Girls from the Newa community in Nepal get married at least three times in their lifetime. The first ceremony called Bel Bibaha (‘Ihi’) is where pre-adolescent girls are married symbolically to a bael fruit (wood apple). The wild fruit is considered a symbol of the Lord Vishnu.
Bel Bibaha is followed by Bahra, where girls are again married to the Sun God. The ritual is practiced before the girl hits puberty or before her first menstrual period.
According to Newa belief, a woman is not considered a widow even if her husband passes away later in life since they would still be married to the gods Vishnu and Sun.
Photojournalist Monika Deupala brings us glimpses of the lively and colourful Ihi ceremony held in Bhaktapur this week.