Santal - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. The Santals are divided into 12 clans and 164 subclans. They are patrilineal and strictly endogamous; their principal function is ceremonial and referential. The clans ( paris ) are ranked according to old functional divisions: the Kisku were kings, the Murmu priests, etc. There is an allusion to mythical wars between clans, ending in a ban on intermarriage. The ranking of clans is reflected in a slight tendency to hypergamy. Subclan hierarchy is expressed in terms of senior/junior distinctions as well as pure/impure; subclan identities focus on modes of sacrifice. On the village level, the local descent group is of major organizational importance. Here genealogical knowledge extends backward for only three to four generations. In some areas, there is a tendency for certain clans to intermarry unilaterally over several generations, forming a marriage alliance, but this practice never assumes the form of prescriptive marriage. Of greater importance, however, is the principle of alternate generations, which explains a whole range of joking and avoidance relationships. Politically, kinship is overshadowed by the functions of local chiefs and priests.

Kinship Terminology. The two main principles of the terminology are the distinctions between consanguine relatives and between affines. In address, there is a merging of all cousins into the sibling category. Despite the lack of a clear prescriptive alliance system, there is a tendency to marry the classificatory mother's brother daughter. The most distinctive Munda feature of the system is the alternation of generation (which recalls very clearly the Australian tribes). There is a slight tendency to have clan hypergamy—possibly a result of Hindu influence.


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