Dr. K. Veeramani
Dear Rationalist comrades and the fraternity,
Our warm Greetings to you from Tamil Nadu, the Land of Periyar!
Let me first of all salute our great Narendra Dabholkar for his sacrifice of life for the cause humanity to spread rationalism, specific to the eradication of superstitions. Such stalwarts may be killed but they never die. They live forever like Socrates. History will always give them a golden dazzling page and adorn them forever.
In our universe humans constitute en masse humanity. This constitution goes far beyond the barriers of territory, language, culture which have got developed or evolved later after the evolution of human beings in the present form, which any religious texts proscribe in contrary. Humanity is made up of the conglomeration of humans with different physical traits attributable to the natural surroundings. Humans are special living beings with the distinct and significant trait of ‘reasoning’. Humans alone are rational social animals.
The world advances with the constructive utilization of the resources by humankind.
The humanity has grown from Hunter- gatherer stage to the present modern electronic age
- Hunter – gatherer stage
- Agricultural revolution stage
- Industrial revolution stage
- Electronic knowledge Age (Age of Information)
- Age of wisdom
The rationality of humans is the sole cause for the progress. Otherwise we will be in primitive Dark Age.
The progress of the world is meant for all the living beings and the major beneficiary of such progress are humans; obviously their contributions are vital to the progress. Homo sapiens, the humans in the present form came into existence many millennia back. It is not impossible to perceive the life of primitive humans. Initially they thrived only through their impulsive drive to eat and to satisfy their other needs. Ignorance was at the core on many illusory and real objects which were perceived dangerous to their survival because of which they had to obey and be subservient to them. That was the position of humans at the primitive stage when the scientific temper was abysmally low or almost nil. Humans did not urge themselves to find out answers for men and matters they challenged at. At one stage all these impossible, instead of finding out the rainson d’etre, crystallized as false belief in perennial form. Divinity was attached to them as superstitions. History of humanity is nothing but the overcoming of such natural limitations in the environments, making of the impossible into possible by breaking the impediments that was imposed as objectionable deeds and sustaining them with the help of superstitious practices. This has been the major hurdle in the development of humanity. The entire potential of humans must be made available for the progress of humankind with the justification based on ‘reasoning’. This is the position of humanity and its general prevalence in the world.
But unfortunately human beings are behaving in a dubious way.
As years – centuries passed by, the barrier of limitations to know about unknown things beyond their knowledge was worshipped as super power, later considered as gods and got institutionalized as religion.
Rationalism is not a mere theory to research about it. It is a way of life. It is the look of progress and development of the society at large. But science and superstitious beliefs, in a very scientific way, still co-exist. The scientific modern electronic India spreads unscientific superstitious beliefs in a very scientific way.
The veteran scientist, Prof. Y. Nayudamma explains about the differences between the science and superstitions thus:
“Surely science and superstition coexist but are not complementary. Scientific knowledge is a rational process in which dogmas, rigidity, revelation, ritual, mystic belief and miracles should not find a place. The greatest damage done by superstitions is that they deflect attention from the primary cause and lead to a defeatist attitude of helpless acceptance. They stand in the way of unearthing the root cause and undertaking adequate remedial steps. The worst of the superstitions is that they are easy to make and hard to destroy. Scientific approach is to find consistency between theory and practice, between apparent and real causes of phenomena, through free and creative thinking, experimentation and objective analysis. Science has a built-in-method for correcting its own mistakes. It is both perceptive and deductive and thus has an element of creation and destruction. Science affects skills, attitudes and behavioural patterns to which tradition and superstition offer resistance. A strategy has to be evolved for weakening the forces impeding this change and strengthening those that favour it. Scientific attitude and rational outlook should become a way life resisting rigidity and resilient to change.”
We congratulate the services of Maharashtra Andhshraddha Nirmulan Samithi (MANS), our likeminded organization towards spreading rationalism. Our Constitution expects the every citizen to do the fundamental duty thus:
Article 51A (h) says, ‘It shall be the duty of every citizen to develop scientific temper, reform, spirit of inquiry, and humanism’.
But the social conditions prevail tough to carry out the fundamental duty by the citizens.
Many superstitious practices go unnoticed without application of mind and spirit of enquiry; with the result they have become the way of life.
