Thursday, 16 June 2011

Matrilineal Inheritance - aliya Santana

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 similar to marumakkatayam that is followed in certain class of people in Kerala.  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 matriarchy.
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).
The aliya santana commandments were decreed by a legendary figure of unknown antiquity, Bhutala Pandya (77 A.D.?).  His uncle named Deva Pandya was the ruler, when certain important cargo with a newly built naval fleet was set out to sea.  King of the demons, Kundodara, demanded sacrifice of the king’s son if he wanted any protection of the valuable cargo that was sea bound.  The king’s wife refused to part with any of her seven sons, and Deva Pandya was distraught.  The king’s sister Satyavati, finding her brother lonely and dejected, offered her own son Jaya Pandya for the sacrifice.  The demon Kundodara was impressed with this sacrifice.  He not only spared the young boy’s life but also bestowed upon him the kingdom of Jaya Pandya’s father Veerapandya in the city called Jayantika.  The demon also gave the name Bhutala Pandya on the brave young man and sat him on a throne.
Later another similar demand was made by the demon, when Deva Pandya’s ships had run aground in Kalyanapura.  In order to slake the demon’s thirst for human sacrifice, the king made another request from his wife to spare one of their sons.  But his wife refused to comply again and publicly renounced all inheritance of the kingdom for her own sons and left the kingdom to live with her parents.  Bhutala Pandya was summoned by the people, who wisely propitiated the demon Kundodara as Mahishasura, and built him a permanent abode in Someshwara.  Kundodara then demanded of Deva Pandya that he should disinherit all his sons and name his nephew Bhutala Pandya as the successor.
Bhutala Pandya ruled for a period of seventy-five years in peace and his subjects were prosperous.  He had twelve wives with whom he had many 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 of the population between the 12th and 16th centuries in Tulu nadu.

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