The more the Merrier

When Dharmendra wanted to wed Hema Malini, which was illegal as he already had a wife, he took recourse to convert to Islam which allowed him to have more than one wives.  If you are affluent, you can circumvent any obstacle and do whatever you want to do. The original woman did not have the courage to oppose and was resigned to her fate. These type of social aberrations occur regularly but go unreported unless the person involved is a celebrity. There are arguments for and against for this kind of behavior but such stories provide the entertainment and public is always eager for such stories. The interest wanes as soon as the new story breaks out.

This is not new to Indian subcontinent. In the mythology, Kings invariably had many wives. In addition to these, many of them kept many women in the harems for their carnal pleasures. Everyone is aware of the hundreds of keeps of a particular King of Patiala. Arjuna had many wives in addition to Draupadi. Affluent people try to emulate them though they have to manipulate the things and pull the strings at the higher echelons. It must be emphasized that the roles of every class in the society was clearly demarcated. No one could do what the King wanted to do.

But what about those who are supposed to be the lodestars and guides for the public which elects them to govern the country. For example in South India, many men have more than one wives.  For example, Suryanarayana had two wives became public only after his murder in Afghanistan, but the revelation isn’t surprising in Andhra Pradesh, indeed in most of south India.

In Tamil Nadu, bigamy is commonly accepted and has a term reserved for it. It is called Chinna veedu, which translates roughly to “Small Home” or the second home. And it is rampant despite being as illegal and is an age old tradition.

In the case of ruling politicians, the state has to provide security cover at the main house as well as at the Chinna Veedu.It may not be surprising that the politicians stop at only two. They are entitled to enjoy at the cost of public expenses. After all it is not theirs but public’s fault to elect them and empower them for 5 years at least.

All the great personalities like late M G Ramachandran, or M Karunanidhi, they have all had it, and flaunted it. Karunanidhi has married at least three women, the first of whom is dead.

The DMK chief now divides his time in the houses of both wives – spending mornings at the Gopalapuram residence with Dayaluammal while moving to the house of his other wife, Rajathiammal, at CIT Nagar in Chennai in the afternoons.

Another towering Tamil actor, Gemini Ganesan, married five times while his first wife was alive. The Chinna veedu concept is fairly common in Krishnagiri and Salem districts of TN, where males believe in more the merrier.

Actor-director K Bhagyaraj even made a Tamil movie called Chinna Veedu.

At least one top Union minister from Tamil Nadu is known to have two wives and so does a senior DMK official, who married his daughter’s classmate. An academic said, “The social sanction for two wives can be traced to religion and mythology. Lord Muruga, for instance, had two wives.”

In Andhra, bigamy doesn’t have the traditional sanction it enjoys in TN, but the practice is fairly widespread among the powerful and even a status symbol.

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