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Marumakkathayam is a form of matrilineal succession. This form of succession is
prevalent among many sects throughout the world. These include the Minangkabau culture of
West Sumatra, the Naxi of China, the Gitksan of British Columbia, the Iroquois Confederacy
(Haudenosaunee), the Hopi, the Berbers, The Undangs of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia and our
subject matter, the practise of Marumakkathayam or Aliyasantana system among Nairs and Bunts
of India. The system was largely followed by the Nairs including all castes of Royal Families,
some of the Ambalavasis, Arayars, Ezhava, some tribal groups and Mappilas in North Malabar of
Kerala state, South India.
The definition of Marumakkathayam in Madras Marumakkattayam Act 1932 is
Marumakkattayam means the system of inheritance in which descent is traced in the female
line and Marumakkattayee means a person governed by Marumakkathayam Law of
Inheritance. Tarawad means the group of person forming a joint family with community of
property governed by Marumakkathayam Law of Inheritance. A Tavazhiused in relation to the
female, is defined as the group of person consisting of that female, her children and all her
descendants in the female line. And a tavazhi used in relation to a male, is defined as the tavazhi
of the mother of that female
The origin of the marumakkathayam system still lies in obscurity. There are various theories with
regard to the origin of the marumakkathayam system. . In order to ascertain the origin of the
marumakkathayam it is necessary to go back to its early stages and examine the condition of
society which have rise to it. Sir Henry Maine views that the origin of society was in patriarchal
families, that polyandry and kinshif through females were of temporary duration liable to be
brought about at a stage in the progress of a society by peculiar circumstances under which it
may be placed.6 Andrew Lang observed that "the Aryan races have generally passed through the
stage of scarcity of women, polyandry, absence of recognized kinship and recognitions of
kinship through women. Of the Aryan races there can be no question that they too had passed
through the several stages before reaching the final one of paternal kinship. So the maternal
family and inheritance in the female line need not necessarily be the result of polyandry. Among
the Tibetians, the Todas, the Aimons of Japan and other races that practiced polyandry and had
hardly any system of settled marriage8, marumakkathayam was found among some of the
kshatriyas, vellalas and muslims also but polyandry was never practiced by them
Circumstances Responsible for it:
The early Chera kings who ruled Kerala in the Sangam age, followed the patrilineal
system as was shown by the Sangam literature. But the descendant of the Cheras in the medieval
times followed the matrilineal system.13 Due to the force of compelling circumstances people
under the patrilineal system adopted matrilineal system. None of the foreign travellers who
visited Travancore before 14th century had seen any thing peculiar in the family organization of
the land. It was for the advantage of the Brahmin Jenmies and for the sexual pleasures of the
Brahmins and they compelled the Nayars to change the law of inheritance, from patrilineal to the
matrilineal(They entered into loose unions called sambandham), under which individualism was
ignored, the Brahmins succeeded in erecting a strong body contented, handed tenancy and not a
landed aristocracy which was the base of marumakkathayam or matrilineal system of

It is a form of hereditary succession or other inheritance through which the subject's

female relatives are traced back in a matrilineal line. The word Marumakkal in Malayalam
means nephews and nieces. The joint family under this system is known as Tharavad. The
oldest living male member was known as the karanavar and was the head of the household and
managed the family estate. Lineage was traced through the mother, and the children "belonged"
to the mother's family, while all of the family property remained jointly owned. This joint
ownership of property1 was shared by the members of the Tharavadu tracing their descent from a
common ancestress
Under marumakkathayam, the Nayar tharavad (family) was a union of relation of
varying degrees of propionquity traced through a common female in joint ownership of corporate
property under the beneficial management of a common Karanavan (uncle). Ordinarily a man
does not take as much interest in his distant kinsman as in the children of his own mother, his
brothers, his sisters and their children.
The benefits of legal marriages, parental rights domestic rule, the obligation to support
the wife and children were ignored under the system.The individual members of a tharavad had
only the right to maintenance. The system of marumakkathayam led to a life of idleness among
the members of the family which stood against the prosperity of the society. The karanavans
were practically voice less, when karanavan was not bound to provide for them beyond
subsistence and improve their, moral and intellectual condition.18 The arbitrary and absolute
powers of the karanavan naturally tended to foster a feeling of discontent among the other
members regarding the management of the tharavad and led to quarrels.
