Bhil - Kinship

Kin Groups and Descent. Within each 32- to 40-kilometer radius, the limits of a tribal and dialectal boundary, the Bhil are divided into ataks (clans), patrilineal exogamous descent groups. Clans are led by chiefs who have paramount power in matters concerning the clan or caste. These clans may be segmented, with each portion distributed among similar divisions of other clans over a wide area. A process of fission appears to be quite actively involved, resulting in dispersion of the polysegmentary clans. Clanship appears to have practically no regional or corporate function. The structural importance of clanship is limited, apparently, to serving as guidelines for determining the extent of exogamy as well as for purposes of identification in reckoning descent. Within the clans are generally vicinage-based nal, or lineages, that are corporate in character. Disputes between members of the lineage are resolved by male elders of the lineage who also control activities within the group. In theory, the lineage Reserves residual rights to its members' property. Examples of both cognitive and unilineal descent systems occur among the Bhils. Males always belong to their father's joint or extended family, lineage, clan, and village. Upon marriage into a lineage, women are assumed into their husband's kinship group.

Kinship Terminology. Among the Bhils of the Ratanmal hill area of Vadodara District in Gujarat, kinship terminology is classificatory. A man's relatives fall into at least one of four categories: (1) his patrilineage, (2) other cognatic kinsmen, descended from women of his lineage, which include his Father's sister as well as his own sister, (3) his haga, or wife's relatives now related to him by marriage, and (4) his hagasambandhi, a term for those not directly related to him who are cognatically or affinally related to his immediate relatives. In the Panch Mahals and Sabar Kantha districts of Gujarat, descriptive kinship terms also occur for such categories as grandfather (the older father or aged father) and grandmother (the older mother or aged mother), for whom there are no classificatory names. The Bhils in the former state of Rajpipla (now Nandod taluk of Bharuch District, Gujarat) and in West Khandesh, Dhule District, Maharashtra, reflective of preferential cross-cousin marriage, have one term, mama, by which they refer to their father's sister's husband or mother's brother.

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