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Aliyasantana (sister's son lineage) was a matrilineal system of inheritance practiced by the Billava, Bunts and other communities in the coastal districts of Karnataka, India.


Myth of origin[edit]

Tuluvas believe Aliya Kattu was adopted 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, the king's sister offers her son. However, the demon shows mercy and lets him off. On his part, the king declares his nephews his true inheritor.

Salient features[edit]

  • The children are part of the mother's family.
  • After marriage the wife stays at her mother's place and husband "visits" her. For the Bunt community, the wife stays with her husband and returns 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 people 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 Ballal, Hegde and Guthu feudal lords.
  • The property of the mother is divided among the children so that female children 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. In earlier times it might have gone solely to the nephew. However, it was observed in the later period even though the mother's property distribution always followed matrilineal inheritance rules (sometimes at the expense of sons), a 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 gurikare in Tulu or yajamana in Kannada. Among Bunts, the brother managed 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]