Marriage :
Under marumakkathayam again the marriage tie was very loose and temporary. Marriage as a
duly recognized social institution did not exist in the Nayar community.19 Although the
Sambandham union has in it all the elements of a valid marriage, it had no legal sanction. Even
the powers of disposing by will of self acquired property was not recognized in the case of
Nayars by the law of marumakkathayam
The karanavar (uncle-karnavan)of the tarawad has been a trustee or the person in charge
of all matters connected with the joint family. He has been considered as the most important
person in the family and was held in great esteem. He had both spiritual and temporal rights and
responsibilities. This is best evident from the position held by him. term karanavar means a man
with responsibility and authority.
Usually he will be referred to as the Valiyammavan (grand uncle) of the
family. Often he will be a venerable old member of the family. He would be
the custodian of all the properties and in charge of the day to day
administration of the tarawad. As noted above it is the eldest male member
of the tarawad who becomes the karanavar by his legal right. It is the senior
most male member of all the branches or tavazhies of the tarawad who
becomes the karanavar. The karanavar was almost like an uncrowned king.
Most often even if the karanavar misused his power the subordinate members of the
tarawad, especially the ladies, were helpless to talk against him.On his death or when he ceases
to be the head, a male member, next in seniority from all the branches of the family taken
together would succeed to the office of the karanavar. The karanavars of the Koodali family and
Kavalappara family had various rights and responsibilities and privileges as the heads of
aristocratic landed families.

Under the headship of the karanavar the tarawad ensured a stable life for all its
members. There were several customs governing a tarawad. Usually under the headship of the
karanavar there existed harmony in the joint family.1 All these powers and responsibilities are
best evident from the case of the Koodali tarawad and the Kavalappara family. The power and
functions of the karanavars differ in accordance with the differences in the financial and political
status of the tarawad. The head of the Kavalappara family seems to have more functions and
power than the head of the Koodali family, even though both were marumakkathayam
tarawads .The installation of the new karanavar in the wealthy feudal families was observed
along with certain ceremonies of coronation. The coronation ceremonies or the installation
ceremonies were reflective of their power and prestige. They were in accordance with certain
customs and practices.
Womens power
Marumakkathayam gives huge importance to the role of women in the family hierarchy.
Unlike in many other Indian traditions, they were not considered unwanted births or lesser
beings, to be married away and never to return or be part of their real family. They acquired a
higher social status; they inherited family property and the family home. For example, in a
Marumakkathayam family, the sister of a man came first in affection and responsibility before
his own "wife". At their husbands homes, where they visited occasionally, they were treated as
special guests. But, it still meant that their happiness was determined by the men folk, like many
other social systems prevalent in India. Among other negatives of this system, families without
an elder male member made a certain sense of insecurity.
Once, this system used to be a great support for the women in Kerala. The system gave
women the basic rights and succession carried on through matrilineal system as opposed to rest
of the country. But in the due course of time, patriarchy had superseded the matriarchy. In this
system the oldest brother was known as the karanavar and was the head of the household and
managed the family estate and the lineage was traced through the mother. In the event of a
partition, the shares of the children were clubbed with that of the mother. The karnavar's property
was inherited by his nephews and not his sons. It is clearly evident that under this system, the
family management and property was under the male head. Only succession was through
women. Another important practise in this system was that the property was always jointly
owned, unlike other systems like Dayabhaga and Mitakshara, where the property rests in the
hands of male members only i.e. Karta and the Coparceners.
Malabar was part of the Madras Presidency during British Rule. The law regarding
Marumakkathayam was covered under Madras Marumakkathayam Act 1932.3 The definition of
Marumakkathayam in the Act explains the system of inheritance in which descent is traced in the
female and Marumakkathayee means a person governed by this Act. As per Section 3(h) of
Hindu Succession Act, "Marumakkattayam law" means the system of law applicable to persons.(a) who, if this Act had not been passed would have been governed by the Madras
Marumakkattayam Act, 1932, the Travancore Nayar Act, the Travancore Ezhava Act, the
Travancore Nanjinad Vellala Act, the Travacore Kshatriya Act, the Travancore Krishnanavaka
Marumakkathayee Act, the Cochin Marumakkathayam Act, or the Cochin Nayar Act with respect
to the matters for which provision is made in this Act, or
(b) who belong to any community, the members of which are largely domiciled in the State of
Travancore-Cochin or Madras (as it existed immediately before the 1st November, 1956) and
who, if this Act had not been passed, would have been governed with respect to the matters for

which provision is made in this Act by any system of inheritance in which descent is traced
through the female line.
