Vellala - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Although polygynous marriages were permitted and prevalent in the past, most marriages today are Monogamous. With a few urban exceptions, marriage is usually arranged by elders, although some expression of disapproval may be available to the youth. The Dravidian pattern of preferential cross-cousin (both matrilateral and patrilateral) and maternal uncle-niece marriage is strongly adhered to. A breach of this norm often leads to an acrimonious dispute Between families. Even traditionally, prepuberty or child Marriage was not prevalent. Widow remarriage is not approved of, although it is now legal. Traditionally, divorce was not permitted. Despite modifications in Hindu law, divorce is still infrequent.

Domestic Unit. Various degrees of complexity of the extended patrilocal household are found both across Vellala subcastes and within any single Vellala subcaste. The neolocal or nuclear household is not uncommon, but it is embedded within the matrix of patrilineal kinship. It is thus different in character from the Western ideal type of nuclearity. Although patrilineal kinship places women in a weak structural position, there are aspects of the kinship system that leaven this situation. Upon marrying, a woman may join a family already related and known to her, she often lives in her natal village, and her natal and affinal relatives are continually interacting; all of these factors support her position in the family.

Inheritance. This follows the general principle of classical Hindu law, where land and immovables are inherited by sons. Daughters are given a dowry at marriage. Sometimes women are given small gifts of land ( manjal-kani ) but these are not treated as shares. One of the reasons for their strict endogamy and high rate of consanguineous marriage, say the Vellala, is their strong need to keep land in the family.


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