Cover of Sudha Raghunathan’s Marriage Songs Album.
Snapshot
  • A Tamizh Brahmin girl marrying a Black American in a traditional Hindu wedding takes the wind out of the sails of the Dravidianist narratitve.

Recently a marriage invitation of the daughter of a Carnatic singer was circulated in the social media by the so-called ‘Internet Hindutva Warriors’. The Carnatic singer and her family were abused with the choicest of the abusive words. The reason was that the daughter was getting married to a boy named ‘Michael’. So it was concluded by the ‘warriors’ that the girl had converted to Christianity.

In a way the fear was natural given the fact that marriages have been used by proselytizing religions to convert new followers into the faith. But one’s fear — even when justified in their own ethical realm and justified within their social concerns — does not give a person or a group the right to interfere in the personal lives of individuals and expose to the public their personal lives and abuse them.

Yes. Conversion is a problem. Luring through marriage into Christianity and Islam is a real problem. We need to immunise our children, not against love marriages — which will inevitably happen — but against the use of love and marriage for conversions. In fact, it will not be out of the line to bring in a legislation against proselytising that uses marriage as a bait. Use of inter-religious marriage for conversion should be considered as a form of domestic abuse and violence.

That said, the whole abuse of the case mentioned above took an even uglier turn when it came to be known that the bridegroom was a Black American scholar. And in an audio purporting to be that of the father of the bride circulated in the social media, the father revealed that the bridegroom had so much love for the Hindu culture that he wanted to be invested with the sacred thread. And then there surfaced an invitation that declared the marriage with the blessings of a traditional Mutt. This should have quelled those who abused the singer and her family out of their fear of conversion. But strangely, something more sinister hidden in our psyche emerged.

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The Internet ‘Guardians of Dharma’ declared that such marriages with a person who does not have ‘jaati’, as against Dharma. ‘How can they publish an invitation claiming the blessings of a traditional Mutt?’ they fumed. And there were more abuses and more calls to return to the golden age when we could marry off our daughters before they were twelve. When other Hindutvaites raised their voice against such a vulgar display of social stagnation, they were called ‘traitors’.

The truth is that historically the Hindutva movement has contained in it both the socially stagnant sections and forces of social emancipation. From the very start of the Hindu Mahasabha, these two forces have been clashing. The Hindutva forces of social emancipation have aggressively supported inter-caste marriages, study of Vedas for all sections of the society, women emancipation, widow remarriage and rehabilitation, etc. In fact, in the battles for legislative acceptance of inter-caste marriages, banning of child-marriages etc., the contribution of Hindutva stalwarts has been immense. They fought the battle on the ground and often even faced physical violence.

It is interesting to note that when Veer Savarkar identified the seven shackles which inhibit the prosperity of a Dharmic society, he mentioned the ban on inter-caste marriage as one of the factors and he curiously called it ‘Beti Bandhi (Denying Daughters)’. He could have called it ‘Vivaha Bandhi (Denying Marriage)’. The specific use of the term, ‘Beti’, seems to suggest that he was aware of the deeply ingrained notion that a daughter should be preserved like valuable property and should be prohibited from making her own choice. So the inhibition on inter-caste marriage was, to him, essentially a ban on the choice that the girl makes. Savarkar wanted precisely this shackling of the girls to go. The words Veer Savarkar wrote speak to the socially stagnant Hindus of today just as they spoke to their counterparts in his own years:

What of interdining?— but intermarriages between provinces and provinces, castes and castes, be encouraged where they do not exist. But where they already exist as between the Sikhs and Sanatanies, Jains and Vaishnayas, Lingayats and Non-Lingayats — suicidal be the hand that tries to cut the nuptial tie.

In the broader canvas of human society as a whole, he again pointed out that the power of sexual attraction any day defeats artificial scriptural injunctions.

Nature is constantly trying to overthrow the artificial barrriers you raise between race and race. Sexual attraction has proved more powerful than the commands of all the prophets put together.

Veer Savarkar was not alone. Every Hindu who valued the welfare and future of Hindu society and who understood Dharma in its true sense, cutting across party affiliations of that time, encouraged inter-caste marriage.

In one of his short stories, Chakravarti Rajagopalachari ‘Rajaji’, boldly pictured a Brahmin family approaching a Scheduled Community boy for marrying their daughter. The Brahmin girl herself is willing to marry the boy, even as the boy struggles with the deep shame he carries about the so-called low status of his parents. But a cholera epidemic in his village kills his mother, even as the boy delays his visit to the village, and he refuses to take the father, who was a drunkard, with him to the city, which ultimately causes his death. Feeling extremely guilty, the boy refuses to marry the Brahmin girl and dedicates himself to the social improvement of his own community in the village. The story — written almost half a century back — is a call for not just intermarriage but acceptance of the so-called ‘other’ as their own self.

In Tamil Nadu, generally the Brahmins do not indulge in honour killings and in most of the cases where inter-caste marriages occur they do so naturally according to Hindu rituals and usually the socio-economic status becomes a great leveler. However, in the case of the so-called intermediary land-owning castes, there is violence. The recent highly popularised tragic examples are that of Illavarasu and Shankar — one is said to have committed suicide after his inter-caste marriage and in the case of Shankar, there was blatant execution of the boy in a public place. In both cases, the inter-caste marriages had happened in Hindu temples. A traumatised Kausalya (Shankar’s wife) has even joined hands with ‘Breaking India’ forces.

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Nothing is more dangerous to a nation than a heart justified in its grievance and pain into joining anti-national forces due to sheer trauma effected by injustice in the society. And we should remember there are ‘Breaking India’ forces waiting in the wings to capitalise on every such injustice to strengthen themselves, not because they love social justice but because they hate India and Hindu Dharma.

So when we raise our voices against love and justice that is inherent in inter-caste marriages, we are being ‘suicidal’, as Savarkar correctly and prophetically observed. A few years back, a dear friend of mine got married in the United States with his gay partner with all the Vedic ceremonies. The videos became viral on social media. It does not diminish or demean the Vedic rituals; on the contrary, it shows the vigour and the spiritual strength of Vedic ceremonies. All of these show that we are a living Dharma.

Finally, it is none of anyone’s business to comment on the family events of the Carnatic singer, negatively or even positively. But, in general terms, a Tamil Brahmin girl marrying a Black American in a traditional Hindu wedding takes the wind out of the sails of the Dravidianist narrative. So let not some of us behave like typical White Anglo-Saxon Protestant racists of the South in the United States of America.

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