Before the Hindu Succession Act, the customary law of Marumakkattayam and
Aliyasantana had been modified by the statutory law. The main enactments modifying the law
are: Malabar Marriage Act, 1896, Malabar Wills Act, 1896, Madras Marumakkattayam Act,
1932, Mappilla Marumakkattayam Act, 1939, Madras Aliyasantana Act, 1949, Regulation of the
State of Travancore-Cochin. These acts are mostly inter-connected with each other. Like the
testamentary powers in the Malabar Wills Act, 1896 which provides rules for execution,
attestation, revocation and revival of the wills of persons governed by Marumakkattayam system.
Similar provisions have been enacted in Regulations of the State of Travancore-Cochin.
Aliya-Santana (Nephew lineage)
Aliya-Santana system of inheritance of property followed mostly by Bunts and other nonbrahmin communities in south canara which is complete opposite compared to the system
followed by Hindus. It is also referred as Ali-Santana (Kundapura Kannada) or Aliya-Kattu
(Tulu), where in the children belongs to mothers family, and they will inherit the Bali of
mother. Bali is similar to what is called as Gotra in Brahmins. All the laws governing the
marriages are based on Bali, so that boy and girl of same Bali are not supposed to get married
and they are considered siblings.
The terms derived from karn aliya ,son-in-law ,and sri-satana Offspring . The land
amendment and land tenures of canara 1853 stated that the rule was introduced into the
beginning of 3rd century . In Canara system of speaking is termed aliya santan
All the property is inherited in such a way that, the girl will get most of the property
while the boy would get only his share. That is, if the girl has children, they also get their share,
but the boy does not, his children are supposed to get their share from their family (mothers
family). Some of the surnames of Bunts come from the mother side; the name of the mother's
ancestral house normally became the prefix or suffix of one's name. This may be because when
men went to the battlefield, the wife took the whole responsibility of the family and became the
decision-maker. So in the Aliyasantana system more importance is given to the mother's side of
the family. More respect is given to maternal uncles than to the paternaluncles. In this system the
eldest member is known as ejaman and the eldest female member is known as ejamanthi. The
senior-most member whether male or female, is entitled to carry on the family managements.No
member of the tarwad had a right to claim partition or separate possession of his share without
the concurrence of other members.
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.
There are several inscriptions found near Barkur which say that the Aliya Santana is being
followed during the time from 10th to 16th century. The story behind Aliya Santana is very
interesting. It is said that very long ago Barkur was called as Baraha Kanya Pura, since the
King Bhootala Pandya had twelve wives. The king of demon, Kundodara Bhoota demanded a
Bali (Sacrifice) of kings son when the newly built ship was set out to sea. Even though he had
twelve wives and lot of children they refused to give one. Then his sister agreed to sacrifice her

son. The demon Kundodara was impressed, he not only spared the young boys life, but also
ordered Bootala pandya to follow the Aliya-Santana, where in all the property would be inherited
to his Nephew, and the laws of inheritance were written, as dictated by the demon Kundodara.
Even today Aliya-Santana is followed in Tulu-Nadu, or the undivided South Canara, especially
in Bunts community.
Bhutala Pandya ruled for a period of seventy-five years in peace and subjects were
prosperous. He had twelve wives with whom he had any children, both boys and girls. He
commanded all his subjects to follow his uncle's example of the matrilineal system of aliya
santana, and the laws of inheritance were written, as dictated by the demon Kundodara.
Subsequently, his nephew Vidyadyumna Pandya came to power and the aliya santana system is
said to have been followed ever since. Bhutala Pandya's progeny through aliya santana ruled for
seven generations for a total of 259 years.
Of course, there are no historical records of the authenticity of the story of Bhutala Pandya. The
first epigraph referring to the system of aliya santana is from the 10th century, suggesting that the
system was followed at that time, when a passing reference was made in one of the inscriptions.
