A lesbian couple have undergone a formal tribal ‘wedding’ ceremony in a village in eastern India. A priest of the Khanda tribe performed the ceremony after their families had persuaded villagers of the validity of their relationship.

30-year-old Wetka Polang and Melka Nilsa, 22, from Dandabadi village in Koraput district, found love after disastrous relationships with men.

They initially ran away to another village, but returned and paid fines to the village to allow their ‘marriage’ to be blessed.

A pair of oxen, a barrel of alcohol and a communal party later, and Wetka followed the Indian tradition of applying vermillion onto Melka’s forehead in the presence of village elders and the local priest.

“They wanted to prove that they can live without the help of men. They also love each other very much. So we decided to forgive them,” village elder Melka Powla told the BBC.

The couple, who are day labourers, now live together in the village.

“We are leading a blissful married life. We love each other very much,” Wetka told the BBC.

All same-sex relationships are illegal in India, under a penal code that dates from the time of the British Raj.