Kin Groups and Descent. The Irula form an endogamous caste with twelve exogamous patricians (in Sanskrit gotras, in Tamil kulams )—Devanan (or Thevanan or Devala), Kalkatti, Koduvan (or Kodugar), Kuppan (or Koppilingam), Kurunagan, Ollaga, Peratha, Porigan, Pungan (or Poongkaru), Samban (or Chamban), Uppigan (or Uppali), and Vellagai (or Vellai)—and a clan represented by the thudai tree ( Ilex denticulata ). Nevertheless, because members of a patrician cannot marry members in one or more "brother" patricians, there are exogamous patrician units among the Irula.
The overall size of these units varies from one area to another. Thus, the Irula kinship system is similar to the one that dominates in southern India. In addition, the Irula have a system whereby each patrician is affiliated with a friendship patrician whose members help when an event, typically a rite of passage, requires cooperative effort. The ideal marriage among the Irula is of a female with her father's sister's son (i.e., a male with the mother's brother's daughter). Also in conformity with the acceptable Dravidian norm, an Irula male should not marry the mother's sister's daughter. An Irula male may also marry his elder or younger sister's daughter, but this practice exhibits a departure from the Dravidian system, in which a male cannot marry his younger sister's daughter (the Irula do not differentiate between the two sisters).
Kinship Terminology. All near relatives are spoken of in terms of being older or younger in age than the person concerned, and generation thus plays a secondary role.