On 22nd September, 1934, under the patronage of Coimbatore Self Respect Forum, cadre Krishnasamy married Lakshmi, following the principle of Self Respect Marriages. The marriage was held under the Presidency of Thanthai Periyar. He delivered a speech greeting the couple and explaining the reformative Self Respect Marriage Policy. The content of his speech is as follows:
Self respect (Reformist) marriages ensure equality in married life. One is not inferior to the other. There is no disparity and hence no room for belittling. The couple happily lead a peaceful life with compatibility.
My dear comrades, the marriage of Krishnasamy and Lakshmi being held today is called Self Respect Marriage and also Reformist Marriage. There may be a few who are reluctant to accept the term Self Respect Marriage. Hence, the term reformist marriage is applied as an alternative to convince them. But I must explain the concept of Self Respect Marriages so that those who are reluctant could understand it better.
Whether we call it self-respect or reformation, it does not make much difference in my opinion. Bringing about a change and improvement is reformation. Self Respect Marriage also implies improving the existing system of this institution. It is a sign of refined culture and civilization. A reform may be merely for a change or for more comforts, advantages, necessities and for a rationalist outlook in life. Changes and reforms are not new to the people and the entire world.
Since the day the world emerged, there have been changes in everything that are revealed through history as well as existing ruins and remnants of the antique world. Similarly, we learn from the experiences of our short life, how many changes human society and life have undergone in various spheres with the passing of time. Changes are all a natural process. None of the countries, communities and commodities can escape inevitable improvements and changes. Self Respect Marriage too is one such improvement. Out dated conventions and rituals are totally avoided in it. The absence of a priest is noteworthy. People who cling to traditional systems of a marriage may grumble and mumble over this novel mode of wedding but their objections are all ignored and brushed aside by social reformers like me.
Marriages that are held adhering to the old Vedic system have also undergone changes. Brahmins who have been adamantly clinging to that system, now a days avoid rituals covering three to seven days. They leave home at 7 a.m., conduct marriage in a temple, have lunch at noon and return home by 6 p.m. Chanting of hymns, monotonous rituals, sumptuous feasts, ostentatious hospitality and lavish expenses have all gone forever. If they have changed, why can’t we?
Chennai city is notorious for blind faith and superstitions. Rich people of various castes used to make a big show of their status by grand scale marriages. That was then! But what do we see now? They wind up wedding events swiftly and pack up. Obviously, changes are endless in life.
Pilgrims used to go on foot to places like Varanasi and Rameswaram to invoke divine favours. People began with horse ride, moved to train travel, car ride and fly today covering thousands of miles in a few hours. Would they ever listen to you if you talk to them about Vedas and ancient scriptures? Never!
Man used flintstones in the stone Age to ignite spark for fire. He moved to lamps, torches, power light, gas light and advanced to electric lights, which give him the glow of a million lamps. Can vedic hymns and outdated scriptures prevent man’s advancement in life? Self Respect Marriages too are a sign of man’s advancement. He can’t be taken for a ride any longer. The institution called marriage has changed drastically. Living together, only as long as the couple wish, is the new life style today. Inseparable bondage has been replaced with a sort of living together. Most people live like free birds without family burden. If there is incompatibility, married men and women opt for divorce without inhibition.
Machanised Industries Needed
Nature has bestowed us with strong legs. But we have started travelling by trains and avoid walking long distance. Bullock carts are available. And yet we like to reach fast by rail. We have advanced enough to travel by car ride, fly through air crafts and also sail by ships. We wish all these modes of transport are used by people since they save time and energy. People would also use them happily.
There is nothing undesirable in using machines, we need not feel guilty. These are humanitarian developments. They are not acts of injustice or punishable offences. No one should be condemned for these improvements in society. It is human nature to seek comforts.
Hence, protests against machines is madness. Fight against nature and progressive outlook is ridiculous. It would be senseless and regressive. Avoiding use of machines is futile. Man and machine are integral to advancement in life. Hence, mechanisation of industries is essential in my opinion.
– Periyar in ‘Kudi Arasu’
Respecting a man’s rationalist outlook is the basis of self-respect principle. If you are forced to act against that which you have perceived by reasoning it would mean to be against your self respect. Refusing to follow outdated codes of conduct and rejecting religious scriptures is the hallmark of one’s self respect. In brief, self respect is liberation from contemptible slavery. Hence, analyse everything using your reasoning power and experiences. Self Respect Marriages are meant to guide you towards such an introspective analysis. Propagating self respect marriages is not merely for a change – it is for a productive, constructive social reformation.
Old system of marriage was an enslavement of women. It dehumanized women and seized their birth rights. It was a senseless ritual in my opinion. All the interconnected activities were to bind women in chains of slavery.
Self respect (Reformist) marriages ensure equality in married life. One is not inferior to the other. There is no disparity and hence no room for belittling. The couple happily lead a peaceful life with compatibility. In the old Vedic-faith marriages, importance was given to horoscope, zodiac signs, planetary positions, caste and creed of the groom and the bride and many other aspects which make no sense. Owing to such dissections, the marriages generally turned out to be absolute ‘mismatch’. Lack of compatibility led to a strained relationship. The couple used to lead an unhappy married life. On the contrary, caste, class and creed are all ignored in self respect marriages. Planets and stars are never verified. It is just seen if the couple deserve each other for a harmonious married life.
In the traditional style marriages of olden days, parents used to hastily get the girls married off as if they were an unbearable burden. Very young girls used to marry aged men. It was an unpardonable cruelty! Girls were treated as a commodity for sale in the world-market. Self respect marriages (Reformist marriages) carefully verify age factor before finalising. Medical fitness of the couple is also examined.
Vedic system marriages of the olden days were too expensive and unaffordable for middle class families. The parents were almost stifled by exorbitant miscellaneous payments. Inexplicable sufferings were also faced, such as rituals too early in the morning, causing discomfort even to all the guests. Unavoidable expenses made parents seek loans. Those long term loans sometimes chased parents endlessly and made their life miserable.
Comparatively, self respect marriages are economically viable. A shoe-string budget is enough. Garlands are exchanged while a wedding badge is merely optional. Meaningless rituals are avoided. Precious time is not wasted. The families of the groom and the bride are advised suitably. The marriage is held under the presidency of a celebrity, formally registered and also certified perfectly. The married couple are not harmed in any way by the reformist wedding. Infact, religion, caste, creed, time, planets and stars are not at all relevant to any marriage. People should realize this truth.
Only orthodox and conservative people protest against self respect marriages because outdated conventions are all thrown overboard. Most of the old Vedic system marriages have proved disastrous. Not all are found leading a peaceful life. The fault was not in stars but in ourselves. Meaningless matchmaking processes have not brought happiness in the lives of people who got married in the old traditional way.
Irrational cowards are against reformist marriages. Such reactionary elements must be ignored by us. No country or community can progress if such people are cared for. Only rational outlook, reasoning and self respect can pave the way for progress and prosperity. This is the objective of our propaganda. Now I advise the couple here to promise each other that they would amicably lead a compatible life together. I also urge you all to propagate the ideal concept of self respect marriages. Explain to all the people everywhere, the significance of such reformist marriages.
Source: ‘Pagutharivu’ weekly, 07.10.1934
Translated by: M.R. Manohar