Kota - Marriage and Family
Marriage. One cannot marry parallel cousins—that is, mother's sister's children or father's brother's children—because they are classificatory brothers and sisters. And Because ke-rs are patrilineal and patrilocal units, this means Kotas are generally forbidden to marry anyone born in their natal ke-r. Kotas, like most communities in south India, prefer marriages between close cross cousins; but because most marriages are not arranged, young people have some leeway in choosing acceptable partners from other ke-rs or from other Kota villages. Traditionally the boy asks the girl's father for permission to marry. The father must ask his daughter whether she wishes to marry the boy, and if so, the boy must give a token 1.25 rupees to the father. Nowadays the girl's family may give money or goods to the married couple, but dowry is not part of the traditional system. In fact the entire ceremony is very simple. Unlike most south Indian Communities music is not played, except to welcome the wedding party to the village. Some Kotas now host large receptions and broadcast film music to celebrate their weddings, but this is acknowledged to be a recent innovation.
Each of the three ke-rs or "streets" in each Kota village is exogamous. A man may marry a second wife if the first wife does not bear sons. In earlier days polyandry was also practiced. A bride generally moves to the ke-r of her husband, but now houses are being built in other ke-rs or even outside the confines of the ke-rs in a village, and a number of Kotas live in other Indian cities. In these situations patrilocality loses its relevance. If a husband dies, a young widow may sometimes remain in the household of or live with support from her husband's family. Divorce is common and no stigma is attached to it. Sometimes a divorced wife will live alone and sometimes she will remarry. Usually the children remain in the father's family and custody.
Domestic Unit. Three generations sometimes live in the same house, especially if the house is big enough. But more commonly today, a young couple will move into a house of their own. The youngest son is likely to remain in the Household of his parents because he inherits the house when his Father dies (ultimogeniture). Four to five persons to a house is a probable average.
Inheritance. Land and property are usually divided evenly among a man's sons or specified male or female heirs, but the youngest son inherits the house.
Socialization. Women give birth either in a hospital or in a special hut called kunpay. The child is named about ten days after birth. This ceremony, which is considered in some ways more important than a marriage, is attended by the whole Village and relatives from other villages. An elder tells the child his or her name while feeding it water and a few crumbs of cooked millet ( ta-ym ayk ). Then a lock of the baby's hair is placed in leaves and cow dung and the whole thing is tossed away. Head shaving is another rite of initiation. At the age of 16 all but a tuft ( kot ) of hair is shaved off a boy's head, and all but a rim ( mungot ) of hair is shaved from a girl's scalp. Ear piercing of several boys and girls of different ages usually occurs in the context of other festivals such as those honoring Hindu deities. Tattooing was a traditional practice, which, along with head shaving, is uncommon among modern Kotas. Children attend school from the age of about 6 to the age of 16, although an increasing number of men and women are completing higher studies. Young children usually stay around the village with their parents, relatives, or neighbors and help with household work when they are old enough. As marriages are not arranged, boys and girls are given some leeway to develop friendships, which may later develop into Marriage. In the 1930s there were still special youth houses called erm pay where young married and unmarried couples would sing, play music, tell stories, and become intimate with one another. Such houses are not in evidence today. Families living outside the seven villages maintain strong links with their village and the children of these families continue to learn the Kota language as a first language and Tamil as a second. Although Kota lullabies are sung to children there are no special Kota songs children themselves sing. Like many other Indian children they like to sing popular Tamil and Hindi songs and imitate film actors; their games include those common to the subcontinent and uniquely Kota games; some games are played only during particular festivals.