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Aliyasantana (sister's son lineage) was a matrilineal system of inheritance practiced by the Billava, Bunts and certain other communities in the coastal districts of Karnataka, India. Marumakkathayam, in Malayalam, was a similar system which was practiced by Nairs and Thiyyas in the area known today as Kerala.[1]


Marija Gimbutas, believes matrilineal societies were common among early human societies. Although modern day academia routinely discredit wildly inaccurate claims made by Marija Gimbutas of supposed early human matrilineal societies due to no historical evidence to back up her claims.

Myth of origin[edit]

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[edit]

  • 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 (tharavads) through the mother. Marriage between the persons belonging to the same illam was prohibited.
  • Among the rulers the heir apparent was the son of the sister.Examples are the Bunt Royal Houses of Chowta, Ajila, Alupas and the various Ballal, Hegde and Guthu feudal lords.
  • 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 remarry.
  • The maternal uncle is generally the male head of the family and was known as Karanavar in Malayalam, gurikare in Tulu or yajamana in Kannada. Among Bunts, the brother would manage the matrilineal family land on behalf of his sister.

Matrilineal communities[edit]

Tulu communities which practised a matrilineal system of inheritance included:

See also[edit]


  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. doi:10.1017/s0026749x01002037. JSTOR 313121.  (subscription required)