(Sample Material) IAS Mains Sociology (Optional) Study Kit "Family, Marriage And Kinship"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains Sociology Study Kit

Subject: Sociology (Optional)

Topic: Family, Marriage And Kinship


(a) Marriage Household and Family
(b) Types and Forms of Family
(c) Lineage and Descent
(d) Patriarchy and Sexual-Divisions-of Labour
(e) Contemporary Trends


Marriage in general is a social, legal or religious contract between one or more male and one or more female for the purpose of procreation, sex, enjoyment and satisfaction of psycho-physical needs.


In the words of Folsom, “Endogamy is the rule that one must marry within one’s own caste or other group. However, it seldom permits marriage of close kin.” Endogamous marriage is that which is controlled within the group. Actually, endogamy and exogamy are relative words. That which is endogamous from one view-point is exogamous from another view-point. In the subcaste exogamy or Hindus the marriage is contracted outside the subcaste but the same marriage would be endogamous from the view-point of the race or nation.

Forms of Endogamy

In India, the following forms of endogamy are to be found:
1. Divisional or Tribal Endogamy: In which no individual can marry outside his own tribe or  division. Endogamy is the sense of superiority or inferiority.
2. Geographic Separation : People who are separated by long distance naturally do not prefer to marry one another.

Advantages of Endogamy

Roughly, the following advantages derive from endogamy
1. It tends to maintain the sense of unity within the group.
2. Women are happier within their own group.
3. Other people do not gain authority over the group’s wealth.
4. The business secrets of the group are kept intact.
5. Purity in the group is maintained.

Defects of Endogamy

The following are the defects from which endogamy suffers :
1. This shatters the national unity.
2. The scope for choice of a life partner is limited due to which malpractices such as unsuitable marriage, polygamy, dowry system, bride price, etc. are fostered.
3. It generates hatred and jealousy for other groups.
This is the main cause of the root of casteism in India.

In this way, at the present time, it has become necessary, both in the national and the international interest, that the endogamous tie be made void. The unfortunate consequences of dowry and other similar institutions are to be seen in the form of suicide committed by marriageable persons. Polygamy, unsuitable marriage and late marriage lead to corruption in society. The one method of avoiding such consequence is to put a stop to endogamous marriages. These ties are being ‘constantly broken by the effect of modern western education and civilization.


According to Summer and Keller, “Endogamy is conservative while exogamy is progressive.” Exogamy is approved from the biological view point. This leads to healthy and intelligent offspring. But this fact applies only to marriages outside the group. This benefit cannot be derived by forbidding sagotra and sapravara marriages. In the Indian society more harm than benefit has resulted from exogamous marriages. Most people do not intentionally approved of marriages within groups but do so only when the group is considered as limited only to the children of one parents or to two of their future generations. There can be no benefit by declaring marriage within a group unlawful when the group includes a greater number of people. In the 1911 U.P. Census Report, Blunt calculated that in the higher Hindu castes, some 2121 possible relatives are negated by disallowing marriage in 7 generations on the paternal side and five on the maternal side where as among the Christians this number was only 30. In ‘Hindu Exogamy’ Karandikar writes that the system of exogamy is so prevalent in the lowest Hindu castes that in Northern India there are 1359 distinctions of exogamy among the sweepers. In this way, the scope for the choice of the bride and the groom becomes very limited which tends to encourage dowry. The daughter cannot be happy even if a loan has been taken for the dowry because the parents of the bridegroom can never be satisfied as the value of the groom is rising. Consequently, the bride has to suffer much in her in-laws home. Other serious consequences of rising bride-groom value are the suicide of many young women and the unsuited marriages of many more. Being unable to provide sufficient dowry poor parents marry off their daughters to aged husbands. Besides this, due to difficulties present in contracting it marriage is delayed, and corruption in society increases. This injustice and corruption is further augmented by the widowhood of many women who have been unsuitably married. As a result of all these defects in the system of exogamy, laws of exogamy marriage in Hindu society are breaking down.

In the sapinda also marriages are being contracted except between near relatives. It is also possible that in the near future, the offspring of only one parentage may be considered sapinda.


In India the following forms of exogamy are to be found :

1. Marriage Outside Gotra: Among the Brahmins the prevailing practice is to marry outside the gotra. People who marry within the gotra have to repent and treat the woman like a sister or mother. The offspring resulting from her is believed to be heathen. This restriction has been imposed since people of one gotra are believed to have similar blood.

2. Marriage Outside Pravar: Besides forbidding marriage within the gotra the Brahmins also forbid marriage between persons belonging to the same pravar. People who utter the name of common saint at religious functions are believed to belong to the same pravar. Thus pravar is a kind of religious and spiritual relation. According to Dr. Altekar and Shri Paad Dange marriages within the gotra and pravar were not forbidden in ancient India. These have been treated as forbidden from the time of Dharmasutras.

