Aliya Kattu

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Aliya Kattu (Tulu: ಅಳಿಯ ಕಟ್ಟು) (Nephew lineage) was, a matrilineal system of tracing origin practiced by many Tulu communities in the area now known as Karnataka. Marumakkatayam, in Malayalam, was a similar system which operated in the area known today as Kerala.[1]



Some anthropologists, such as Marija Gimbutas, believe matrilineal societies were common among early primitive human societies. In India, South Indians were believed to be the last communities to become patriarchal.

Myth of origin

Tuluvas believe Aliya Kattu was adapted at the behest of a king called Bhootala Pandya. The story goes like this. A demon wanted the king to sacrifice his son. However, none of his queens and sons were ready to be sacrificed. Seeing the difficult situation, king's sister offers her son. However, the demon shows mercy and lets him off. On his part, the king declares his nephew as his true inheritor.

Salient features

  • The children are part of the mother's family.
  • After marriage the wife would stay at her mother's place and husband would "visit" her. For the Bunt community, the wife would stay with her husband and return to live with her matrilineal family after the husband's death.
  • The inheritance of lineage identity in the form of gotra (bali or bari or balli or illam) or in the form of ancestral house (tharavad or buttu) is through mother. Marriage between the persons belonging to the same illam was prohibited.
  • Among the rulers the heir apparent was the son of the sister.
  • The property of the mother is divided among the children in such a way that female children would inherit the major share depending upon number of children they have. A son would get only his share. There were no clear rules for the father's property. Probably, in the earlier times it might have gone solely to nephew. However, it was observed in the later period even though the mother's property distribution would always follow matrilineal inheritance rules (sometimes at the expense of sons), father was free to distribute his property according to his wish.
  • Women had the rights to divorce and re-marry.
  • The maternal uncle is generally the male head of the family and was known as Karanavar in Malayalam or Yajamana in Tulu/Kannada. Among Bunts the brother would manage the matrilineal family land on behalf of his sister.

Matrilineal communities

Tulu communities which practised a matrilineal system of inheritance included:

See also


  1. ^ Kodoth, Praveena (May 2001). "Courting Legitimacy or Delegitimizing Custom? Sexuality, Sambandham and Marriage Reform in Late Nineteenth-Century Malabar". Modern Asian Studies 35 (2): 350. JSTOR 313121. (subscription required)
  • Notes on Love in a Tamil family by Margret Trawick, Berkley Publications
  • Bunt history

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