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A SYMPOSIUM OF HINDU DOMESTIC REFORMERS AND ANTI-REFORMERS.
SIR T. MADAVA RAO.-We cannot dine together or drink together, my dear friends, but we can have a talk together at least. Let us then “expatiate free” over this vexed question of Hindu Domestic Reform, and try to come to some practical conclusions. More than a year ago, I said: “The great danger is lest the present generation should pass away in total inaction.” I am afraid, my dear brethren, we have been all inactive. We have certainly talked away and written away to our hearts' content, but, I am sorry to say, we have set no examples.
MR. A. SANKARIAH.-But, my dear sir, what examples are we to set ? Your Social Reformers agitate for freedom to widows and girls to marry at any age, but this freedom is not denied now, and was not denied at any time; and, I say the agitators are not just and even honest, in interfering with those who do not religiously or socially approve of that freedom.
RAO SAHIB VISHWANATH N. MANDLIK.—And I say there is certainly no enforced widowhood in India at present, nor is there any such a general early marriage system prevalent as can be remedied by Government. I do not understand what reform is needed.
MR. T. PATTABHIRAM.-Let me introduce myself, gentle
I hail from the Southern Presidency, and in my humble opinion, Mr. Mandlik and Mr. Sankaria are certainly right as to the freedom of widows to re-marry-for to a Hindu widow, who makes up her mind to resume her married state, at the risk of losing her caste, her religion, and the affection and society of her relations. there now exists, most assuredly, no obstruction at all to marrying a caste Hindu if she succeeds in finding one who is willing (like the famous Barkis)—or to marrying a Christian or a Mahomedan if she does not so succeed.
MESSRS. BHASKARRAO BALKRISHNAJI PITALE AND NANA MOROBA.— We cannot go so far as Mr. Mandlik—but so far as we know, we say, it is only in the higher castes of the Hindu community, that the system of early marriages and widow celibacy prevails. We think, with Mr. Telang, that the majority of widows will not listen to, but actually shun the company of, nay detest, those sympathising philanthropists who volunteer advice to young widows to re-marry-for the sin of re-marriage is deeply engraven at present on their minds.
MR. AMBALAL S. DESAI.-I too can testify that there are mothers and fathers who rather than their widowed daughters: should re-marry would commit suicide.
A HINDU ANTIQUARY—And formerly it was a moot ques-tion whether a re-married widow would in heaven join her first husband or her second ; and such widows were so dearly loved that a special offering used to be made for the purpose of securing their society in the next world. The Atharva Veda says :
When a woman has had one husband before, and gets another, if they present the aja panchaudana offering, they shall not be separated. A second husband dwells in the same world with his re-wedded wife, if he offers the aja panchaudana.”* But now of course the sin of re-marriage is deeply graven on our minds -for it appears the Vedas sanctioned a sinful practice.
A HINDU SOCIAL REFORM MISSIONARY.-You forget, my dear sir, that life in the good old days was extremely enjoyable and the Vedic poets could sing to their Father : “Do thou conduct us to heaven, let us be with our wives and children.”
* Muir's Sauscrit l'exts, Vol. V. p. 306. (3rd Edition.)
Those days are gone, and life has gradually, through our unrighteousness, become such a burden that our highest ideal of bliss is utter extinction.
A HINDU LAWYER.--You are both treading on dangerous ground. I think we might let alone the aja panchaudana—and let alone the widows too for the present-and discuss first of all whether infant marriages in the strict and literal sense of the term prevail among us. • Infant' originally meant, of course, a child not able to speak. But following a physiological theory, the Emperor Theodosius fixed seven years as the period of infancy-and our Penal Code follows his Constitution. The Roman lawyers called a child under seven, an infant, and considered a child under fourteen as puberta proximus and as possessing intelluctus but not judicium, while an adult was supposed to have both intelluctus and judicium-that is understanding as well as discretion.
RAO SAHIB S. H. CHIPLONKAR.-Adopting these useful distinctions, I say, that except in Gujarat and the adjoining Native States, infant marriages are almost unknown ; and even there, they are confined to Kadwa Kanbis only.
PANDIT GATULAL.—I don't know what the Roman or the English law is—but in the Brahma Purana and in the Gautama Mahatamya, it is laid down that, “a father should try his best to perform the marriage of his daughter from the fourth year of her age upwards, till before the completion of the tenth year.” In several other text-books, however, there is a prohibition against the marriage of a girl before the sixth year. My opinion, therefore, is that it is not lawful to marry a girl before that year—but that she should be married after the 8th and before the completion of the 12th year. I regret, however, to find that the institution of child marriage-that is marriage in which the bridegroom and the bride are children, and have not attained the marriageable age-is now prevalent in spite of its being opposed to the Shastras and to reason.
SIR T. MADAVA RAO.—The Panditji, Mr. Chiplonkar, is, as you know, one of the best exponents of conservative Hindu views and, I think, his testimony is not a little strong.
MR. RAMANUJCHARI.—His testimony is as to Bombay. But I can say, sir, that the evil custom of marrying young girls, whose ages range from six months up to twelve years, obtains among all classes of the people, especially among the Brahmins, in Southern India.
MR. NAVALRAM LAKSHMIRAM.* -In Gujarat the common saying, “my children were betrothed while yet in their cradle" is the proud expression of the completely satisfied aspirations of a Gujarati parent. Among Kadwa Kanbis, betrothals are sometimes made before the children are born.
BABU HARI MOHAN CHANDRA.-As to Bengal, I see Mr. Bourdillon says, in the last Census Report: “It may be assumed that no marriages take place during the first quinquennial period. Among that people (i. e. the Hindus) more than 10 boys in every 100, between 5 and 10 years old, are bridegrooms, while of the girls 28 in 100, or more than 1 in 4, are wives or widows at an age, when if they were in Europe, they would be in the nursery or the infant school.
SIR T. MADAVA RAO, I take it that no authoritative Shastra recommends a marriage before the age of tenwhile these figures show that such marriages do take place. Perhaps it will tend to clearness, if we style marriages of infants under seven, 'infant marriages,' and marriages of children under ten, as child marriages.'
MR. GURSHIDAPPA VIRBASAPPA.- This is, I think, good distinction. But my experience is that child marriages are becoming scarce,
MR. S. SUBRAMANIA AIYAR.--I think there is a strong re-action in the minds of the educated classes, and the percentage of such marriages is on the decrease.
* This good man is no more. to speak
The readers may suppose his spirit