Abducting girls for marriage on the occasion of August 15 celebrations in tribal Lahaul-Spiti district of Himachal was once a tradition which more or less was influenced by the poverty. There are hundreds of tribals who liked girls at first sight on August 15 festivity, abducted them and made ‘Kuji Vivah’ (abducted marriage) with them.
Three day-long state level August 15 festivity, which is known as tribal fair, is the largest festivity of Lahaul-Spiti. The whole district gathers at Keylong to celebrate the day. For years, this is the best chance for young hearts from far flung areas to meet and sometime take quick decision of eloping in their first meeting. The tribal fair begun after the Independence of India and so started the tradition of eloping with girl. Girl’s consent was not necessary for this custom but sometime if she or her family resists the marriage, she was brought back home. But in most of the cases, marriage was approved. Now very few such cases happen during the occasion since last five years.
“I touched my girl first and then my friends helped us elope. Those days were really of our independence,” resident of Yangrang village Padam Singh said who had abducted his dream girl from the August 15 festivity and now they are happy family with two daughters. He said, “I was following her all the day. As per the tradition, I had to touch her first. I did so and my three friends helped me abduct her in the evening. Later somehow we managed to convince the girl’s family.”
Sher Singh Bodh, resident of Keylong believes that poverty was the main reason of this kind of marriages among tribals as people were saving marriage expenses but money being crisis no more, marriages are celebrated with pomp. “Parents of many abducted girls used to be happy that time. People are well educated now. They don’t believe in such acts,” he said. Bodh added that many villages have put a complete ban on eloping with girl during August 15.
Lahaul-Spiti public relation officer Sher Singh said now people do not get to hear such stories. “In most of the cases, whole thing used to be preplanned by both boy and girl. There were very few incidents of abducting girl forcibly,” he said.
Not only Lahaul-Spiti but thousands of people from across the state join the three day-long festivity in Keylong. However, there are many types of social and family pressures on the youngsters, but still they join the fair looking for someone special.