Oak and the Tribe of the Buddha

jkirk jkirk at SPRO.NET
Tue Oct 4 00:47:35 UTC 2005

Is it sure that the "sisters" in question were sisters of the same lineal 
descent as the brothers? The term "sister" is sometimes not very precise 
when translating local kinships. I note from J. Silk's message that there 
must be a term for "full sisters" and "agnatic half-sisters" ....these 
latter could be daughters of a different mother same father;  or, father's 
brother's daughters would be agnatic sisters (parallel cousins). Northern 
Indian kinship forbids consanguineal marriage within 7 generations on the 
male side and 5 on the female side. But an article from The Hindu asserts 

"Buddhism allows first cousin marriages..." although which first cousins is 
not specified.( 

I ask because there are and were kinship systems in India where uncles 
married their own sister's daughters (several Brahmin castes in south 
India), -- a way of sort of "marrying a sister" without doing it -- or their 
mother's brother's (maternal uncle's) daughters (cross-cousins. Parallel 
cousin spouses among Hindus are usually if not entirely taboo. These of 
course would not be referred to as agnatic.) Nur Yalman among others has 
written a lot on these preferential marriage choices. Granted, the ones he 
studied were not from northern India. However, the presence of some types of 
"sister-marriage"  in the hills is conceivable.

> From The Hindu (same article):

"A foreigner with no knowledge of Indian society would conclude that 
marriages in India are made not in heaven, but in newspaper inserts.
Yet, such ads are not the usual manner of fixing marriages in much of India. 
They are but recent introduction, hardly 50 years old, used in case there is 
need for a greater choice; they are used if and only if the long-practised 
tradition of arranging marriages within the extended family or the 
sub-community is not to be followed. Even today, in many communities in 
India (and Pakistan and Sri Lanka), the first preference is to look within 
the family. Intra-community and consanguineous marriages are still more 
common and it has been so for centuries. Much of India, particularly South 
India, has practised endogamy or marriages within the community for 
centuries. In many communities, preference has been given to uncle-niece 
marriages, and between cousins (mother's brother's child, father's sister's 
child). The Tamil wife calls her husband "Athan" (father's sister's son) 
regardless; and the very word for mother-in-law is "Mamiyar" (respectful way 
of addressing mother's brother's wife). A recent study had shown that of the 
100,000 children studied, 34 per cent were born to consanguineously related 
parents, and 18 per cent of these were uncle-niece marriages. In 
Pondicherry, the number of consanguineous marriages was as high as 55 per 
cent, 25 years ago."

Perhaps the texts citing so-called incestuous relations might be 
questionable as to the kin relationships of the partners in question.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Matthew Kapstein" <mkapstei at UCHICAGO.EDU>
To: <INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk>
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2005 2:26 PM
Subject: Re: Oak and the Tribe of the Buddha

> In re Jonathan's remarks on etymology and incest:
> Tibetan sources do of course repeat the tradition
> that the Shaakyas maintain incetuous relations
> with their sisters. They sometimes add -- and here
> I'm not certain if they are following an Indian
> source or being inventive -- that this explains
> the derivation of Shaakya from the root shak, "to be able,"
> for they proved themselves able to perpetuate their race
> under circumstances in which only the "forbidden deed"
> (mi rung ba'i las) was possible.
> Matthew Kapstein 

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