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Leicester's first female Hindu priest conducts weddings
Chanda Vyas, Hindu priest
Chanda Vyas is hoping to inspire other women to become Hindu priests

Think about the last wedding you attended. Chances are it was conducted by a male priest.

However, women are becoming more and more prominent as worship leaders in all faiths in England.

And now a woman from Leicester is taking on the largely male strong hold of Hindu priesthood.

In her fifties Chanda Vyas achieved her childhood dream, when she became the first female Hindu priest to conduct weddings in the UK.

Although Chanda comes from a Brahmin family, where traditionally priesthood is practiced, as a daughter no one expected her to learn the sacred mantras and texts.

As a child she grew up with her male role-models all practicing priesthood but was told it was culturally unacceptable for a female to practice.

She said, "It doesn't say anywhere in the scriptures that women can't be priests and can't conduct any ceremonies, it has more to do with traditions and cultural issues."

Fulfilling the childhood dream

Chanda eventually put her childhood dream behind her, settled down, brought up her three daughters and pursued her career as a social worker.

Unable to forget her long standing ambition, Chanda approached her father, who she describes as her guru, for his blessing to carry out her dream.

Hindu wedding ceremony (Image: Nighthawk Media)
We are living in the 21st century and I don't see any reason why there should be a divide between male and female priests
Chanda Vyas, Hindu priest

With his agreement she was finally able to start conducting Asian wedding ceremonies in both English and Gujarati.

Although Chanda conducts other Hindu ceremonies her main focus is on the wedding ceremony as she is able to interpret the scriptures in a way the younger generation are able to understand.

Inspiring other women

Chanda might have expected some male priests to have been unhappy with her conducting religious ceremonies, but so far she said she has been accepted by the communities and feels she has their support.

"We are living in the 21st century and I don't see any reason why there should be a divide between male and female priests. Especially living in Britain where we have such a strong multicultural society that seeks diversity."

Chanda is sure there are many Hindu women who want to become priests and hopes that she is now able to inspire them to follow in her footsteps.

"Women may not have ever thought of becoming a priest or have the relevant support or motivation to give them the push to achieve their dreams. It's never too late to do it."

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