Friday, July 30, 2010

Marriages and gotras

Marriages and gotras

In a patrilineal Hindu society (most common), the bride belongs to her father's gotra before the marriage, and to her husband's gotra after the marriage. The groom on the other hand only belongs to his father's gotra throughout his life.

Marriages within the gotra ('sagotra' marriages) are not permitted under the rule of exogamy in the traditional matrimonial system. The word 'sagotra' is union the words 'sa' + gotra, where 'sa' means same or similar. People within the gotra are regarded as kin and marrying such a person would be thought of as incest. The Tamil words 'sagotharan' (brother) and 'sagothari' (sister) derive their roots from the Sanskrit word 'sahodara' (सहोदर) meaning co-uterine or born of the same womb. In communities where gotra membership passed from father to children, marriages were allowed between maternal uncle and niece[2], while such marriages were forbidden in matrilineal communities, like Malayalis and Tuluvas, where gotra membership was passed down from the mother.

A much more common characteristic of south Indian Hindu society is permission for marriage between cross-cousins (children of brother and sister). Thus, a man is allowed to marry his maternal uncle's daughter or his paternal aunt's daughter, but is not allowed to marry his father's brother's daughter. She would be considered a parallel cousin who is treated as a sister.[3]

North Indian Hindu society not only follows the rules of gotra for marriages, but also had many regulations which went beyond the basic definition of gotra and had a broader definition of incestuousness.[4] Some communities in North India do not allow marriage with some other communities on the lines that both the Communities are having brotherhood.[5]

An acceptable social workaround for sagotra marriages is to perform a 'Dathu' (adoption) of the bride to a family of different gotra (usually dathu is given to the bride's maternal uncle who obviously belongs to different gotra by the same rule) and let them perform the 'kanniyadhanam' ('kanni' (virgin) + 'dhanam' (gift)). However, this is easier said as it would be quite difficult for the bride's father to watch another man give his daughter's hand away in marriage in his own presence.

Khap panchayats in Haryana have been making a huge fuss over banning "same gotra marriages." Kadyan Khap International convener Naresh Kadyan had moved a petition seeking amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA) so as to legally prohibit marriages in the same gotra. However, the petition was dismissed as withdrawn after a vacation Bench of Justices S N Dhingra and A K Pathak of the Delhi High Court warned that a heavy cost would be imposed on the petitioner for wasting the time of the court. In course of the proceedings, the bench observed, “You don’t know what is a gotra. Which Hindu text prescribes banning of sagotra (same clan) marriage? Why are you wasting the time of the court? If you are not able to substantiate your words, then you should not have come before the court.” [6

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