Faced with a problem of suitable brides, Thamizhnadu Brahmin Association to cast net in UP and Bihar.
As more than 40,000 young Tamil Brahmin men are finding it difficult to find brides within the state, the Tamil Nadu-based association for Brahmins has launched a special drive to look for suitable matches belonging to the same community in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
"We have launched a special movement on behalf of our Sangam," said Thamizhnadu Brahmin Association (Thambraas) president N Narayanan in an open letter published in the association's monthly Tamil magazine's November issue.
Quoting rough estimates, Narayanan said more than 40,000 Tamil Brahmin men, in the age group of 30-40, could not get married as they are unable to find brides from within Tamil Nadu.
Giving a ballpark figure, he said, "If there are 10 Brahmin boys in the marriageable age group, only six girls are available in the marriageable age group in Tamil Nadu."
The association chief, in his letter said coordinators would be appointed in Delhi, Lucknow and Patna to take forward the initiative.
Asked about it, Narayanan said a person who can read, write and speak in Hindi would be appointed at the association's headquarters in Chennai to perform the coordination role.
The Thambraas chief told PTI that he is in touch with people in Lucknow and Patna, adding the initiative is practicable. "I have commenced work in this regard," he said.
While several Brahmin people welcomed the move, there were also other views from within the community.
An educationist, M Parameswaran, said, "Though enough number of Tamil Brahmin girls are not available in the marriageable age group, that is not the one and only reason for boys not being able to find brides."
He wondered why parents of prospective bridegrooms expect 'pomp and show' in weddings.
"Why parents of boys want marriages to be held in swanky marriage halls? What stops them from conducting marriage in a simple fashion? Why not in a temple or at home?” he asked.
The 'Mahaperiyava' preached simplicity in every walk of life and advised people to not use silk cloth, Parameswaran said.
Mahaperiyava, Mahaswami and Paramacharya are reverential references to late Shankaracharya, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi (1894-1994), the 68th pontiff of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, also known as Shankara Math.
Parameswaran said the girl's family has to bear the entire expenditure of conducting the wedding and it is the bane of the Tamil Brahmin community.
"Big, fat weddings have become a status symbol and it is very unfortunate. The community must choose progression and reject retrogression." he said.
"Even in this day and age, Tamil Brahmin marriages stretch to two to three days, which includes the reception, and other pre and post wedding ceremonies."
The total expenditure, including jewellery, rent for marriage hall, spendings on food and gifts would easily work out to at least Rs 12-15 lakh these days, he said.
"Undoubtedly, this is a huge economic burden for the bride's family. While some will be spending their life time savings, others will be debt ridden for the rest of their lives."
"Here, we are not talking about those who can afford to spend. The problem is, such wealthy people are setting a benchmark and the society wants it to be emulated even by people who cannot afford it. The worst hit are the middle class, the lower middle class and poor Brahmins."
"I personally know poor Brahmin families struggling for years to mop up funds for the marriage of their daughters. If well to do people are ready to discard their ego, they can find brides in Tamil Nadu. Only then can they claim to be followers of dharma as enunciated by our sages and scriptures."
The solution lies in being progressive and marriage ceremonies should be absolutely simple in sync with the times, Parameswaran said and pointed out that some customs, though do not have express religious sanction, are continued that cause practical difficulties.
Parameswaran has served in educational institutions in southern and western parts of the country.
A Ajay, a young man on the lookout for a bride, said, "It is now not uncommon to see Tamil-Telugu Brahmin marriages or weddings between Kannada speaking Madhwas and Tamil speaking Smarthas. Something like this is unimaginable several decades ago."
"Already, we have seen arranged marriages between north Indian and Tamil Brahmins," he said.
Madhwa Brahmins are a Vaishnavite sect and followers of Sri Madhwacharya. Smarthas, also known as 'Iyers' in Tamil Nadu accept worship of all deities and are followers of Sri Adi Sankara.
A Vaishnavite Tamil Brahmin, who did not want to be named said, "Years ago, even marriages between Thenkalai and Vadakalai sects in the Iyengar community was impossible. Today, it is happening and this move of the association is welcome."