Toda - Marriage and Family

Marriage. In Toda terms "marriage" must be defined as an alliance by which a female of any age, preferably a mother's brother's daughter or father's sister's daughter, is incorporated into the patrician of a male, who is thereafter considered her husband, whether or not they live together. Marriages are negotiated and initiated usually before the partners are 2 or 3 years old and are completed at maturity, when the husband takes his wife from her home to his own hamlet. In ritual terms the children are as truly married as the adults. Traditionally, Toda practiced fraternal polyandry, younger brothers becoming cohusbands to the eldest's wife. Now abandoned, polyandry was necessary because of the sexual imbalance caused by female infanticide (also abandoned long ago). Some Toda, usually the wealthy older men, take a Second or third wife. In the past this could result in two or more brothers sharing two or more wives. Some polygynous unions still exist among Toda, but monogamy is now the norm and, for most younger Toda, the ideal as well. Another consequence of the past shortage of women is the continuing institution of "marriage by capture," enabling men to take the wives of others and have the union regularized by payment of compensation in buffalo to the former husband. When a young man takes his wife from her parental home, they Usually live first in his father's house. Subsequently they may build a house of their own in that hamlet or in another of the same patrician. Inaugurated in infancy and easily broken by elopement, Toda marriages are rather brittle. Nonetheless, formai divorce (a man returns his wife to her father's home, proclaiming the union terminated) is a very rare event that brings disgrace to a woman and insults both her father and her children.

Domestic Unit. At the present time, the occupants of a single dwelling usually comprise a nuclear family: husband, wife, and their unmarried children. Except in the case of a widow with small children, the household head is always an adult male. In the past, with both polyandrous and polygynous marriages, households were often more complex.

Inheritance. The household head is custodian of the household's property: the house itself, domestic equipment, family heirlooms (personal jewelry, and ornaments and bells for buffalo), the buffalo, and, in recent times, a portion of the patrician's patta lands as well. Some of this property, especially buffalo, may be distributed to a man's sons when he retires from active herding. On his death, all that remains is Divided equally among his sons. Daughters receive nothing except a dowry. A widow with young sons is merely the guardian of the household property until her eldest son reaches manhood.

Socialization. Children are much desired and infants treated with indulgence by parents and elder siblings. Breastfed for up to three years, they may have to be weaned by the mother applying the juice of an astringent plant to her nipples. Swaddled in pieces of old cloth, the infants are slowly toilet-trained. After a year or so, if they misbehave they will be reprimanded and perhaps stung on their buttocks with a nettle. For good behavior they are rewarded with candy and biscuits. From very young ages boys begin to play at being Buffalo herders and girls at being mothers and housewives; slowly play merges into the real thing. More and more Toda children now attend school, but education is not compulsory.

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