Marriage. The favored marriage partner is a cross cousin, preferably a father's sister's daughter, or else a mother's brother's daughter. But other, more distant relatives are acceptable, provided clan exogamy is observed. Beyond this the Badagas have what are, for Hindus, some unusual regulations. Most remarkable perhaps is that hypogamy is as acceptable as hypergamy; marriages may occur between couples coming from certain clans of different status, yet in these cases it does not matter whether the groom is from the higher or the lower clan. Generation level is recognized as a distinguishing feature of men alone; women may change their Generation levels if they marry successive husbands belonging to different generations. It is even theoretically possible for a man to marry a woman and her daughter and granddaughter simultaneously, provided he does not thereby marry his own offspring. All three wives would thus attain the generation level of their cohusband. Gerontogamy—old men taking young wives—is not at all uncommon. Although a dowry has become a requirement during the past few years, it is not a traditional part of the Badaga marriage arrangements. Instead a bride-wealth of up to 200 rupees was, and still is, paid by the groom's family. This sum does not purchase the girl but is payment for the ornaments she brings with her to the Wedding, and hence it has increased over the years with the price of gold. Every Badaga village belongs to one particular clan or another and hence is exogamous: at marriage a bride has to leave her natal village and move to her husband's. Polygyny is acceptable, though not nearly as common as monogamy. The newly married couple always takes up residence in the husband's natal village, either under his father's roof in a Patrilocal extended family, or in a new house built nearby. It is very common for them to sleep in a small room built on the veranda of the father's house until the first child comes, when they make arrangements to get their own house. Although a young wife may repeatedly visit her own parents for short periods, especially to give birth, the married couple never live with them. Divorce and remarriage are easy for men, even for women, and are acceptable practices. Widows can remarry without adverse comment. Divorce is quite common, with the children and all property belonging to the husband.
Domestic Unit. Both nuclear and extended families occur, but the small size of the houses places restrictions on large extended families. They usually split up once the patriarch of the family has died. A nuclear family may often include a mother or close collateral relative who is widowed. Although household servants are now rare, until about fifty years ago there were indentured children from poor Badaga homes working as domestic serfs.
Inheritance. Property is impartible until the owner's death, and then the land can be divided equally between his male heirs, normally his sons. Although an agreement on the partition of the land may be written down and signed by the beneficiaries, there are still many disputes over the Inheritance of land. The general principles of inheritance are: male heirs should divide the land and cattle equally among themselves, or, alternatively, they should maintain them as a joint property if they continue to be a joint household; females do not inherit anything; and the family's home goes to the youngest brother among the heirs. This latter practice of ultimogeniture allows the widowed mother of those heirs to be housed and cared for by a younger and hopefully vigorous son. If a wealthy man leaves other houses too, these are Divided up among his other sons. In poorer families the house is somehow partitioned among the sons and their wives, but the youngest son is nonetheless the owner and has to be compensated by them for the space they use. Headmanship of a Village or group of villages is hereditary, and it passes from one incumbent (before or after his death) to his brother and then to the eldest son of the deceased man. Some household articles or money may be given to a wife or daughters by a dying man, at his request.
Socialization. Babies are breast-fed for a year, then weaned on solid food; in fact they begin eating boiled rice at 3 to 5 months. For about a century children have gone to local schools, from the age of 6. Younger children usually stay near home during the day, even though their parents may be out working in the fields. Grandparents and other elders stay in the village to mind and educate the small children. In later years the children help with housework and cultivation when needed and when school obligations permit. The main childhood ceremonies are naming (before the fortieth day), head shaving, ear boring, starting at school, nostril piercing, milking initiation (for boys at age 7 or 9), and girls' puberty rites. Tattooing (formerly done on girls) is no longer practiced.