Following this, several epigraphic inscriptions of later centuries refer to the system routinely and
the practice was undoubtedly very prevalent. There is ample evidence to suggest that aliya
santana was followed by large segments
Persons governed by aliasantana system of law
Most non-Brahmin communities in the Tulu nadu follow a system of inheritance to family
property, in which succession is followed along the female line. Called aliya santana It is a law
that has been followed by predominantly the Bunt community and the Jains. It is well
established that the rulers of the feudatory states (like the Chautas, Bangas, Savantas, Ajilas, and
Tolahas), who were mostly Jains, followed the aliya santana system of inheritance. There is also
evidence that the Alupas, before the advent of the Vijayanagara Empire, followed the system of
The law was recognized by the modern courts as far back as the British India in 1843.
The rules of aliya santana were first published as the English translation in 1864, by the German
Press Mission in Mangalore (printed in Madras Journal of Literature and Science).
# Alike joint family and Coparcenary of the Mitakshara school the Marumakkattayam and
Aliyasantana systems have their unit tarwad. The joint families under all these systems are
corporate units and are joint in food, worship and estate, but the joint estate is impartible under
these systems unless all the members agree. The rights of management and alienation invested in
the Karanavan are analogous to the rights possessed of the karta of Mitakshara and Dayabhaga
joint family.
# Similarly in both the systems, on the death of any one of its members, his or her interest
devolves on the other members through survivorship.
# In both the systems on the death of anyone of its members, his or her interest devolves on the
other member of the joint family by survivorship.
# The basic difference is that the Mitakshara Joint Family is based on patriarchal system while
Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana system is based on matriarchal system.
# In Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana system every member whether male or female has
equal right in tarwad (property) by virtue of his being born in that tarwad ( family) while in case

of Mitakshara the only son, grandson and great grandson have the right by birth in the joint
family property.
Marumakkattayam System V. Aliyasantana System
# The only vital difference between the two systems is that in Aliyasantana system, the senior
most member whether male (ejaman) or female (ejamanthi) is entitled to carry on the family
management while in Marumakkattayam system the senior most male member (karnavan) has
the right and power to carry on the family management and in the absence of male adult
members the senior most female member (karnavathi) has the power to carry on family
# As per judicial decisions the self acquired property of a female member in Marumakkattayam
system descended to her Tavazhi, i.e. to her own issues and in default of her issues, it devolved
to her mother and her descendents. In case of male member if the property has not been disposed
during his lifetime, lapses to the tarwad (joint family) and forms part and parcel of its property.
While in Aliyasantana system there is no distinction as to the devolution of property of a male or
female member. The self acquired property of a member goes to the nearest branch, and where
there are more branches than one standing in the same degree of relationship, they inherit jointly.
Legal Enactments And Provisions
The Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana laws are therefore essentially customary laws and there
are no sacred writing binding on the followers of these systems. Even prior to the passing
of Hindu Succession Act, the customary law of Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana had been
modified by the statutory law. The main enactments modifying the law are: Malabar Marriage
Act, 1896, Malabar Wills Act, 1896, Madras Marumakkattayam Act, 1932, Mappilla
Marumakkattayam Act, 1939, Madras Aliyasantana Act, 1949, Regulation of the State of
The law of succession of Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana had been changed by legislative
enactments. The Marumakkattayam Act and the Aliyasantana Act lay down the rule of
succession to the property of a member of the tarwad dying intestate. Under the Madras
Marumakkattayam Act the preferential heirs of a male member are: his mother, widow, and
The property can be inherited by tavazhi only when the intestate has died without leaving his
mother or children or lineal descendants in the female line. The nearest heirs of the female
member are: her children, lineal descendents in female line and in default of former: mothers
tavazhi, husband and maternal grandmothers tavazhi. In default of either the whole is taken by
The testamentary powers under both the systems had also been recognised by legislative
enactments. The Malabar Wills Act, 1896 provides rules for execution, attestation, revocation
and revival of the wills of persons governed by Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana system.
Similar provisions have been enacted in Regulations of the State of Travancore-Cochin.
