Thursday, September 21, 2023

Marumakkathayam Law of Malabar

 Marumakkathayam Law of Malabar

The coral islands in the Arabian sea adjoining the Malabar coast, now known as Lakshadweep and earlier as Lakkadives, Minikoy and Amindivi islands, were parts of Malabar and South Canara Districts prior to the State re-organisation in 1956.

Though the name suggests that there are one hundred thousand islands, the archipelago consists of 37 islands of which 10 alone are inhabited.

The islands lie directly on the trade route between Africa, Arabia and Malabar. 

These islands therefore were a landmark for the navigators. 

Probably that was the reason why the group of islands was called Lakshadweep, 'Laksha' meaning a mark or a direction.

The earlier colonisers were perhaps Hindus who migrated from Malabar and particularly Kolathunadu, parts of present Cannanore District. 

The earlier inhabitants of Minikoy islands may be Singhalese.

Mr. R.H. Elly's I.C.S., who has prepared a short account of the Lakkadive islands and Minikoy is of the view that the islands supposed to have been peopled first are Amindivi, Kalpeni, Androth, Kavarathi and Agathi.

According to him the upper classes of the first four of these islands still claim to trace their descend from Nair or even Namboodiri families on the main land and these islands are known in consequence as tarwad islands in distinction to the other or Melacheri islands.

Sri N. Section Mannadiar who edited the Gazetteer of India on Lakshadweep observes that by no stretch of imagination could it be conceived that Namboodiris who were noted for their leisurely and pleasure seeking life had migrated to Lakshadweep.

There is every likelihood of those persons crossing the sea and inhabiting these islands. 

That appears to be the reason why many of the house names carry the word 'Illam'.

Mr. Ellis is of the opinion that the islanders under the influence of Arab traders were converted to Muhammadanism at sometime, probably in the 14th century.

Still the inhabitants of the island follow the maru-makkathayam system of inheritance which their forefathers had brought to the island at the time of migration.

On this aspect Sri Ellis says thus:

"The island law is a curious mixture of the ordinary Muhammadan Law with the Marumakkathayam Law of Malabar.

Property is regarded as either ancestral or self-acquired. 

Ancestral property is known as Velliaricha (literally Friday property), pronounced Belliaricha on the Amindivis.

Self acquired property is known as Tingalaricha (literally Monday property) on the Malabar islands and as Velliaricha on the South Kanara islands.

Velliyaricha properties (ancestral) are governed by the ordinary marumakhathayam law i.e. descend through sister's children and devolution on the descendants in the female line.

There is no codified law and the practices are governed by customs which differ from island to island. 

The tarwad properties can be partitioned only with the consent of all the members of the tarwad.

The editor further says that self-acquired or personal property is governed by Muhammadan law of succession. Here also there are variations in different islands.

In Androth island to which the parties to this suit belong succession to personal property is governed by marumakkathayam law unless it is specifically laid down in the Will of the deceased that it should go to his wife and children.

He further states that under the Muslim law followed in the islands the son is eligible for two shares in the property while the daughter gets only one share.

Mr. William Logan, Collector of Malabar District, in his Manual has stated that the inhabitants of Androth island compare favourably in physique with the people of the coast and in their customs and habits closely resemble the Mapillas of North Malabar.

He has no doubt mentioned about the complexities of the Muhammadan rules of inheritance and marriage and the existence side by side of the Makkatayam and Marumakkathayam rules which give rise to frequent litigation.

Anyway one thing is clear; Hindus and Mappillas of the Malabar and South Kanara coasts were the original inhabitants of the islands. 

They had carried with them their personal law. Muslims of North Malabar follow the marumakkathayam system of inheritance like Hindus.

That may be the reason why the original inhabitants followed that system even after conversion of the Hindus into Muhammadanism.

The division of tarwad properties can therefore be only in accordance with the marumakkathayam law as it stood before the Madras Marumakkathayam Act and the Aliyasanthana Act which were made applicable to the Malabar and South Kanara District of the erstwhile Madras Presidency.

W. E. Ormsby who had been the Chief Justice of the Travancore High Court in his book "Outlines of Marumakkathayam Law" says thus :

"Where division takes place it will usually be according to the Tai-varies or number of daughters of the original ancestress. Each Tai-vari may similarly be sub-divided should the members consent thereto, and so on until individual proprietorship is arrived at."

At page 719 of Raghavachariar's Hindu Law, 7th Edn. Vol. II. 

The learned author says that every member of the tarwad being equally interested in the property, any partition arrangement should not be on the stirpital but on the per capita basis.

The author gives an example of a tarwad (family) consisting of a brother and two sisters and the issue of the sisters. 

One sister has 9 children and the other has 14. According to the author the property has to be divided into 26 shares, one share being allotted to the brother, 10 shares to the tavazhi of the sister having 9 children and 15 shares to the tavazhi of the sister having 14 children.

The Madras High Court has relied on an article of Sundara Ayyar J. on Topics of Malabar Law which appeared in (1899) ILR 22 Mad 337. 

In that article the view propounded was that division is made not per stirpes but per capita.


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