Monday, October 30, 2006

The original father of Dravidian speakers - III

The degradation of appa among Hindu Malayalees:
I was puzzled by Malayalee Hindu vulgarization of terms denoting father like "appa" and "tanda"(formal). In my previous post, I have speculated that it could be a late development as grandfather is still called appoppa (appa's appa). Probably, we can get further insight into this phenomenon if we compare matrilineal system practiced by Tuluvas and Malayalees and also Malayalees living amongst Tuluvas.

There were few fundamental differences in Tulu and Malayalee matrilineal system. In my opinion, because of older existence, Tulu matrilineal system might be closer to the original system.

o In Tulu matrilineal system, wife could go and stay at her in-laws' place(patrilocal) or husband could live with his in-laws(matrilocal). Generally, wife lived with her husband's family. But husband living with his wife's family was not uncommon(In any case, husband and wife would stay together).
In Malayalee matrilineal system, husband and wife stayed in their respective matrifocal joint family houses(Tharavadu).

I came across this information in a book on "Aliyasantana Kattu"(lit. Nephew progeny law) dealing with matrilineal laws in Indian legal system as applied to Tulu/Malayalee societies. However, I am not sure if there was any kind of generalization for legal clarity. At least, Malayalee communites in Tulu regions, practiced matrilineal system similar to Tuluvas. More over, Malayalee matrilineal system reads like Nair matrilineal system and I am not sure if other matrilineal communities also had the similar traditions in the past. Anyway, I take Malayalees in Tulu region is an exception as they might have followed the rule of the land.

In my opinion, Tuluva matrilineal system is close to the original as both seniormost male(Yajamana) and seniormost female(Yajamanti) in a family could be the head of the family. However, among Malaylees this was the exclusive right of the seniormost male(known as Karnavan)(according to the book there were few exceptions). Also, Karnavan officiated the religious ceremonies in a Tharavadu, but, the seniormost female had this privilege among Tulu region Malayalees(I am not sure about Tuluvas in this respect). Therefore, Malayalee matrilineal system probably lost some of the female rights.

Therefore, I think, Malayalees, a branch of Tulu tribes, might have diverged from the original matrilineal system probably in the early centuries of last millennium. A strong feature of the new system was exclusion of father from a child's life.

For Malayalees in Tulu regions, father is appa and uncle is acca(This, I think is very important point along with appoppa). However, for other Malayalees appa meant nothing in the new system as he was not present. The vulgarization of appa(along with tanda) could have been deliberate or subconscious effort to put uncle(acca) into appa's place. Though I am not sure if this was one way to prevent any kind of matrilineal conflicts by securing full respect for the uncle and despise for the father. However, moving into modern times father has been reinstated but his lable has been changed permanently .

It would be really interesting to know how families turned into complete matrifocal in Kerala society.

1. Aliyasantana law by M. V. Shanker Bhat.

Update 4-Nov-2006:
I found this article on the web which gives a detailed account of Nair kinship system. Hmmm... all my arguments without much understanding or background are wrong. But I am not sure if accan is a Sanskrit word meaning "lord". This again goes back to arya <-> ajja argument. Many linguists do not subscribe to the view that Dravidian ajja(which is accan in Tamil/Malayalam) is tatbhava(or Prakrit) form of arya. Again, why some Malayali communities use it for uncle?

No comments: