Kin Groups and Descent. The Dravidian kinship system with its preference for cross-cousin marriage has been the subject of wide anthropological theorizing. The household is linked by a network of kin alliances established through Marriage within the caste. Fictitious exogamous clans ( gotras ) are found in only a few Brahmanized castes. Lineage depth Beyond three generations is not important in most families. Most Indian Tamils are patrilineal and patrilocal, though the Dravidian system equally accommodates matrilineal descent as among some Sri Lanka Tamils, including Muslims, and some castes in Kerala. But patriliny is less strong than in north India, and matrilateral links remain important. A woman is expected to go to her natal home for childbirth, Especially for the first child, and may remain there for a few months for nurturance and to gain confidence and training in infant care.
Kinship Terminology. For a male, all females are classified as sister (or parallel cousin, unmarriageable) or as female cross cousin (marriageable). The preferred marriage for a male is generally to his mother's brother's daughter, while in some groups his father's sister's daughter and his own elder's sister's daughter are also quite acceptable, as are more distant cognates classifiable as female cross cousins. Kin terms are few compared with north Indian languages; for example, māman is wife's father/father-in-law, mother's brother (who may be the same person), and father of any female cross cousin or anyone so classified. For a man, makan is own son, brother's son, and son's male parallel cousin. Terms distinguish between elder and younger siblings, or those so classified, and between some elder and younger siblings of the Parents, or those so classified. Some classical scholars tried to force explanations in terms of the north Indian system and Indo-Aryan languages, in which the bride's family is wife giver and hypergamy is built-in, but this misses the essence of the Dravidian system. About half of Tamil marriages now are Between such kin, but the categories are so strongly maintained in the language that the kinship pattern is imposed on all interpersonal relations. This has been structurally analyzed by anthropologists. Louis Dumont sees it as essentially a matter of affinities established by marriage, in which women are Exchanged among families that define the kin network; this has political and economic implications. Others see it as essentially a system of marriage rules that is an ideal or a mental representation. Still others have tried to explain it in terms of heritable body substances and biological ideas. The system has also been analyzed in terms of Freudian psychology: a man will want a marriage union enabling him to continue the warmth and protection of his mother, namely, through his mother's brother together with his daughter. For Tamils, as Thomas Trautman and others show, the whole conceptual structure is as much in the language as in the actual behavior. A recent approach proposed by Margaret Trawick is that the pattern itself is something like an art form that is perpetuated as any form of expressive culture; moreover, it creates longings that can never be fulfilled, and so it becomes a web of unrelieved tensions and an architecture of conflicting desires that are fundamental in the interpersonal relationships of Tamils.