Mahadevan's Monologues

If we had the vision and feeling of ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. – George Eliot

Saturday, March 19, 2011


The Brahmin community in Kerala ( other than Namboodiris) and all castes in Tamil Nadu have the practice of marrying within the family. Marriage among second and third cousins is quite normal. In fact the boys in Tamil Nadu have the first right of refusal( right to marry the murai ponnu) before the girl is sought to be married outside the cousins circle. A few view this practice as unscientific and trace the ailments suffered by the offspring to the close relationship between the parents before marriage. At the same time the community is vehement that first cousins both on the paternal side(father’s brothers) and maternal side (mother’s sisters) do not intermarry and the prohibition on “Sagothra’, marriage stems from this practice atleast as far as the paternal side goes. In a number of cases girls marry their maternal uncles though boys marrying their paternal aunts is not permitted. If one tries to look for logical support for the practice, one would find that medical science too frowns upon inbreeding. At the same time, as in those days, the source of income was common and wealth was held in the name of family, in order to preserve the family wealth and income, marriage within the family was encouraged at the permitted level. Another reason could be, as the families were living under the same roof, intermingling of boys and girls of marriageable age was quite normal, and such intermingling facilitated marriages between cousins. Unlike boys’ Convents, such intermingling provided a healthy sexual outlook. In astrology too, there is no prohibition on marriage between cousins. One cannot visualize any other reason for such close within the family marriages.
It is in this context, the research done by Professor Kari Stefanson of CODE Genetics , Iceland , that throws fresh light. According to this study, marriage between first and second cousins had more children than distantly related couples with good chances of getting more grandchildren. Thus, mating with cousins has reproductive advantages. As a large family was always encouraged and those with more children having been considered blessed, no wonder, marriage within the family circle was widely practiced, if one accepts Stefanson study findings. As a corollary, should we not discourage marriage within the family atleast on the demographic ground, when our objective is to have lesser number of children ?
Readers more familiar with the subject, perhaps would enlighten us further..




  • At 6:51 AM, Blogger Cocktail Party said…

    I feel it is wrong to marry your blood relatives however old or ancient the practice may be.But I was baffled to know of the new study of Stefanson...Well! as far as medical science views it, they strongly oppose such practice as they say it may lead to genetically challenged or deformed children..But offcourse there are instances where it has been proved wrong...But for me it is a weird concept.


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