There have been instances of women priests solemnising wedding ceremonies, and there have been stories of wedding ceremonies being performed, sans the kanyadaan. This is one rare instance, where both occurred, i.e., a woman priest performed a wedding ceremony, without a kanyadaan!
This story is apt on International Women’s Day, as it is a benchmark of women empowerment. Nandini Bhowmik, the priest in question, wanted to discard the patriarchal ritual of kanyadaan—a concept in which parents seemingly renounce the custody of their daughter as if she were a commodity.
Anvita Janardhanan and Arka Bhattacharya tied the knot on February 24th, and Nandini presided over the ceremony.
Incidentally, Nandini is a Sanskrit teacher at Jadavpur University, and she was accompanied by her team, comprising of Ruma Roy, a fellow priest and college-mate, and vocalists Semanti Banerjee and Poulami Chakraborty.
The groom, Arka, was awestruck by the way Nandini and her team explained the Sanskrit lines in English and Bengali and feels that women priests add value to religious ceremonies.
Incidentally, the practice of women priests solemnising weddings without kanyadaans is mentioned in the earliest Hindu texts, especially the Rig Veda. Nandini wishes to propagate that school of thought throughout society.
Nrishingha Prasad Bhaduri, a Sanskrit scholar and Indologist, concurred, saying that there is no bar on women from becoming priests. On the contrary, multiple references to women priests participating in spiritual and philosophical debates can be found in the Vedas.
Nandini and her team will soon be presiding over another wedding ceremony, which will be held along the same lines.