The smells and colors—bold yellow turmeric smeared on hands and faces, a strip of red powdered vermillion applied to the hairline—offer the first clues that a wedding is about to happen or has just happened. The girls at this event are often too young to understand marriage, but they’re old enough to know what the spices being ceremoniously applied to their bodies signify.
This is what Saumya Khandelwal, a 27-year-old Reuters photographer based in New Delhi, heard from girls who weren’t as lucky as she was.
Khandelwal was born in Lucknow, a city in the same state but a world apart from the district of Shravasti. Growing up, she and her friends understood that child marriage happened in India, just