritual was practised traditionally for several generations to ward off evil spirits and diseases from the village.

Villupuram district collector R Palaniswamy told TOI that he had deputed a team led by the district social welfare officer to visit the village and submit a detailed report. "The district administration proposes to evolve comprehensive schemes to motivate and enlighten the villagers against such evil and ignorant practises," he said. But all these years the strange practice has been going on unchecked.