Most little girls in our culture adore dressing up as princesses, putting on their sparkly shoes and glittering bracelets.

It’s all part of pretend play and the world we as adults call, ‘make believe’.

For many little girls brought up in Nepalese culture, dressing up is not a 'make-believe' or 'pretend' kind of play; rather it is a serious act of honour and respect towards a way of life rooted in Nepal's Hindu traditions.

Hindu girl NepalDressing up in sparkly items of clothing and jewellery happens to girls aged five to seven years old as a ceremony of 'marriage'. These little girls will engage in three marriages before they are considered adults. In their first marriage ceremony they will dress up and experience Bil Bibaha, this is the process of them marrying the bel fruit of a wood apple tree. The fruit symbolises Lord Kumar, whom Hindus believe to be the son of Lord Shiva. The girls' families believe that marrying Lord Kumar enhances their daughter’s fertility.

Making sure the fruit is perfectly ripe and undamaged is of utmost importance. A damaged fruit means the bride will one day end up marrying an ugly, unfaithful husband!

The whole ceremony lasts for two days. On the first day, the girls follow Hindu traditions of purification. They spend time bathing in the purification bath and follow rituals that have been followed by women for centuries. On day two they adorn themselves in their sparkly jewellery, bridal shawls, skirts and glittering blouses. The distinctive red 'tika' mark on the forehead completes this remarkable look.

These families believe that the procedure will protect their daughters from evil spirits. They believe this gives their little five-year-old daughters an eternal marriage with a god! If in later life her earthly husband dies, she is protected from widowhood. An old Hindu custom used to burn women alive on the fires of their dead husband’s cremation pyres; being married to a god in childhood grants protection from this!

Hindu girl Nepal

So, when we see a five-year-old girl dressing up in a pretend, role-play world, let's pause and remember the scene of little girls entering the system of Hinduism as they dress up in the very real world of Nepal.

Pray for Nepal