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Sambandham Type Of Marriage In Ancient Kerala

Sambandham, a unique form of marriage alliance practiced by the Namboothiri Brahmins of Kerala in ancient times, represented a distinct cultural and social arrangement within the region. The Namboothiris, being a Brahmin community, adhered to strict customs regarding marriage and lineage. The system of sambandham was particularly notable for its interaction with the Nairs, who followed a matrilineal descent system and were considered Kshatriyas.

In this traditional arrangement, the eldest son of a Namboothiri family would typically marry a Namboothiri girl, thus ensuring the continuation of the Brahmin lineage. However, for the younger sons, a different approach was taken. Instead of adhering strictly to Brahmin endogamy, they would enter into what was known as sambandham with Nair girls.

Sambandham, in this context, can be understood as a looser form of marital union, primarily undertaken for the purpose of progeny. Unlike the formal marriage between Namboothiris, sambandham did not entail the same legal or familial obligations. It was a more flexible arrangement, allowing for the continuation of the family line without necessitating the integration of the Nair spouse into the Namboothiri family structure.

One crucial aspect of sambandham was that neither the husband nor the wife became members of each other's families. As a result, there was no legal responsibility or obligation on the part of the husband towards his sambandham wife or their children. Instead, the children born from such unions were considered to belong to the tharavadu, the joint family structure of the Nair lineage, tracing descent from a common ancestress.

This system of sambandham served as a means of maintaining social and familial continuity within the Namboothiri community while also allowing for some degree of interaction and alliance with the Nair community. It reflected the complex interplay of caste, lineage, and marital practices that characterized Kerala's socio-cultural landscape in ancient times.