Becoming Confident, Assertive, Empowered
What we see, to-day, in the marriage market (for Brahmins) is a male-created problem, over the past many centuries.
Women, generally in India, our women in particular, have been getting increasingly empowered, after being suppressed by men over the last few centuries. Everywhere, they had ‘don'ts’, except in the kitchen and you know where! Even to-day, you find such specimen men, as evidenced by the Sunday matrimonial advertisements.
Sow the Wind, Reap the whirl-wind
Happily, our women are getting more and more educated, progressively more focussed and emotional than men. It is rightly said that while men think with their heads, women do it with their hearts. Beyond an age and stage, even parents are dispensable for men, while love and longing for parents goes increasing in women. This apart, we find women asserting themselves everywhere, be it home or office, streets or the market place. They cannot be taken for granted any more, and the sooner men, especially parents, realised this, the better for them and for the society. Men sowed the wind and, per force, have begun to reap the whirl-wind now!
Religious faith is fast dwindling among the Brahmins, while temple-going is going up exponentially. With regard to ceremonies, at home or outside, they are beginning to ask rational questions for which the 'pundits' give the same old unconvincing explanations, founded primarily on fearful consequences that might follow on non-performance.
Neither the officiating priest, nor the performer, generally, knows what they are muttering, the whole things looks clumsy. Even the Sankaracharyas of to-day and the many pundits of Sastras and Puranas cite only fear-provoking consequences of non-performance, rather than demystifying and rationalising these. Not only that, they reject women from religious rites, reading sacred books or chanting certain mantras. Matters of personal hygiene, food, dress, looks, language 'et all' are pushed into the domain of dont's for women. Have you noticed the illogical dress regulations in some temples like Guruvayur etc. which neither enrich nor defile those temples?
If Adi Sankara was an iconoclast in many respects, and gave the go-by to many irrelevant religious customs, his successors are re-inventing them and new ones, to the detriment and subordination of women. Their ability to accept socially need-based changes is minimal. Naturally, the out-cry is for a silent rebellion of sorts. No one promotes 'reverence to the Almighty'. They only advocate 'fear of God'.
For a contrast, the Srimad Bhagavathm says, clearly, that one can attain to God, by loving him as the Gopikas did, or fearing or hating him as Kamsa, Sisupala and Ravana did. The passage to God is a multi-lane high-way, and not a narrow one-way street! (See Bhagavatham Book 8 - Chap. 18, slokas 29 onwards).
No Place in the Caste-Dictionary
In this background, let us look at our marriage system. With reference to the Matrimonial Advertisements on any Sunday Edition of The Hindu newspaper. You see parents asking for 'Vadama only, brahacharanam only etc. Even the candidates to marry are referred to, as only boys and girls, reminiscent of an earlier custom of boy-girl marriages. I recently read an advertisement to find a boy for a 47 year old girl. At that age, my wife had two grand children!
Now, who is a Vadama or a Brahacharanam, Ashtasahasram or Vaathima. These words find no place in the caste-dictionary. Vadama is a Tamil word denoting a Northerner. The Vadama Sandhyavandam itself says they originally belonged to the Narmada basin in the North of India, and must have migrated first, to South India, and settled in the Tamil territory.
'Brihachharanam' is, of course, a Sanskrit word meaning 'bigger movement', perhaps indicating a second wave of immigration of a very large group. I cannot say from where they came to Tamil Nadu, but come they did.
'Ashtrasahasram' means eight thousand, again perhaps, the numbers in the group that migrated to Tamil Nadu. 'Vathima' is a corruption of the word 'Madhyama' which means second or, secondary.
You find such identification of groups only amongst Tamil-speaking Brahmins. How on earth can such group identifications be relevant to-day, when the Tamil Brahmins are spread all over the Globe? In my view, these distinctions are irrelevant and must go.
Move Away from this Archaic Mind-Set
Similarly, the identification of 'Palghat Iyer' and 'Tamil Iyer'. They were all together in Tamil Nadu at one time, and during the early part of the 14th century, a section of them came to Kerala, through the Palghat Pass of the Western Ghats, and settled in the villages built on lands gifted by the local, hospitable Raja.
