Tamil - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Marriages are arranged by elders, ideally by a sister and brother for their respective son and daughter. A girl is technically able to marry soon after the ceremony of her first menstruation, but now her marriage may be postponed a few years, and boys often do not marry until their twenties. The marriage is performed by a Brahman priest or by a caste priest in the home of the bride. Her family bears expenses and provides a modest dowry, though in some castes there is more bride-wealth given than dowry. Recently among educated classes the expectation of dowry has vastly increased, in line with the costs of education and the presumed benefits of the marriage for the girl and her family. Ideally a married couple sets up its own house, usually in the boy's village, but if necessary they may move in with the boy's or alternatively the girl's family until this is possible. Marriage is a religious ceremony and only a few register it with the state. Divorce is quite difficult for higher castes with strict social expectations, but separation and new alliances or marriages are common among castes whose prestige is not so damaged thereby. Widow remarriage is forbidden or rare among castes having Brahmanic values, but not among lower castes.

Domestic Unit. The average household size is five to six people, with preference for an extended nuclear family. It is not unusual for an old person or couple to live alone, especially if they have few assets. Occasionally there are joint families when there is land or a business to keep intact. Most Influential families also have a live-in servant or servant family. When Tamil men migrate to a city for work, they try to take their wives and children along, so there is not a severe deficit of females in Tamil cities, but this means that urbanized Families find their rural roots weakening.

Inheritance. Under Tamil Hindu tradition, sons divide the land because they may live by cultivating it, and daughters get the mother's gold and jewels either as dowry or as Inheritance, but there are many exceptions and people can arrange their own wills.

Socialization. Tamils are a child-friendly society, and they socialize children so that they grow up with a firm sense of well-being. There is less tension than in many societies, and hospitality is often genuine. Men and women play with small children easily, pass them around, and may take in relatives' children temporarily or even adopt them. Several male gods have important child forms whose pictures are in houses everywhere, and Tamil literature creates abundant images of children. Toilet training is early and seemingly natural, with little use of diapers. The first rice is fed at about 6 months, and weaning is sudden after a year or so. Giving of food is important in relationships, and a mother may feed rice with her hand to a child up to the age of 6 or more. Adults frequently treat children with benevolent deceit and verbal ambiguity, and within the dynamic family context the child learns a wide range of verbal and emotional expression and body language. Children of school age are occasionally punished by tweaking of the ear or beatings given by the father. Girls are expected to help in household work as soon as they are able, and boys not in school may do agricultural activities or herd animals from about age 10. Most villages have their own elementary schools, and many now have middle schools also, so most children now become literate. There are no initiation rites Except for high-caste boys at the time they put on the Brahmanic sacred thread. Girls have an important life-stage Ceremony at the time of their first menstruation; a feast is given to relatives and friends, who bring presents. At this time the girl puts on a sari and is technically marriageable. This ceremony is found associated with the Dravidian kinship and marriage system.


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