Astrological prediction is projected as scientific concept. Deliberate confusions are created between astrology and astronomy. Astronomy is science. In order to sustain the belief and the adherence of astrological predictions, astrology is projected as science; but astrology is a pseudoscience.
The famous cosmologist, Carl Sagan in his book, ‘Science as a Candle in the Dark’ has pointed out about pseudoscience elaborately thus:
“Pseudoscience is easier to contrive than science, because distracting confrontations with reality – where we cannot control the outcome of the comparison – are more readily avoided. The standards of argument, what passes for evidence, are much more relaxed. In part for these same reasons, it is much easier to present pseudoscience to the general public than science. But this isn’t enough to explain its popularity.”
“Pseudoscience speaks to powerful emotional needs that science often leaves unfulfilled.”
Religions remain as supportive very much for the spread and the sustenance of superstition in human life. The enormous potential of human being is wasted through the adherence of superstitious practices.
Carl Sagan very aptly stresses about ‘Religion’ thus:
“Religions are often the state-protected nurseries of Pseudoscience, although there’s no reason why religions have to play that role. In a way, it’s an artifact from times long gone. In some countries nearly everyone believes in astrology and precognition, including government leaders.”
Common people of the country identity the Periyar Movement as rationalist movement. It is believed strongly by the movement that the people could understand and realize the significance of self-respect that was denied to them communally for many centuries. It was imperative to liberate the people from the social shackles thrust by the religious code, Manusmrithi. Periyar’s philosophy is to realise self-respect through rationalist fervor by denying the non existing god. The non-existing god has to be opposed to overcome the enslavement. The belief in god has created a lot of rituals and superstitions that remain as impediment to the progress of humanity.
The philosophy of Periyar is relevant and applicable at global level and it began, its practices in this land through the revolutionary transformation of society.
Periyar Movement advocated non-religious marriages devoid of rituals and chanting mantras in Sanskrit that is not known to either the wedding couple or the invited audience, negating the dignity of humans and such marriages became popular as ‘Self Respect Marriages’.
Religious marriages in this land did not offer equal status to bride and the groom. It considers bride as transferable commodity to be given as ‘kanniga dhanam’ by the family members of the bride to the groom with an implied declaration that the family does not have any right over the bride. The tenet of Self Respect Marriages is oriented towards equality of both men and women and they form an integral and equal part of humanity. By negating the significance of one section i.e. womenfolk and keeping them subjugated, how could humanity develop? The principles of Periyar Movement are vested on shattering anything that encourages inequality among humans, even if it is the rituals backed with the so called omnipotent god and religion.
Usually religious marriages would be performed only during an auspicious time prescribed by astrological prediction. This sort of ritual during the auspicious time restricts the liberty of men and women. Staggering the manifestation of human strength and keeping it idle causes heavy loss to humanity. Self-Respect Marriages are performed at any time suitable to both the families of the wedding couple and the invited audience. To break the false notion of conducting marriages only during the auspicious hours, the cadres of self- respect movement conduct their marriages during inauspicious time, connoted as ragu kalam, ema kandam etc. by the astrological predictions and almanac. Periyar and E.V.R. Maniammaiar conducted my marriage at the raghu kalam (4.30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m. of every Sunday), which the orthodox would not dare even to dream on. My married life is smooth and successful and all our children are settled decently in their marriage life too. Self-Respect Marriages are demonstrative mode to make people tread in the rationalist path so that the wedded couple and the fraternity could be more constructive in comparison with the orthodox in developing humanity. The significance of inauspicious time has damaged the humanity profoundly.
Self-Respect Marriage platforms are more ideal than other public platform for the propaganda of rationalist ideals – the reason being a large gathering of women would be attending the marriage, who would not come otherwise in public to listen to the propaganda. Invariably the self-respect marriages tacitly indicate the eradication of superstition and highlighting the equality of both the bride and the groom. Let us probe into the propaganda against choosing auspicious time would be of this pattern. A year counts for 365 days or about 52 weeks. In every week there are occasions of ragu kalam and ema kandam during which not only orthodox marriages but also deeds of good probability will not be performed in domestic parlance. Such religious performances have crept into official administrative sides also in the country that proclaims itself secular in polity.
