The "control-over-land"-hypothesis of hypergamy

dmenon at dmenon at
Fri May 10 01:43:14 UTC 1996

Dear Mikael,

While not directly related to your question, part of the reason while a lot
of Namboodiry Brahmins of Kerala as well as other 'non-brahmin' hindus in
Kerala converted enmass to Christanity is to overcome the discrimination
associated with 'land-owning'. In the case of the Namboodiry (the highest in
the caste hierarchy in Kerala) the discrimination was that ONLY the eldsest
male in the family is permitted to marry a Nambbodiry woman and inherit the
family wealth and traditions, all the other male has to look outside the
community for marrige, with their children having no rights to the family
wealth. In the case of the other non-brahmin hindu communities, except for
the Nayars who followed the matriarchial system of decendency, the
discrimination was one of 'untouchability' as well as free movement either
to own land or do business. In Christianity they found no such discrimination.

Owning land is deeply rooted into the psyche of every Indian. So it is not
surprising that 'control-over-land' played a major role in marriage


At 02:25 PM 5/9/96 BST, you wrote:
>Dear Indologists,
>In a recent and remarkable book <Declan Quigley: _The Interpretation of
>Caste_, Oxford, Clarendon, 1993, pp. 111-113> the author advances the
>hypothesis that hypergamy can be explained in relation to strategies of
>territorial expansions. His main idea seems to be that dominant families
>from a more well-established political-administrative urban elite settled in


>Though all this is valuable, Quigley fails to answer the more tangible
>questions that his hypothesis accumulate: Was / is land in fact transferred
>from the wife-giving family to the wife-receiving - or what else is the
>meaning here of "control over land"? In general, all information regarding
>transactions of land in connection with marriage in pre-industrial India
>would be very welcome. 
>Kind regards
>Mikael Aktor

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