- Dr. K. Veeramani
Roughly a couple of years back, a Memorandum of Understanding signed with a centuries – old University of Cologne enabled us, myself as Chancellor of Periyar Maniammai University and the Vice-Chancellor who accompanied me to effect a visit to the west of Germany in the first week of June 2014. This varsity had been started in 1340. After a gap during the French invasion in Germany, it began to work again and continued to flourish till date.
The plane that we boarded at Chennai on the 2nd of June landed at Frankfurt at 6.30 pm. German Time. Madam Prof. Dr.Ulrike Niklas, Department of South Asian Studies and Indology and Mr. Sven Owrtmann of Indology and Tamil Studies received us at the airport.
The ancient city of Cologne was at a distance of 250 kilometers which we travelled in almost a non-stop superfast express train and reached the city in about 45 minutes. The only brief halt was at the city of Bonn for a few minutes, in between. Hotel Ibis in Cologne accommodated us.
On the forenoon of the next day, the 3rd June, we were taken in a tram car around the university, located in a very sprawling campus. Paid a courtesy call to Prof. Dr. Stefan Grohe, Dean of the University who evinced an interest in mutual understanding between the two universities and the need for fostering an academic relationship. A few English books on Periyar and the brochures of Periyar Maniammai University, we presented to him.
At about 5 pm on the 3rd June, we went to a century – old Rauten strauch – Joset Museum, Neumarkt. Our visit coincided with a Germanic – India Friendly Week celebrated in collaboration with Cologne University. In a meeting arranged in the Museum Hall, I spoke on Dravidian Movement and about the Rationalistic Thoughts of Thanthai Periyar. This was my first meeting to an audience of young men, students and the general public. At the outset, Ruth. E. Heap, Director of the Indo-German Council welcomed us and Prof. Niklas introduced us to the audience.
My lecture to that mixed audience was in fact a power point presentation – about 15 minutes on Periyar Maniammai University with a reference to PURA, (Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas) and about 45 minutes on the life of Periyar, his services, policies, thoughts and his humanism. More than 30 minutes I took to answer a lot of queries from the audience. Madam Ruth Heap happily conveyed her thanks and informed pleasantly that the information disseminated was thought-provoking and versatile.
At about 11am on the 4th of June, I took pleasure in conducting a Self-Respect marriage in the campus of the Cologne University. Both Rahulan, the groom a photographic expert and Olivia Mariadoss of the Department of Indology are Jaffna Tamils. It was a simple function with two florid garlands for the couple to exchange.
About forty Sri Lankan Tamils and a sprinkling of German students attended the marriage and wished the couple a happy and harmonious life. Assuming that alien conservatives would raise their eyebrow on conducting the wedding deliberately in a very unceremonious way at an inauspicious hour, I spoke at length that similar self-respect marriages are conducted all over the world. That is legally approved in Malaysia and Singapore, next to India.
Those who witnessed such marriage for the first time were openly expressed their happiness. This wide appreciation came from two Brahmins among those who attended from Germany. I took a leaf from my own life to say that my marriage was performed at Trichy, Tamil Nadu State without any priest on the evening of a Sunday in 1958 in the most unholy hour as per Indian almanac.
But nothing untoward happened in my life. In Cilappatikaram, a well-known Tamil epic, Kovalan’s marriage with Kannagi was performed ceremoniously before blazing fire but life for that couple was highly miserable. So time and tide have nothing to do with the performance of a marriage. All the ceremonies were simply a make-believe of the professional purohits, I added.
At 4 pm on the 4th of June, I gave a lecture to an exclusive academic audience of about forty in the university on ‘The Impact of Anti-Hindi Agitation’. This was followed by an inter-action with gathering for about 35 minutes until 5.45 pm.
Our train journey from Cologne to Rwth Aachen University was on the 5th of June. Along with us accompanied were received at Aachen by Prof. H.N. Chatterjee and Public relations official Mr. Andson.
Self Respect Marriage was conducted at the campus of Cologne University
They have honored us by handing over two silver keys of the university as a token of appreciable camaraderie. They have apprised us of their mega scheme of combining all the faculties of their university in one and same place somewhere around 2023. There is every likelihood of forging further ties with this technically-rich university. The same day evening we returned to Cologne.
On 6th June, in the Tamil Department of Cologne University, a get-together on ‘Dravidian History and Anti-Hindi Campaign’ took place. The programme went on for about an hour. Not only the members of the department but senior academicians from various other departments also took part and evinced a lot of interest in putting forth questions relevant.
When I recollect the one-week tour of Deutsch land in June 2014, I cannot but recall and remember that in the same June but of 1932, my mentor Thanthai Periyar E. V. Ramasamy (1879-1973) visited that country. Our visit proved to be remarkable opportunity to recollect and express what all our Patriarch Periyar has done to establish rationalism and humanism. The path he laid we strongly establish as it is our bounden duty.
Our humble achievement can even be listed out as follows:
i. Foreign universities evince an interest to know and study about Thanthai Periyar
ii. Is not the Self-Respect wedding at Germany, a remarkable victory for our anti-communal and anti-religious policy?
iii. A historic silent revolution has been done in Germany by turning a new chapter to disseminate on Dravidian ancientry with a special emphasis on the humanistic campaign of Thanthai Periyar. This is in a place where the Sanskrit had been once pre-dominantly celebrated.
iv. The following of concord of Periyar International in Germany.
v. More than everything, the German Professor of Indology’s ardent desire to introduce Certificate and Diploma Courses on Periyar Thoughts in Cologne University .
What more jubilant hour we need other than these appreciable and admirable sequence of events in the Deutsch land of European continent?