The astrological prediction bans for the performance of any initiative deeds, festivals that can be tabulated as follows.
Ragu kalam for a year: 540 hours
Ema kandam for a year: 540 hours
Ashtami (the time when Lord Krishna was born)
Navami (the time when Lord Rama was born)
Ashtami + Navami per year: 1152 hours
Marana Yogam (the time of probable death): 540 hours
Karinaal: 540 hours
Pirathamai: 576 hours
Solar eclipse: 24 hours
Lunar eclipse: 24 hours
Religious festivals: 33 days in a year: 792 hours
All inauspicious time put together: 4728 hours
If reckoned in days, 4728 divided by 24 = 197 days
So if 197 days are wasted out of 365 days in a year what a crime it is? Is it not the worst influence of the religious and superstitious beliefs that have on the life of humans? Can human potential be utilized fully? How could humanity develop to progress?
While fixing marriage alliances, the jothisha (astrological prediction based on the birth time of individuals corresponding with the assumed planetary positions) and the matching matrix between the probable bride and bridegroom plays a havoc. In the case of brides, importance is given to the time of attaining puberty. Sometimes prediction says certain brides do possess chevvai dosham, a bad omen (based on the position of the planet, Mars) for whom only bridegroom born with the same dosham would be suitable.
Such predictions delay the marriage of multitude of brides and caused an avoidable lapse of marriageable age. They satisfy all the marriageable requirements physically and materially but what mistake did they commit in their life. This is because of a belief on ‘jothisha’ which nullified all other favourable factors between the bride and the groom?
Somehow, due to the efficacy of Periyar’s propaganda, Self Respect Marriages were conducted from 1928 onwards. Self Respect Marriages retrospectively obtained legality in 1968 when C. N. Annadurai, known as Anna, the chief disciple of Periyar became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Anna was a staunch rationalist. In the convocation address delivered by Anna on 18th November 1967 at Annamalai University, Chidambaram, after becoming the Chief Minister of the State, very aptly defined rationalism thus:
“Rationalism does not mean repudiation of basic and fundamental truths and maxims but annihilation of dubious modes of thought and action.”
Anna brought many rationalist principles into practice by issuing Government Orders not to display any picture of god or deities in the government offices. This was to uphold the secular fabric knitted in the constitutional provisions of the country.
Propaganda of rationalism for the development of humanity can take place on two grounds.
First, mobilization of public opinion has to take place on the eradication of superstitions that remain as a significant hurdle in the development of humanity. Afterwards legislation would be brought in by the progressive rulers for punishing the practitioners and abettors of superstitions. This sort of development has taken place in respect of performance of self-respect marriages as per the adage “public opinion marches on and law will come limping behind”
Second, the legislation would be implemented at first and the ban on the practice of superstitions and punishment at a later stage. In this pattern, the State of Maharashtra has legislated The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013, the Bill for which was drafted by the veteran rationalist, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, the founder of the Maharashtra Andhshraddha Nirumulan Samithi (MANS).
Following this, the State of Karnataka has introduced a similar Bill (The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017) in the State Legislature, waiting for becoming an Act. The State Government of Kerala has also a move to bring a superstition eradication bill (The Kerala Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices, Sorcery and Black Magic Bill, 2019).
All the initiatives of the State Governments are the effect of sustained propaganda made continuously by the various rationalist organizations in the respective States. These organizations deserve our appreciation and accolades. These endeavors are just beginnings and they have to go a long way since the endurance of superstitions blocking the development of humanity was longer. The social malady remained longer and so the remedy would also take its longer course; but such remedy would be permanent and everlasting. This International Conference on Rationalism for Humanity will deliver some concrete directions to the various affiliated rationalist organizations to tread the tedious path of developing humanity and to effect an overall progress, peace and happiness all around the world.
I do conclude with this.
Wishing the Conference All Success!
Long Live Rationalism!
Longer Live Humanity!
The text of the key note address of Asiriyar Dr.K.veeramani, President, Dravidar Kazhagam, Tamil Nadu, India delivered in absentia at the inaugural session of the International Conference on Rationalism for Humanity held at Mumbai, Maharashtra on 9th August 2019.