It was later realized that existing law of Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana system was not
satisfactory and along with reform in the Mitakshara and Dayabhaga system, a reform in the law
of these systems was also necessary. The Hindu Succession Bill contained the provisions
reforming the law of succession of Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana system. The rule of
succession of property of a male and female were different.
But the present act (Hindu Succession Act) has changed the scheme of the original bill. Section 7
of the Act deals with the devolution of interest in the property of tarwad etc. It repeals and
replaces the law of intestate and testamentary succession applicable to these families.

The rule of succession applicable to the property of a female or male members of the
Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana system have been enacted under Section 17 of the said Act.
The section provides that, with certain modifications, the rules applicable are the same which are
applied to Hindu male or female under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. This section specifies
that in case a male dies intestate, his property shall devolve: Firstly, upon the heirs, being
relatives specified in class I of the schedule. Secondly, if there is no heir of class I, upon heirs of
class II of the schedule. Thirdly, if there is no heir of any two classes, upon his relatives whether
agnates or cognates.
The rules applicable for the distribution of property among class I and class II heirs are the same
as are applicable to other Hindus, i.e., as per sec 10 and 11 of the Act.
As per sec 17 the property of a female dying intestate shall devolve on the following: Firstly,
upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and the
mother. Secondly, upon the father and the husband. Thirdly, upon the heirs of the mother.
Fourthly, upon the heirs of the father. Lastly, upon the heirs of the husband.
Any property inherited by a female from her husband or from her father in law shall devolve in
the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including the children or any pre-deceased
son or daughter) not upon the other heirs referred to in sub-section (1) in the order specified
therein, but upon the heirs of the husband.
Also under the Kerala Joint Hindu Family System (Abolition) Act, 1975, the acts pertaining to
Marumakkathayam and Aliyasantana system were abolished and it was an act to abolish the joint
family system among Hindus in the State of Kerala.
Under Sec 7 of this Act both these system based on custom and usage were abolished. Section 7
states that:
(1) Save as otherwise expressly provided in this Act, any text, rule or interpretation of Hindu
Law or any custom or usage as part of that law in force immediately before the commencement
of this Act shall cease to have effect with respect to any matter for which provision is made in
this Act.
(2) The Acts mentioned in the Schedule, in so far as they apply to the whole or any part of the
State of Kerala, are hereby repealed.
It repealed the following acts pertaining to the above 2 systems (as per schedule under Sec 7(2))
a. The Madras Marumakkathayam Act, 1933 (XXII of 1933)
b. The Madras Aliyasantana Act, 1949 (IX of 1949)
c. The Travancore Krishnavaka Marumakkathayee Act (VII of 1115)
d. The Cochin Marumakkatyam Act, XXXIII of 1113
Decline Of The Systems
This empowering system disintegrated with time. The period of wars was over. Land
ceiling laws reduced the extent of possession under the tharavadu and they gradually dwindled in
size and wealth. Economic changes in society and ideological and culturalperspectives acquired
by the educated middle class and the changes in the value system affected the joint family
tharavads. The unitary nuclear family suited people better. The structure of the
matrilineal tharavadu changed between the 18th and the 20th Century, which concurrently
affected the rights of women within the household. The very structure of the matrilineal kinship
also underwent tremendous change. The real reason for the disappearance of the tharavadu was
the selfishness and the untold greed for money in siblings in matrilineal families.
The new laws and legal procedures that were introduced in Malabar and also in Travancore
and Cochin from the 19th Century onwards had an adverse impact on the rights of women in

Nair tharavads. Nair reform movements challenged the unmitigated powers of the karanavar.
Patriarchal values influenced men and women alike. Women supported the partition of joint
family systems and in the 1930s women took the initiative in the partition of many tharavads. In
Travancore, within five years of the Marumakkattayam Law of 1933, which sanctioned the
dismantling of the tharavadu and the partition of property, 32,900 families were partitioned.
Rules of matrilineal kinship were twisted and interpreted and adapted to political, economic and
legal exigencies.
