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The Debate on Cross-Cousin Marriage in Classical Hindu Law


· David Brick University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, United States of America)


07/26 | 17:50-18:10 UTC+2/CEST


It has long been recognized that the Indian subcontinent is home to two markedly different systems of kinship that broadly correspond to prominent linguistic and geographical divisions in the region: those of the Indo-Aryan North and the Dravidian South. Moreover, scholars have widely agreed that the most distinctive feature of Dravidian kinship is the widespread practice of cousin-cousin marriage in its various forms. In the Indo-Aryan North, by contrast, a man is generally forbidden from marrying a woman to whom he is biologically related in any way within a fairly large number of generations. Nevertheless, by the close of the second millennium CE, Brahmin intellectuals throughout India shared in common both a canon of scriptural sources and a complex tradition of jurisprudence known as Dharmaśāstra. Hence, this raises the question: how did classical Brahmanical jurists of the North and South deal with controversial issue of cross-cousin marriage? It is this question that this paper aims to address. In particular, it will analyze the earliest and most influential defense of cross-cousin marriage within the Dharmaśāstra tradition, that of the South Indian jurist Devaṇṇa Bhaṭṭa, who composed his voluminous legal digest, the Smṛticandrikā, roughly between the years 1150 and 1225.