The Joint Family in India:
The joint family, the caste system and the village system are often regarded as the pillars on which the whole Hindu social edifice is built. The joint family is the bedrock, on which Hindu values and attitudes are built.
It is found in almost all the parts of India. Family for a Hindu is a sacred institution deriving sanction from religion and social traditions with myths and legends. Hence this form of family is still found in India. It is deeply rooted in the traditional Hindu culture. It is an age-old system having a long history of its own
Definition of Joint Family:
(i) The joint family is a mode of combining smaller families into larger family units through tne extension of three or more generations including at least grandparents, parents and children.
(ii) The joint family is one which consists of members related through blood and spread over several generations living together under a common roof and work under a common head.
(iii) The definition given by Smt. Iravati Karve seems to be more satisfactory. According to her, the joint family may be defined as “a group of people who generally live under one roof who eat food cooked at one hearth, who hold property in common, and who participate in common family worship and are related to each other as some particular type of kindred”
Types of Joint Family
The joint family may assume two forms:
(i) Patriarchal joint family, and (ii) Matriarchal joint family. Both the forms are found in India. The patriarchal joint family is father-centred and the matriarchal joint family is mother-dominated.
The patriarchal joint families are found among the Nambudaris of Malabar, the Mundas of Chhotanagpur and the Angami Nagas of Assam. The Nambudari joint family is generally described as “Illom”. The matriarchal joint families are found among the Nairs of Malabar, the Khasis and Garos living on the Garo hills of Assam. The Nair joint family is popularly known as ‘ Tarawad’.
Characteristics of the Joint Family:
1. Depth of Generations:
The joint family consists of people of three or more generations including at least grandparents, parents and children. Sometimes, other kith and kin such as uncles, aunts, cousins and great grandsons also live in the joint family itself.
2. Common Roof:
Members of the joint family normally reside together under the same household. Due to the scarcity of accommodation or due to educational and employment problems, members of the joint family may reside separately. Still, they try to retain regular contacts and the feeling of belonging to the same family.
3. Common Kitchen:
Members eat the food prepared jointly at the common kitchen. Normally, the eldest female member of the family supervises the work at the kitchen. In the patriarchal joint families, women serve the food to men at first and take their meals afterwards.
4. Common Worship:
The Hindu joint family derives its strength from religion. Hence, it is associated with various religious rituals and practices. Every family may have its own deity of ‘Kula devata’ and its own religious tradition. Members of the family take part in common worship, rites and ceremonies.
5. Common Property:
The members hold a common property. As Melley writes: the joint family “is a co-operative institution similar to a joint stock company in which there is a joint property”. The head of the family manages the family property like a trustee. The total earnings of the members are pooled into a family treasury and family expenses are met with out of that,
6. Exercise of Authority:
In the patriarchal joint family usually the eldest male member exercises authority. The super-ordination of the eldest member and the subordination of all the other members to him is a keynote of the joint family. His commands are normally obeyed by others. As opposed to it, in the matriarchal joint family the eldest female member in theory exercises the supreme authority.
7. Arranged Marriages:
In the joint family, the head considers it as his privilege to arrange the marriages of the members. The individual’s right to select his/her life-partner is undermined. The younger members rarely challenge their decisions and arrangements. But now-a-days, the feelings of younger ones are being given due weightage.
The size of the joint family is by nature bigger. It is found to be associated with higher rate of production. It is so because in the past procreation was regarded as a religious duty. Members rarely practised birth control measures. But today the situation has changed.
9. Identification with obligations towards the Family:
The members tend to identify themselves with their family. Every member has his own duties and obligations towards the family. The family in turn, protects the interests and promotes the welfare of all. The senior-most member of the family acts as the guide for other members.
There was a time when the joint family was mostly self-sufficient. It used to meet the economic, recreational, medical, educational and other needs of the members. The rural agricultural joint families were mostly self-reliant. But they can hardly depend on themselves today. No type of family is self-reliant that way today.