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Kathleen Gough's Study on Marriage among Nayars of Kerala

According to Kathleen Gough marriage are a relationship established between a woman and one or more other persons that provides that a child born to the woman under circumstances not prohibited by the rules of the relationship and is accorded full birth status rights common to normal members of the society or social stratum.

Kathleen Gough studied the Nayars of Kerala in great depth and said that Nayars seem to have treated marriage apart from sex and economic relations between men and women. The basic household unit is called the taravad that is matrilineal. The term enangar is applied to a matrilineal lineage.

A ritual marriage called the thali kettu kalyanam in which a man tied a gold chain around the neck of his bride was conducted in a public ceremony. This marriage was performed before puberty or at about that stage in the life of a girl. A girl was married in this manner to a man who belonged to an Enangar other than hers. After attainment of puberty by the bride she was required to live together with her ritual husband for three days in a continuous succession. After this brief period of cohabitation a ritual bath was given to the couple after which the loincloth of the bride was ritually torn into two halves to establish that the ritual husband did not have any exclusive sexual rights over her from that moment onwards. He neither had any more responsibilities with regard to her. Sometimes he never sees her again.

Now the women who customarily live in large taravad were exposed to free cohabitation with men coming from the Enangars of her ritual husband or from other higher caste groups particularly the Namboodiri Brahmins. These men were called the visiting husbands had sexual relations with the woman but no responsibilities or support to the woman or the children. However during the period of her pregnancy one of these visiting husbands usually came forward to give gifts in order to finance the childbirth expenditures. But it should not be assumed that this person served as father to the children born because it was irrelevant in the matrilineal society. A child only socially belonged to the matrilineage and the matrilineal household of the mother.