Chitpavan Brahman - Kinship, Marriage and Family



The Chitpavan caste contains fourteen gotras (kin groups based on a mythical ancestor), which play a role chiefly in determining marriage patterns. One may not marry within one's gotra or with someone from an "unfriendly" gotra. Outside marriage, the most important unit is the household family, and in addition to that the kula, an exogamous clan usually based on a family name, is important. A most unusual feature of the caste are family histories, called kula-vrittantas in Marathi, each based on a clan name such as Limaye, Karandikar, Bapat, etc. Originally 60 (according to the Sahyadri Khanda —see above), there are now about 400 last names. Since 1914, fifty-five books covering the histories of forty-seven kulas (and involving in total 80 surnames) have been published, offering an unusual opportunity to study changes in occupation and location, the nature of household gods, the marriage patterns, etc. of these Chitpavan families. It is perhaps significant that no genealogy in the kula-vrittantas traces ancestors to a time before the Chitpavans appeared in the historical records around 1700.

In contrast to most Maharashtrian and south Indian castes, a Chitpavan may not marry his maternal uncle's daughter, and cross-cousin marriages are not usually allowed. Chitpavans have been freer than other Brahman castes to marry outside their caste, and many have married into other high-caste groups; occasionally Chitpavan men have married Western women.


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