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.



    1. Hello Dennis,

      I’ve not visited Bougainville Island but visited Port Moresby several times on business during the 1990s. Met people from the island. I recall an insurgency on the island back then directed against foreign mining operations.


    1. Hello,

      First comment on my blog – welcome aboard 🙂

      Glad you like my posts on Ancient (South) India. And the haiku too.

      Going forward, I hope not to disappoint.


  1. When a baby is registered in Honduras it is given BOTH the father’s AND the mother’s last name. I rather like the custom. I don’t know how they handle the next generation for four would be too much, although it might assist people making ancestry charts! sometimes the simplest things can be reduced “ad absurdum”

    1. Hello Jane,

      In some cultures at one time the name string goes on for several generations, or so it seems. XYZ son of (s/o) ABC s/o DEF s/o GHI s/o and so on.


  2. I guess it is only right that the strong and able can protect more. Men taking another’s widow and adopt their children is a generous act. Ironically society at that time is more broad minded and less critical than our time. Perhaps we can step back and relook at those practices that were right all along.

    1. Hello Windy,

      When survival confronts people every moment of the day, there are only so many options open to society.

      It is not surprising that wealth breeds selfishness and false values become the new normal which leads to society fracturing and looking inwards, I reckon.


  3. I enjoyed that as you will have anticipated. 🙂 I was told that there was a part of North Kerala coastland that was a matriarchal society and wonder if you have any information on that society. From memory it was the Nayar Community. Tribes in the Northeast India are matriarchal too.

    1. Hello Ian,

      Yes, parts of Kerala had a matriarchal society as I mentioned in my reply to Nousheen – “western regions of the Deccan”. I’m unsure whether it included the Nayars but could very well be. You are well informed 🙂 The Northeast regions – also probably had matriarchal societies.

      All good wishes,

    1. Hello Nousheen,

      First comment in Written Words Never Die. Welcome 🙂

      From what I know matriarchal societies were quite prevalent in the western regions of the Deccan.

      All good wishes,
      P/s. That book you recommended – The adventures of Amir Hamza – I’m reading it now. Fascinating!

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