Punjabi - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is considered universal and necessary among all religious communities. Residence is patrilocaL The bride cornes to live with her husband in his natal village and house. Marriages are arranged by parents, with wide consultation. Although there is no formal rule, families who have more than one son who in turn have sons will generally Divide, and just one son and his family will remain with the Parents. If a family has so many sons that its property cannot be divided and still be useful, it is customary in Punjab, particularly among Jats, for some of the sons to remain single and stay in the house with one of the brothers who marries. Dividing the house in marriage has no necessary connection to the division of ancestral property.

Although laws in both Punjabs provide for legally registered marriages, these are seldom used. Marriages generally occur according to customary forms, whether Hindu, Sikh, or Muslim. The ceremonies vary by caste and region, but Generally they symbolically represent the ideal that a marriage is a free gift of the girl from the girl's family to the groom, with nothing taken back in exchange. Expenses of the wedding are borne by the girl's parents, and substantial gifts by way of dowry are given by the parents to the girl to take with her to her new house. They should be enough to provide for her upkeep (or the equivalent of it) for two or three years. By that time, having children will have established her permanently as part of her new household.

There is provision in the customary rituals for de facto divorce. Immediately after the marriage ceremony the girl Returns to her parental home, and she should be fetched by her husband to return. She may refuse. Otherwise, she may in any case come home and refuse to return. The husband's family should then return her property. Once children are born, however, divorce is effectively impossible, since there is no way parental rights or responsibilities can be abrogated or reassigned. The parents' relations to each other are set by their common offspring. On the other hand, if children are not born, the marriage will probably dissolve. Since the only oldage security most people have is that which is provided by descendants who inherit their property and maintain it for them, the groom's family will be forced to send the bride away (although adoption is also common and easy). If sent away, her parents will have an obligation to receive her back, although this will be considered awkward for her brothers and their wives. In any case, from a traditional point of view it will be less a matter of divorce than a matter of the marriage not being completed.

Polygamy is accepted, but rare. There are no organized or legal sanctions against intercaste marriages.


Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is the parivar, as discussed above. A parivar is a group of related people who have a common interest in some ancestral property, which they jointly operate. Ideally and most commonly a parivar will consist of a senior man, his wife, perhaps his aged parents and unmarried brothers or sisters, his children, and some or all of their wives and children. There is no domestic cycle, or a changing sequence of forms for the family as a whole. Rather, the family structure is considered constant, and the members move through it according to their individual life cycles.

Inheritance. As with marriage, Punjabis may choose to be governed in matters of inheritance by custom or by religious laws as formalized in governmental acts: Christian, Hindu, or Muslim. Most follow custom, which varies by caste and/or Region. This commonly makes all males equal sharers of their father's property from birth. If a man has one son, from the birth of that son they each have a half share in whatever was his ancestral property. If a second son is born, they all have a third, and so on. If there are four sons and one dies, all the survivors and the father divide his share equally. If a father sells his son's share or his own while the son is too young to formally agree, the son may, on reaching maturity, preempt the sale and reclaim the land by paying only the original Purchase price.

Women have no birthrights in property, but they have a right to maintenance. In addition, a son's most sacred obligation is considered to be to his mother. For Hindus this idea is embodied in the notion of a sacred cow, worshiped simply Because she is "like" mother. But the basic value is held by Muslims and Sikhs as well. For a son to refuse to care for his mother is almost unthinkable.

Within this general pattern, the customary laws of Different communities differ in the way possible applications or interpretations are ordered. For example, in Hindu law Generally, a son may demand a legal partition and take his share of the ancestral property at any time. In Jat customary law, the division will not take place unless the father agrees to it.


Socialization. Both Punjabs have modern school systems, although Indian Punjab's is more extensive. In 1981 rural Indian Punjab had a literacy rate of 38 percent; Pakistani Punjab had a rate of 17 percent. In addition to public education, each state has extensive religiously sponsored educational institutions. But in both, the main locus of socialization is still the family itself, and the discipline imposed by the knowledge that all family members are also part of a common economic enterprise, on which they are mutually dependent. Girls are trained in their economic tasks by accompanying their mothers; boys, after about age 5, accompany their fathers.

The different religious communities have various Concepts of initiation to adulthood, but there is no general Punjabi concept as such.


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