[Advaita-l] On sagotra Marriages

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Mon Jun 20 15:48:48 CDT 2011

If I am Kashyapa, I will :)

On 20/06/2011, Venkatesh Murthy <vmurthy36 at gmail.com> wrote:
> Namaste
> But there is one problem nowadays. If someone does not know his Gotra
> he can say he is from Kashyapa Gotra. Possible situation is bridegroom
> and bride do not know the Gotra.  Both will say Kashyapa Gotra. It
> becomes Sagotra. Will you prohibit the marriage?
> On Mon, Jun 20, 2011 at 7:55 PM, Vidyasankar Sundaresan
> <svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:
>>> Prohibition of Sagotra marriages is one such rule allowing for
>>> flexibility.Basically there were sagotra marriages performed as families
>>> were restricted to Agraharas and there was not much of movement from
>>> place
>>> to place. Sagotra marriages were causing both mental and physical damage
>>> to
>>> the offspring. This was realised and then sagotra marriages were
>>> prohibited.
>> Statements such as these need to be backed up with historical data. Or at
>> least with incidents and anecdotes related in mythology that could
>> indicate
>> a historical progression of allowing sa-gotra unions to prohibiting
>> sa-gotra
>> marriages. A few 19th century and early 20th century writers held such a
>> view, which is being mindlessly parroted by some today. e.g.
>> http://www.hindubooks.org/sudheer_birodkar/hindu_history/practices2.html,
>> which says "the rigid injunction against marriage within a Gotra itself
>> implies
>> that once the practice of marrying within one Gotra must have existed." If
>> this is the strongest argument that can be offered, it is extremely weak
>> indeed. Prohibiting theft doesn't indicate that stealing was ever a social
>> norm. Yes, some people steal, but that would have never been acceptable
>> to other people in a society, no matter how primitive or how ancient. In a
>> similar way, yes, some marriages probably occured between members of
>> the same gotra in the distant past. But to describe it as the ancient norm
>> is completely unsound, from all possible angles, whether from the ritual
>> perspective within Vedism/Brahminism/Hinduism or from a modern social
>> studies perspective of sociology or anthropology. I wish Indians in this
>> day
>> and age learned a little bit more of critical methodology from
>> contemporary
>> Western academia when studying and describing their own ancient heritage.
>> For example, take the other rarely commented upon prohibition that is
>> commonly observed in south Indian society. Why is it that the children
>> born
>> to two sisters cannot marry each other? They would, by definition be of
>> different gotra-s, unless both sisters had been married to men of the same
>> gotra. And south Indian custom is not so strict about sa-piNDa
>> prohibitions,
>> seeing as how a man could wed his maternal uncle's daughter or a paternal
>> aunt's daughter. But nowhere is it seen in south India that a man could
>> marry his mother's sister's daughter. To understand the historical, social
>> and cultural reasons for such customs needs a nuanced and critical eye,
>> rather than repeating tired old theories postulated a century or so ago
>> and making unwarranted conclusions.
>> That said,
>>> However over a period of time people( of same gotra -say ) started to
>>> migrate to far off places. For example a family with Gotra Kaundinya in
>>> Vizag can not link with a family of Kaundina in Guntur even after going
>>> back
>>> in to the past( say- five to six generations) . The basic presumption for
>>> prohibiting sagotra marriage may not hold good in the above case. It may
>>> be
>>> noted that this concept of generations is taken up by ancestors for
>>> allowing
>>> other type of marriages( Sapinda.. ) . If this is so it is more than
>>> possible to permit Sagotra marriages by applying this concept of looking
>>> back for three or more generations .
>> there may be some contemporary incentive to really understand and get
>> to the roots of the do-s and dont-s in cases such as you describe. On the
>> other hand, the Indian population is vast. If a prospective bride and
>> groom
>> have made up their own minds to marry and happen to be from the same
>> gotra, that is a different question. It would be more honest, as suggested
>> by other list members, for all the individuals involved to acknowledge
>> that
>> this is a problematic issue from the SAstric perspective and to take a
>> principled stand about how to deal with it. But if a wedding is to be
>> arranged
>> in a traditional way and conducted with the traditional religious
>> ceremonies,
>> is the eligible sample so limited as to have to choose a match within the
>> same gotra?
>>> It is high time that we do away with static interpretation of certain
>>> principles, Dharmas when inherently they imply flexible applications with
>>> changing times.
>>> May be we discuss sub item in true spirit without resorting to quoting
>>> scriptures and others but based on related scientific principles.
>> I think it is hypocritical to call for flexible interpretation of dharma
>> in one
>> breath and follow it up with request not to quote scripture. You can't do
>> any sort of interpretation, static or dynamic, rigid or flexible, without
>> quoting relevant chapter and verse first. I wonder what you mean by "do
>> away" with a static interpretation in this regard. Are you expecting one
>> of the Sankaracharyas to come up with a proclamation that says gotra
>> considerations will henceforth be irrelevant for marriage? Given that a
>> Sankaracharya title seems to have become all too common nowadays,
>> you may even find someone prepared to make such a proclamation. The
>> question is, what force or validity will it have?
>> The truth is that it is only in the various offshoots of Vedic culture
>> that we
>> have never insisted on rigidity and static application of principles. The
>> very fact that we have a vast diversity of customs and traditions, while
>> quoting the same basic sets of SAstric texts means that over the
>> centuries,
>> a variety of flexible applications and dynamic interpretations were made
>> and indeed accepted. If one does not want to quote scripture and/or give
>> due weight to precedent from a legal/cultural/social/historical
>> perspective
>> when it comes to marriages, then there are numerous other valid options
>> in contemporary society to  proceed with a marriage. For example, a civil
>> marriage registered legally bypasses the entire sagotra issue.
>> Regards,
>> Vidyasankar
>> ps. Although this topic is getting far away from the focus of this list,
>> there
>> seems to be some usefulness in discussing basic attitudes towards reason
>> and revelation/custom/tradition. Inasmuch as that may help critical
>> thinking
>> towards the role of reason and revelation/custom/tradition in the
>> philosophy
>> of advaita vedAnta, this thread may be okay. If it wanders too far afield,
>> the
>> moderators of this list (Ravisankar Mayavaram, Jaldhar Vyas and I) will
>> have
>> to draw a line and say thus far and no further.
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> --
> Regards
> -Venkatesh
> _______________________________________________
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