Meet The Woman Priestess Who Has Been Solemnising Marriages Without Kanyadaan Since 1995

Poorbita Bagchi

March 23rd, 2018

In India, marriages are holy and sacred. Recently, The Logical Indian did an article on the first woman priestess from West Bengal, Nandini Bhowmick, who started the ritual of solemnising marriages without “Kanyadaan” (giving away the daughter). But, as it turns out, there was a woman before her who started this practice. 

Gouri Dharmapal, who Nandini says is her teacher and inspiration, was the first woman priestess who translated Sanskrit ‘Vaidik Mantras’ into Bengali. And it was Gouri who started the ritual of solemnising marriages without performing “Kanyadaan”. Not only was she a priestess, she was also a scholar in Vaidik literature, famous writer for children. She received the Vidyasagar Award for children’s literature. She also recieved the President award for serving Sanskrit language and literature.


Her daughter tells the story

“My mother has been a priestess since 1985 and she had a lot of students under her who were eager to learn the way she conducted marriages. She translated the Sanskrit Mantras into Bengali for ease of understanding,” Rohini Dharmapal, Gouri Dharmapal’s daughter, said.

“My mother was never a fan of Kanyadaan and hence, whenever she was asked to perform a marriage, she always asked whether she would perform it by omitting Kanyadaan. I got married in 1995 and she performed my marriage. We did not have Kanyadaan,” she added.

She further says that Nandini Bhowmick, a guest faculty at Jadavpur University, was her mother’s student. But the conceptualisation was entirely her mothers. Gouri Dharmapal even wrote books where she translated Sanskrit mantras into Bengali. Dr Sati Chattapadhyay, Professor, Department of English, Jadavpur University, translated the same texts to English.

“Nandini falsely claimed that she was the first woman priestess and that she was the one who started the practice of omitting Kanyadaan. We asked her to issue a clarification regarding the same, but she refused to do so,” Rohini laments. Her mother was also the one who started the practice of playing Rabindra Sangeet before and after marriages. 


She has also conducted celebrity marriages      

Gouri Dharmapal solemnised the marriage of Aparna Sen’s eldest daughter with a lot of media attention and fervour. She also conducted the marriage of Bani Bosu’s daughter.

“My daughter got married in 1991 and it was an absolute treat for all of us. Before that, we did not know what were the mantras that were being chanted. During my daughter’s marriage she translated all that in Bengali,” says author and essayist, Bani Bosu, to The Logical Indian. “She was in love with the Bengali language and it came naturally to her.” she further added.

Rohini now wishes that the truth comes out in front of people and they understand her mother’s contribution to the society.  

One of Gouri Dharmapal’s students, who is currently a professor at Calcutta University, says, “We all used to assist her. Nandini was one of her favourite students. It is unbelievable that she would take credit for something that is not hers.”

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