The Hindu Joint Family as the Purest Form of Democracy

In the second episode, DVG gives us a captivating and heartwarming portrait of the innate strength of a Hindu joint family system and characterises it as a government of the people in the real sense.
The Hindu Joint Family as the Purest Form of Democracy

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The Hindu Joint Family as the Purest Form of Democracy

LET US CONSIDER ANOTHER TOPIC. This relates to the sundering of the family. Fifty years ago, it was not uncommon to see families comprising about twenty or twenty-five people living under the same roof. This included three or four brothers, their wives and children, grandchildren, sisters, sisters-in-law, and relatives who had lost their homes. I have myself witnessed several families consisting of more than a hundred people living together. These joint families lived under the leadership of a single man. It’s not that these families were bereft of difficulties. But those difficulties have not gone away today either.

However, the nature of the present difficulties is different. The roots of trouble and conflict exist in human nature itself. In those days, there were time-tested methods to resolve these conflicts and troubles. In essence, it was a system of preserving unity. It was a form of democracy—government of the people in the real sense. A life of togetherness.

Of late, that feeling of oneness has melted away and the attitude of individualism is gaining strength. To each his own: this is the dominant current. The strong gets to sit on the terrace. The weak gets the ditch. In this manner, the house that was one is now being divided into multiple portions.

Thus, we have a two-faced government in the same home. This phenomenon shows itself very clearly in the wedding invitation cards in recent times. Twenty-five years ago, the invitation to an auspicious function at our home was sent out only in my father’s name. Because it was assumed that my name was also included in the invite, some of my friends, unacquainted with my father, also showed up for the function. Among them was an elderly gentleman. He was eminent in every sense. He disembarked from the car and I greeted him warmly. He said, “Please go to the car. There’s another person you might want to meet.” It was his wife. She also knew me.

I greeted her, “Please, please come.”

She smiled and said, “But women were not invited!”

I said: “My mother is always present with my father. And we children should all be present wherever they are. My father has sent the invitation on behalf of our entire family to your entire family.”

When she heard this, she said, “You are from an old era.”

Then she stepped into our home, blessed us and left.

Today, the invitation from the husband and the invitation from the wife are separate. This new etiquette is a blind imitation of the Europeans. In that system, there is no sign of the essential unity of the husband and wife. There is every sign of separate, individual personalities. This is supposedly a great marker of male-female equality! In which case, why should the woman accept the Gotra of the husband? Why should she take cover behind his name? Instead of using the address, Mrs. and Mr. Ramanna, why can’t Mr. and Mrs. Sitamma be used? The word “couple” (dampati) is used in the singular: meaning, the wife has merged and become one with the husband and vice versa. This was the sentiment of our ancients.

Now we shall examine another point. In a well-functioning social order, there is opportunity for both of the following Samskaras: individual self-restraint and individual growth. In the life of a married couple, the husband’s personality flowers from earning a livelihood, the wife’s personality blossoms through cooking, caring, and maintaining the all-round hygiene and neatness of the home. In the matters of nurturing and bringing up the children and offering hospitality to guests, both husband and wife merge their individual personalities and become one. This is how the education of both united and individual specialties must progress. The temple is the same for all devotees: the method of namaskarams offered to the Deity differs for each individual.

The opportunity for the practice of this sort of distinct, individual Dharma (Sva-Dharma) is no longer available in the same abundance as it was in the past. The situation at present is one of universal, random heterogeneity. All individual specialties and distinct Rasas are dissolving in the vast sea called society and becoming tasteless. The word of the crowd has assumed sovereign authority even in places where they have no right to be.

Question: “What is the feast that we shall cook today?”

Answer: “Let’s put it to vote.”    

Question: “What is the ragam that we shall request the musician to sing or play?”

Answer: “Let’s put it to vote.”     

Question: “What is the topic of the lecture that we shall organize?”

Answer: “Let’s put it to vote.”   

This is the method of today.

Even in the recent past, the excesses of decision-by-numerical strength was largely absent. This durbar of the crowds has been the consequence of the kind of politics that become the vogue today. To this has been added the “service” rendered through mass production by machines.

To be continued

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