” Self-Respect Marriages are taking place in which the principle of equality between the husband and wife is accepted. The bride here is not asked to promise that she will accept the husband as her lord and god and that she will serve him always as a slave and obey him without question at all times.”
Why do people marry? It is sometimes said that it is for the procreation of mankind. But procreation is a thing found in all living creatures. It is not special to man. The question is which came first, desire or creation. The problem is similar to the problem as to whether the fowl came first or the egg. These are questions beyond man’s comprehension and may have to be left unanswered.
Liberty denied to women
Is monogamy a natural instinct in man? There is no monogamy in the lower animal world. They unite indiscriminately and with different partners at different times. It is said that some birds, like the dove and the maina practise monogamy. To what species does man belong on this respect? Double standard is the rule in mankind in general. Man has no compunction to cohabit with many women but the same liberty is denied to women.
Origin of marriage
In the beginning man must have lived and cohabited like the animals in a promiscuous manner. It was only when man acquired property and settled down to live in a specified place that the idea of husband and wife arose. The idea of private property led to separatism and individualism. Property thus gathered is owned by the man till his death; and after him it is to be used by somebody else. Who should that somebody be? Man desired that somebody should be some one intimately connected to him alone. That somebody had therefore to be his own undisputed son. There should be no dispute about the seed being his own. Hence arose the principle of husband and wife and a marriage system making it known to the people and to themselves.
Connected with religion
Man has changed his environment beyond recognition. Railway, post and telegraph, telephone, cinema, radio, television, aero plane have all changed living conditions and the relations of man and man vastly. Even in India we have adopted all these Western scientific achievements to enhance our material comfort. The practices connected with marriage are one of the things not yet subjected to change. This is because marriage is largely connected with religion and there is a group benefited by religion and largely living by it, and refusing to lose its grip on the traditional practices. Furthermore custom is a hard thing to overcome, however degrading or obsolete some of the practices may be. Priest sporting cross-thread (poonul or Yagnopavitham)
Hindu marriages emphasis caste differences and the hierarchy in society. The priest comes in as belonging to the highest caste, sporting the cross-thread on his body and refusing to dine with the marriage party of other castes. The marriage party invites the Brahmin priest on this basis and therefore shamelessly admits that it belong to the lower Sudra caste. Scarcely any thought has been given to this aspect of the situation by our people, albeit educated and wealthy. All sorts of rituals will be done in the marriage hall; and nobody will ask whether they are still necessary and whether there is still any meaning in them. It is only of late that some marriages devoid of the priest and his rituals are taking place in a very simple manner under the pressure of our Self-Respect movement’s propaganda. But then such reformed marriages are few and far between.
Husband not her lord or god
These are days when women are gaining their freedom and caste is losing its stranglehold. In accordance with this progress, Self-Respect Marriages are taking place in which the principle of equality between the husband and wife is accepted. The bride here is not asked to promise that she will accept the husband as her lord and god and that she will serve him always as a slave and obey him without question at all times. Self-Respect Marriages are in a way companionate marriages.
Thali, Symbol of wife’s slavery
Is the “Thali” or “Mangalyasutra” (the yellow thread with gold badge) absolutely necessary for the performance of a marriage? What does it stand for? It is said that the “Thali” is a symbol to indicate the married status of a woman like many other symbols of married women. This symbolism is good in so far as it will separate the married women from the unmarried and thus prevent them from being pestered by the gallant youths. The objection, however, is that similar symbols are not given to married men, thus once again introducing the double standard for the male and female sexes. Furthermore as for love marriages people do not obtain sanction in India, and all marriages are arranged by the parents, there does not appear to be any need to symbolically indicate the married folk. It is true that in village communities, even the bridegroom was given some symbols like the silver ring for the third finger of the left hand. But the bridegrooms took courage to discard these symbols of men’s married state, while women failed to do so. Hence, it is that the Self-Respecters regard the “Thali” as a symbol of the wife’s slavery to the husband and hence plead for its omission.
Our pandits (religious scholars) tell us that the Thali had its origin in ancient days in the context of brides giving their hand only to heroic youths who would be brave enough to kill tigers and bring back as a souvenir of their adventure, a tooth or a nail of the beast and tie the same to the neck of their bride. If such a test is prescribed for the modern youth, it is doubtful if even one in a million would prove fit for marriage. The pandits further explain that in later times, with the advance of civilization, the tiger’s tooth or nail got replaced by a silver or gold ornament. Whatever the origin of the ‘Thali’, it is incontrovertible that all along it has stood for the total dedication of the bride as a slave to the groom, who can do what he likes with the wife. The practice is bound to change, either because the woman has now gained equality of rights, or because the meaning of the Thali has changed. It all depends on the strength and courage of our women-folk in future.
No auspicious day or time
For Self-Respect Marriages there in no such thing as an auspicious day or time. All days and all times are good for us. But for Vedic marriages elaborate precautions are taken to select an auspicious day and time in consultation with the priest or an astrologer. To effect a marriage match, the horoscopes are got tallied, the names of the boy and girl must be appropriate and then the day and time selected for the marriage must suit the particular bride and bridegroom according to the so-called astrological science. It must be noted that all this has been invented to fool the people, exploit their ignorance, and make money in the process. In spite of our people’s faith in astrology, there are perhaps more widows in India than elsewhere. The expert priest or astrologer who casts the horoscopes and tallies has perhaps half a dozen tonsured women in his house as widows.
Tamil literature of two thousand years ago does not disclose the presence of the Brahmin at marriages, much less the barbaric ritualism of modern days. Tamil literature prior to Tholkappiam is lost to us. No people can produce any literary work like Tholkappiam without a thousand years of history behind it. All that work is lost.
Self-Respect Marriage is called “Companionate Agreement” This is a term that we find in the Kural, the Text of the Tamils, written two thousand or more years ago by Thiruvalluvar, and it is the most appropriate word for the contract. The Vedic weddings speak of “kannikadhanam” or “thara-muhurtham”, to mean that the girl is taken over or given away to serve as a slave of the bridegroom. The bride is handed over like any other chattel, a cow or a vessel, with no rights of its own. This is essentially an Aryan practice imposed on the Dravidian race.
Why should a girl after being bred lovingly for years be given as “dhan” (alms) or charity? The purpose is to giver her no rights and to treat her as private property. The husband is entitled to give or hire her to anybody and the girl shall not question it. Our puranas are full of such stories.
The ‘thara-muhurtham’ (Donating Marriage) consists of a worse and more cruel procedure. In this wedding the bride’s hand is placed on that of the bridegroom and water is poured on top of it muttering the words Krishna-Krishna. Thereafter without even looking back, the girl’s parents and relatives get away quickly.
to be continued….
Excerpts from Collected Works of Periyar E.V.R., published by The Periyar Self – Respect Propaganda Institution, Chennai