As we have puraanaas for rivers, like the Kaveri Puraana there are also puranaas pertaining to the months of the year. According to the latter puraanaa, the gift (daana दान) of woolen clothing in the months of Kaartigai and Maargazhi, (the cold months of November-December, and December-January) is considered beneficial. Similarly we are enjoined to make gifts of water, fan, and umbrella during the summer months. During famine, importance is attached to gift of food, and during days of plenty we are directed to make gifts of gold. (Durbhikshe-cha-anna-daataaram subhikshe kanakapradam दुर्भिक्षेच अन्नदातारं सुभिक्षे कनकप्रदं ). The significance of any gift is that we give away something we possess in the spirit that it is not ours-we should make the gift with the sincere faith that what is given is not ours.(namama <Sanskrit> not mine). That is also the idea behind offerings made in fire. To the extent we make willing sacrifices, to that extent we shall fare well in this world and progress towards the goal of God-realization.
A generation or two back, the Nattukottai Nagarathar community, who made profits in their business overseas, utilized their wealth to endow Veda Paatasaalaas, and to renovate dilapidated temples. In that way they rendered a signal service to our religion. Many temples built in the days of the Chola and the Pandyan kings, which came to be neglected by passage of time, profited by their philanthropy. The Paatasaalaas founded by them, however, did not function as they ought to and some of them were even closed, because they did not attract sufficient number of students. On account of the problems arising from the struggle for existence in modern days, even poor boys either flock to modern schools or go to serve in hotels. A few are attracted by the glamour of cinema and find employment, at the worst, as ticket collectors, in theatres. In this way our social life has got disrupted and many evils have crept in.
In this setup, what is the kind of sacrifice that will help to tone up society? One feature in our social life which pains me more than anything else, is the sight of grown-up unmarried girls. These girls are undergoing untold mental sufferings and, some of them, with tears in their eyes, have asked me whether they will ever get married. Such a situation is fraught with disastrous possibilities for the next generation. The problem has reached a stage when it has become imperative to devise a solution and find a remedy.
It is not right to throw blame for the present state of affairs on the Sarda Act, as it is not right to throw the blame for the other anaachaaraas (wrong practices) that have crept in, on social reformers, or on atheistic propaganda. Boys living away from homes, in hostels and lodging houses, for pursuing their studies, drift into wrong ways, particularly in respect of their food habits, and their conduct has infected society as a whole. Discipline in matters like aachaara and anushtaana has appeared and its place chaos prevails. Railway travel has also resulted in breaking our discipline in respect of food. If legislation has been solely responsible for postponing marriage for girls, then why is that people are not performing Upanayanam at the proper age, though there is no legislative prohibition in respect of Upanayanam? The answer is that marriage has become an economic problem in these days. It seems to me that even if the Sarda Act had not come into force, economic reasons would have compelled parents to postpone the marriage of their daughters.
It has to be admitted that many parents are unable to meet the demand for dowry made on them. There are in our society some parents who are suffering badly on account of their inability to repay the debts incurred for the marriage of their daughters. In the circumstances in which they find themselves, a few parents are obliged to permit their unmarried daughters to seek employment. Women have been the custodians of our religion and the aachaaraas and observances pertaining to our religion. With the way of life that has developed now, the outlook for the future in this respect appears gloomy.
The dowry system, therefore, has not only created problems for the present, but has also paved the way for the deterioration of society in the future. It is incumbent on the part of all those who wish well of our society, our culture, and our dharma, to take steps to put an end to dowry. The father of every marriageable boy should be prepared to make this sacrifice in the interest of the future generations. If the parents of a boy are satisfied about a girl and her family, they must come forward to conclude the alliance and celebrate the marriage, without expecting anything from the girl’s parents. Such a course will not lead to any lowering of prestige. On the other hand, this small sacrifice on the part of parents of boys will help to preserve the purity of society and the culture of the nation, and to ensure the welfare of generations yet unborn. When we have undergone sufferings and made enormous sacrifices for the freedom of our country, can we not make this small sacrifice – non-receiving of dowry – for the preservation of our dharma?
February 20, 1958