Matriarchy and partition of land medieval Kerala –Laws and Enactment
The land was a major source of wealth and valued a lot in medieval times. Those who possess greater lands were socially valued and respected. The land was a synonym of wealth and prosperity. As per the census report of 1951, one-third of the Kerala population has belonged to marumakkathayam( matrilineal inheritance) .In the whole system land and property are governed by marumakathayam law of inheritance. Thavazhi a unit and branch of Tarawad own separate land property distinct from Tarawad property. Each member of the family gets their rights into the family property by their birth itself. In case of death of any member his/her interest devolves to other members. Therefore any female member in a family with a high number of offspring will get a large share of the property. Each of the members had the right to get maintenance from these properties whereas not privileged to assert for partition.
Impartibility was one of the salient features of marumakathayam law. In essential cases, a partition can take place with the approval and sign of Anatharavan under the guidance of a karanavan. As mentioned above, the marital system of nairs and Namboothiris closely associated with land and property alienation. Whereas 19th c witnessed a serious emergence of a revolutionary group among the Namboothiri caste who were raised their voice against the existing marriage system among them. With the Madras Nambothiri Act of 1933, their intention and aim got embodied. They got the right to marry from their caste and run a family. By the same year, Madras Marumakathayam Act also got passed by ensuring property rights and sambandham was considered a regular marriage. By becoming Namboothiri wife and his children as the heir of his property and meanwhile nairs also step back from maintaining sambandham with Namboothiri’s slowly led to the vanishing of that age-old system.
At the beginning of 1990 various Acts and Regulations came out which brought up and down rearrangements in the existing system. The 1933 Marumakathayam Act legalized Sambandham. It provided the right to wife and children to claim for father’s property and each member in the family got the right to claim for an individual partition. Cochin Nair Act of 1920 was widely approved, which brought immense changes in the institution of marumakathayam mainly in the direction of partition of Tarawad property. With this, the customary marriage with Namboothiri men was got legalized as well as the maintenance of the wife and children born out of this relation got put under the responsibility of the husband. When a Nair woman become the widow of a non-Nair men half of his land and property will go to the widow and offspring if they have, and the other half will deal under his law.
Joint properties of these families sometimes given for leases with the general interest of the family if it is beneficial to the whole marumakathayam system of inheritance and Nairs sambandham , the striking system of marriage with Namboothiri men correspondingly created a concentration of landed properties and assets among the Malayali Brahmins by not to divide family properties by the way partitioning. The Cochin Nair Act of1937-1938 brought more clarity to this understanding and put forward more progressive changes in a joint family system. It says that as being the legal heirs, wife and children no matter son or daughter are entitled to get a share from husband or father. The provisions and changes that happened following that set the base for the shift from marumakthayam to makkathayam or patriarchy. By 1975 joint family system was finally abolished with the enactment of the KeralaJoint Family System.
With the amendment of the 1937 -1938 Kochin Nair Act, the provisions of the 1020 Act got retained and a more progressive method was added to it. These progressive changes were with a view of bringing changes in the joint family system. As per the Act “on the death of an intestate of a Nair man, the widow or each of the widows shall be entitled to a share as same as to that of a child and every child shall be entitled to equal share”. This provision makes it clear the wife and offspring have the right to get a share from the property of the husband/ father. They both became legal successors. The Act also ensured the rights to each member’s to get their shares along with that some provisions were made to transform the law of inheritance from matriliny to patriliny. A uniform and comprehensive system of inheritance and succession ensured by the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 and which replaced all the existed systems of inheritance and succession to date. As per the act, every heir will get the share from the joint family.
The 1990 and its post-period had enormous changes in the distribution of land. Smallholdings of land became widely start to see. Land transfers, land reforms, and land market transfer all together result in the holding of lands. Every partition entails the formation of new households as an outcome of division or split in membership and property of parental units. Generally, the break in the household unit is a production unit or consumption unit or sometimes both. Alienation as a consumption unit happens without taking any share from the parental unit. Whereas in the case of production unit split in both membership and family property occurs. In the cases where parents are not died the parting members may begin a new family, but they are not supposed to desire for their due share of the possessions. This is to make sure the regular and independent income available to the parents at their old and weaker time. Furthermore, there will be unmarried girls, physically challenged people, and studying children for whose marriage, treatment, and education parents might hold on land with them.