I also wish to debate the larger question of Iyer/Iyengar/Madhwa etc. hesitating to inter-marry. To my mind, the three main ingredients of a good marriage - at least for a start - are, eating the same food, worshipping the same God/s, and to a lesser extent conversing or shouting at each other in the same mother tongue.
Iyengars are, primarily, worshippers of Vishnu; Iyers worship all Gods and the Madhwas also only Vishnu. Yet they are all classified as South Indian Brahmins! There is a lot of anachronism in all this. No one is daring to ask questions or, find answers. It is high time, we reorder our priorities, and focuss on core issues that are good for youths and for our society, as a whole. Instead, one finds that we are behaving much like the Khap Panchayats of the Northern States, where the community Panchayats order the extermination of inter-marrying couples.
We should be moving on, away from this archaic mind-set and try to become true agents of change. Else, we could be swept away by the swift currents of "empowerment and logistics" of modern times.
Marriage is "Man-Woman" Affair
Women have re-invented and empowered themselves over the past 40-50 years, and no one can put the clock back. Facts are stranger than fiction. So, marriages are to be viewed in a different context.
To my mind, it is increasingly becoming a "man-woman" affair. They have to agree on the idea of marriage, when and whom. The parental role can only be that of facilitators. It is much like selecting under-garments to buy!
My next points are 'horoscope-matching' and the 'Gothra question'. Coming from an astrological background, I dare say that the former is not entirely scientific and reliable. It has mostly been used to eliminate rather than select marriageable couples.
Horoscopes are, by and large, cast by professional astrologers or, their quasi-professionals. They follow either the Malayalam, Tamil or Kannada Panchagams. These Panchangams do not agree even on fundamental inputs such as Nakshatra, their duration on any day, etc. A slight or marginal error changes the horoscope significantly. Computer-prepared horoscopes can be better versions. Even then, there are as many interpretations as the number of astrologers, and no two of them agree. The girl's say emphatically that their astrologers say there is perfect agreement and on the same inputs, the boy's side assert, that the horoscopes cannot be matched.
My late father, a legend of an astrologer used to say that 'astrologers should try to match horoscopes, rather than investigate how they cannot be agreed.
"Garbage in, Garbage out".
Also, UBHAYA RASI STARS like Krithiga, Mrigasire, Punarvasu, Uthraashada, Chitra, Visakha, Uthra phalgini, Sravishta, poorva-proshta-pada are not given the weightage they deserve. For example, while my late father would have said that Aswini and Krithiga (1st pada) agree ideally, most other astrologers reject them as 3rd nakshatra. Also, slight error in reckoning the time of birth can result in a change of Nakshatra itself, and the Balance of Dasa, at birth. It is a case of "garbage in, garbage out".
As a mid-way strategy, I recommend, for a start, let the two sides jointly agree to consult only one astrologer, and go by his recommendation. Incidentally, this saves double payment of fees!
Gothtas are like Alumni Clubs
Regarding Gothra, many people think that they are born into the families of the concerned Rishis. This is not so. You do not come across Gothrams in the names of several other Rishis, like Vatsyayana, Angira, Durvasa, Sandeepani, Drona, Parasurama or Jamadagni etc.
They all had progenies, which might include some of our fore-fathers... I believe, it only shows to which Gurukula (University) one belonged, for the study of the Vedas and Sastras. Otherwise, it is difficult to reconcile the existence of same Gothras in the Northern, Eastern and Western parts of India. Much like the Alumni Clubs of modern Universities and Colleges.
Brahmin Women will no more "grin and bear"
To-day's woman is fully empowered. She will not accept many things that her mother or, sister of two decades ago did. She knows what is good for her and feels she can achieve it at the right time and in the right manner. She has begun questioning us on important issues, which is how it should be. Her confidence-level is very high and she has no patience to "grin and bear".
Elsewhere, we see live-in relationships, single-parenthood, same-sex marriages etc, these are acrobatics performed by romantic and challenging people.
Hence, folks, "awake, arise and stop not our very intelligent youth of to-day from exercising their rightful prerogative of deciding when, who and how they will find life-time partners. Stand-by and support and facilitate their decision-making, to the extent called-for... Else, you will be considered only as stumbling blocks by your own progeny.