3. Marriage Outside Gotras among the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas: Among the Kshatriya and Vaishyas it is the gotra of the purohit which is taken into consideration. In these the ancestry is carried on not through the saint but some follower. In the Rajputs the gotras start from many victors or the first man of the ancestry. Sometimes the gotra takes the names of the village where this first person lived. In this way thousands of gotras have come into being.

4. Marriage Outside the Totem : In most tribes of India it is customary to marry outside the totem. Totem is the name given to any specific vegetation or animal with which a tribe believes it has some specific relation. Among the Gonds exogamous groups are called vanshas. The classification of these vanshas depends upon the number of gods they worship.
People belonging to the vansha which worship 7 gods can marry only into the group which worships 5, 4 or 3 gods. These classes are divided into other exogamous sub-classes of the totem. Among them marriage is forbidden.

5. Marriage Outside the Village: Among many Indian tribes it is the recognised custom to marry outside the village. This restriction is prevalent in the Munda and other tribes of Chotta Nagpur of Madhya Pradesh. Among some tribes of Baroda marriage is forbidden within the village since its members are regarded as relatives. Naga tribes of Assam are divided into Khels. Khel is the name given to the residents of a particular place and people of one Ehel cannot marry each other. The Garo tribe is divided into two Katchis or Phratries called Marak and Sangama, intermarriage between which is prohibited. There are five exogamous groups among the Mikirs of Assam. There are three exogamous group among the Ao and Lhotado Nagas and two among Lonte tribe. Erulla tribe of South India is divided into subgroups. Five among them can intermarry. In this way there are two exogamous groups among these people.

6. Marriage Outside the Pinda: In Hindu society a marriage within the pinda is prohibited. There is no one opinion as to who can be said to belong to the same pinda. According to the Mitakshara school only those people can be said to be sapinda who descend from a common parentage. According to Brihaspati, offsprings from five maternal generations and seven paternal generations, are sapinda and they cannot intermarry. The opinion of Brihaspati is not universally accepted. In several parts of India the generation of the mother is not considered to be sapinda. At some places the prohibition extends over three maternal and five paternal generations. According to Baudhayan Dharmasutra marriage between the offspring of the maternal uncle and father’s sister is improper. But many examples of such marriages are forth-coming from ancient India. In the South, with the exception of Namboodhiri Brahmins, among the other Brahmins it is considered good to marry the daughter of one’s maternal uncle. The Velum caste of Madras does not forbid marriage with one’s niece while in the Telegu, Tamil districts among the lowly Brahmins this union can be contracted with the daughter of one’s sister-in-law. In Northern India, generally, sagotra and sapinda marriages do not take place.


Sagotra and Sapravara marriage are forbidden by Hindu Dharamashastras. Vashistha, Gautama and Shankha Dharmasutras state that it is not proper to marry even a maid whose pravara coincides with that of the bridegroom. In the Vishnu, Mann and Yajnavalkya Smritis, the prohibition in marriage extends to the girls who are of the same gotra. According to Budhayan, in the event of marrying a girl of similar gotra one should resort to a form of repentance called Chandrayan and should treat her as a sister or mother.

It is written in the Satyashadh Hiranyakeshi stotrasutra that gotra is the name given to the offspring of eight saints. These eight saints are-Vishwamitra, Jamadagni, Bharadwaj, Gautama, Atri, Vashistha, Kashyap and Agastya. The word gotra is found used in Vedic literature denoting the enclosure made to protect cows. On this basis Max Muller has conjectured that people who kept their cows at one place were considered to be the children of one ancestral saint who lived there and were accepted as members of one gotra. According to Panini, the offsprings of the grandson weie included in the same gotra. But Patanjali accepts only the offspring of the eight saints to be of one gotra. Medhatithi has clarified it that gotra does not mean that they are offspring of a saint, born at a particular time, but rather that gotra is a traditional name of the vansha just as some are traditionally accepted as Brahmins. According to Vijnaneshwar that name is called the gotra which is famous in the tradition of the ancestry. According to Mitakshara the meaning of gotra is proximity of blood.

The pravaras are also the names of ancient saints. According to Vijnaneshwar only the gotra of Brahmins are pravaras. The gotras and pravaras of the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are dependent upon their purohits. There are no gotra pravaras of the Shudras. Pointing out the difference between gotras and pravaras P. V. Kane has stated that gotra are the names of those ancient saints who have traditionally been believed to be ancestors of an individual, but pravaras are those very old saints who were learned and great and were the ancestors of even those who introduced gotras.

The word pravara comes from the root meaning selection. Hence, producing evidence from Vedic literature Shri Kane has proved that pravaras are the names of those selected saints which were uttered of this own volition by a person while engaged in performing yajna, a religious sacrifice. Later on, the number of saints of pravaras was counted and determined. This number is believed to be forty-nine.

For Full Material Buy IAS Mains Sociology Study Kit in Hard Copy

<<Go Back To Main Page