The Marumakkattayam system is not very common in Kerala these days for many more
reasons. Kerala society has become much more cosmopolitan and modern. Nair men seek jobs
away from their hometown and take their wives and children along with them. In this scenario, a
joint-family system is not viable. However, there are still a few tharavads that pay homage to this
system. In some Nair families, the children carry the last name of their mother instead of the
father, and are considered part of the mother's family, and not the father's. Nairs connect to and
trace their lineage to a tharavadu - not to a member of the family. Tharavadu names are quite an
important element of social reckoning - though decreasing in importance these days. The Kerala
rulers also followed the 'Marumakkattayam' system.
The Kerala Legislature's abolition of matrilineal kinship, which varied enormously across
time and regions, was the culmination and a predictable consequence of two centuries of legal
change and social reforms. Presently, matrilineal kinship occupies merely a shadowy and at
times nostalgic part of collective Keralite memory.
Munda Chetty V Timmaju Hensu, MHCR 1, (1862-63), p 380.
It decided that, under the Aliyasantana law, no compulsory partition of family property
[357] could be permitted he doctrine that all rights to property are derived through females is
more consistently carried out in Canara than in Malabar. but with reference to the question of
partition among males and females, which cannot certainly be reconciled with the
principle that all rights to property are derived from, aud transmitted
through, females. It may well be that a male may be yajaman, though
he may not be permitted to insist on partition lest the family property
may in part become his separate property liable to be diverted from the
family by alienation, and even the proposition that females are the sole
proprietors of family property can hardly be considered strictly accurate.
How are we then to account for the right to maintenance vesting in
males . It seems to us that it would be more correct to say that the property vesta in the whole family, consisting of males as well as females,
though, from the fact that marriage is not a legal institution, influencing
the devolution of property, all rights are derived from, and transmitted
through,females. The rule practically settled the custom and that, accordingly,the eldest member
male or female, claimed the management, and that the rule would not
have found so ready an acceptance did it not agreed with tne custom of
tho people
Tirumlai v. Dhurma, Pujari and others (second appeal 484 of 1870).
In that case the plaintiff was the senior female and the defendants were the senior males,
and the ground of action was that, as senior female, the plaintiff was entitled to the management

of family property. The District Munsif held that the senior female and tho senior male were
entitled together to be yajamans
according to the true understanding of the Aliyasantana law, the right of actual
management and d' aling with property is resident in, and exercised by,
the women in Canara marumakkatayam law
Varikara Vadake Vittil Valiya Parvati v Varikara Vadake Vittil Kamaran Nayar,
District Judge of North Malabar in 1878, a woman and her son claimed maintenance from
the karanavan. The claim included maintenance for the wife and children of the son. The
defendant, the karanavan, pleaded that the plaintiffs were not entitled to maintenance as they had
declined to live in the house that he had allotted to them. The judge went on to disallow
maintenance to the wife and children of the son on the grounds that it was against the principles
of marumakkatayam law, a point that was not even at issue .the Subordinate Judge, who did not
take objection to the inclusion of the sons wife and children, had ruled in favour of the plaintiffs.
He did so on the grounds that the house in question was already occupied by 11 members and
had no spare
accommodation. The plaintiffs took the case to the High Court, where the judge remitted the case
to the lower court for more information. On the basis of information received, the judge held that
the claim was a proper one. It was pointed out that even the first defendant did not object to the
custom of wives and children of men living in the husbands/fathers taravads. However the court
upheld this in the mode of an exception.
Erambapalli Korapen Nayar v Erambapalli Chenen Nayar, Regular Appeal no. 120 of
1870, MHCR 4, (1870-71
Targeting precisely the right against partition, the plaintiffs in a case in 1870 staked their
claim to the property of another taravad with whom they shared descent. The defendants
maintained that while they had descended from a common stock, their taravad and the
plaintiffs were distinct. Given the way matrilineal law was developed with the emphasis on
denying partition, a decision against the plaintiff could have meant affirming partition. In
denying the contention of the plaintiff, holding it to be a case where one of several branches had
become better off and another
Peru Nayar v Ayappan Nayar
By the 1880s suits for maintenance were more successful indicating not so much a change
in the provisions of the law as the widening of the scope of disputes, the adjudication of which
pushed at the boundaries of earlier interpretations. Pleas for separate maintenance were
successful as rare exceptions as the karanavan has been the cause of quarrels that necessitate
the plaintiff leaving the family house. A judgement in 1882 directed that members were entitled
to claim maintenance if there was no room for them in the taravad house.
