Surat trader marries off 53 girls at mass wedding

This was mass wedding with a difference. While on one side, one could hear hear chants of Vedic slokas, on another, a nikaah was being performed.

Yasmeen bano, 19, married Mohammed Arif along with 52 other Hindu couples at this marriage ceremony, where a Surat-based businessman Mahesh Sawani and his wife played their parents, on Sunday. Sawani arranged the bridal trousseau for the 53 girls, all aged between 18 and 23 years, from underprivileged families.

Owner of the P P Sawani group, Sawani, identified these girls with the help of his contacts and organised the mass wedding at Abrahma in Surat. The guests were surprised to see among the Hindu rituals, a nikaah being performed by a qazi. Yasmeen's father Ismail Vora died five years ago, leaving her mother Husena to raise the children. Arif is an electrician.

Among the guests were firebrand leader Sadhvi Ritambara and South Gujarat University V-C Daxesh Thaker. The brides are from different villages and districts of Gujarat.

Sawani chose brides who had no parents or whose fathers had left the family, or who could not afford a wedding. He looked for grooms and took care of the bridal trousseau.

According to him, he started hosting community marriages because of his yearning to be father to a girl. Sawani has two sons, Mohit and Mitual, who are studying abroad. Since the last couple of years, Mahesh Sawani, who runs five English-medium schools and hospital by the name of P P Swani in Surat, has married off 150 girls, all of whom he considers are his daughters and still takes care of their medical and other expenses. The girls, too, stay in touch with their benefactor.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Sawani said, "I started out by getting two such girls, who have no fathers, married, and now I have 150 married daughters. Through social contacts and business relations, I came in contact with these girls. I assure them that they can approach me at any time when they are in trouble and I will stand by them like a father and solve their issues. We don't keep caste or communal barriers, which is why even Muslims have started approaching me."

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