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The early hill tribes developed into a matriarchal society which persisted right into the 19th century CE.

The Kuravar engaged in love at first sight and immediate consummation. A rudimentary marriage rite, if any, followed consummation. This was known as kalavu or pre-nuptial love – as opposed to post-nuptial love (karpu). Interestingly, over time “kalavu” came to mean “thievery”.

Men taking another’s widow and adopting her children was common. During her lifetime, a strong woman would take multiple partners.

Even after the first semblance of statehood and institutions of government evolved, children were known by their mother’s name, rather than their father. To put it plainly, the clansmen knew who the mother was, but did not always know which man had successfully impregnated the woman.

This naming convention also worked well in latter day patriarchal societies where a man had multiple wives and it made sense to identify his children to their biological mothers.

The Kuravar adorned themselves with flower garlands and wore skirts of leaves and grass. Animal hides and decorative leather, and bones and teeth of predators were prized items. Flowers played a major part not only among the hill tribes but all of the Deccan of ancient south India. (One can write a tome on flowers, their uses and importance in ancient Indian life.)

As social norms and the institution of marriage developed, men presented their lovers with trophies: usually teeth or claws of predators stringed together and worn around the necks. This evolved into the present-day holy thread or thaali which the groom ties around the neck of his bride.

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***

Note: Treat these posts on Ancient Indian history as highly simplified introductions to a complex, often conflicting, and vague period mired in the mists of antiquity.

Join me next Friday for a little on the everyday lives of the ancient (B.C.E.) Tamil herdsmen of the Mullai (forest/pastoral) region.

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