Varankot Narayanan Nambudiri v Varanakot Narayanan Nambudiri, ILR 2, (1878-81),
Taking the presumption infavour of men a step further, in matters such as sales of taravad
property,where there was an adult anandiravan his consent was required evenwhen the sale was
assented to by a female member and was shown to befor taravad necessity.
Eravanni Revivarman V Ittapu Revivarman, ILR 1, (1876-78),
personto whom the karanavan had the closest resemblance is the father of a Hindu
family and that like the latter, his position as head of family comes to him by birth. The
karanavans office is not conferred by trust or contract but is the offspring of his natural
condition. In a suit brought by the younger of two adult males in a taravad to remove the elder,
who was karanavan, the latters conduct was found to be such as to warrant his removal

Devu v Deyi, ILR 8, (1885), pp 358-61.

Quite in contrast to the Malabar case, the High Court on appeal overturned the South
Canara District judges decision against management by males. Two women, Deyi and Ammu
sought to remove Devu Shetty, the senior male, from his position as yejamanan (karanavan) and
to recover property belonging to the family. The plaintiff claimed that the senior woman was the
yejamanan under aliyasantana law. Two questions were taken up for decision in the HighCourt:
whether it was the senior male or female or only the senior femalethat is entitled to be the
yejamanan and assuming the latter whether sheis entitled to countermand a karar (written
contract). The High Court
judges concluded that the first question was still res integra but
foundthat they were unable to concur with the District Judges decision infavour of the plaintiff
and particularly with his observation thatmanagement by males was detrimental to the interests
of the family andthat their natural instincts were in conflict with the duty, which theyowe to the
Views And Criticism
After studying the two systems it can be viewed that these systems were part of very few
of the traditional systems that gave women liberty, and right to property. Under these systems,
women enjoyed respect, prestige and power. Since ancient time India has been a male dominated
country. All the systems and customs were formulated by men, like Narada, Manu, Yajnavalkya
etc. If we study the Hindu law we can easily derive the conclusion that that all laws were made
as per convenience of the Man. A woman has been given a subordinate place in our society
since its inception. She had no right to inherit property and was confined to four walls of the
house without any right to education to her. In my view these laws were discriminatory and
biased in favor of Man since there inception.
In this environment, these two systems proved to be a soothing air for the women. These
two systems prevelant in few parts of South India gave women the basic rights and succession
carried on through matrilineal system as oppsed to rest of the country. Under these two systems
women had the rights, which were claimed by men in rest of the country. Throuh many studies it
has been proved that women can manage house and property better than man. This has been
proved through the success of The Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana system.
But this is a male dominated world and it is through their instinct that they cant remain
subordinate to a women. So this conception led to decline of these two systems through
legislative enactments, which resulted in giving full fledged power and domination into the
hands of man again. In the guise of modernism and cosmopolitanism the Marumakkattayam and
Aliyasantana system were repealed in the fake name of development and unanimity with rest of
the country. There was intense social pressure from all corners of the society and as a result of
intense social pressure, legislative enactments sanctioned the claim to partition from the joint
family and adopt Makkattayam system i.e. inheritance through male line, thus breaking away the
unique historical systems of inheritance through female line.
Thus patriarchy had superseded the matriarchy. This has changed the whole system and
practice and The Karanavan, who has lately taken over from the female, is entitled to the full
possession and management of the property. The junior members legally have no claim to
residence and maintenance. The Karanavan is not accountable to any one member and he is not
under obligation to support any member of the Tarawad (family). Therefore now the male
member enjoys autonomous right over the property and may exclude other on his whims and

In these systems, the family management and property was under the male head. Only
succession was through women. Here the property belonged to all jointly unlike another systems
like Dayabhaga and Mitakshara system, where the property rests in the hands of male members
only i.e. Karta and the Coparceners. So joint ownership was the golden point of these two
systems. But due to selfish reasons and social and political pressure from all over the country
these systems were abolished ignoring there substantial rules.
The real reason for the disappearance of the Marumakkattayam and Aliyasantana system
was the selfishness and the untold greed for money in siblings in matrilineal families which
resulted in adverse impact on the rights of women. Man for his selfish interest let down this
system, which led to a darker aspect in the life of women