Unlike the Westerners, Tamil people have a very elaborate kinship system.
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The Tamil people have a very elaborate and systematic kinship system. Families can be categorized into two main groups. Panggali (Parallel Cousins) and Muraipasangga (Cross Cousins). Panggalis are treated as siblings while Muraipasangga are those who we can marry. Therefore, the terminology used for the Panggali is the same as our siblings.
Parallel Cousins = Father's brother's children or Mother's sister's children
Cross Cousins = Father's sister's children or Mother's brother's children
The Panggali or Muraipasangga group is not only for immediate families but also for the extended families. Certain clans have family names which determines who is who in the entire clan.
Therefore, members of such clans will avoid marriage with their Panggali families as they will carry the same surname. This is similar to the Gothra system.
Certain terminology in the Tamil kinship can be used for more than one relationship. For example, a person can call his sister’s husband as Machan, Attan or even Maaman depending on the relationship of the families prior to the marriage.
The terms used for in-laws are also used for the Muraipasangga.
I have given some examples of the terminology which we have below. Each of these terminology represents a particular relationship.
Father - Thanthai
Mother - Thaai
Grandfather - Paattan
Grandmother - Paati
Maternal Grandmother - Ammayee
Paternal Grandmother - Appayee
Great Grandfather - Poottan
Great Grandmother - Pootti
Great Great Grandfather - Ottan
Great Great Grandmother - Otti
Great Great Great Grandfather - Seyon
Great Great Great Grandmother - Seyol
Great Great Great Great Grandfather - Paran
Great Great Great Great Grandmother - Parai
Son - Magan
Daughter - Magal
Grandson - Peyaran
Grandaughter - Peyarti
Great Grandson - Kollu Peyaran
Great Granddaughter - Kollu Peyarti
Great Great Grandson - Ellu Peyaran
Great Great Grandaughter - Ellu Peyarti
Brother - Sagothar
Sister - Sagothari
Elder Brother - Annan
Elder Sister - Akka
Younger Brother - Thambi
Younger Sister - Thangachi
Father's Elder Brother - Periappa
Father's Younger Brother - Chithappa
Father's Sister - Athai
Mother's Brother - Maama
Mother's Elder Sister - Periamma
Mother's Younger Sister - Chinnamma
Athai's Son - Attan
Athai's Daughter - Athachi
Parallel Cousins - Panggali
Cross Cousin - Muraipasangga
Husband - Kanavan
Wife - Manaivi
Annan's Wife, Wife's Akka - Anni
Thambi's Wife, Wife's Thangachi - Kolunthiya
Kanavan's Annan - Muthaar
Kanavan's Thambi - Kolunthanar
Manaivi's brother, Sister's husband - Machan
Wife's Sister's Husband - Sagalai (Annan/Thambi)
Husband's Brother's Wife - Orupadi (Akka/Thangachi)
Machan's Son, Brother's Son (Female), Son-in-law - Marumagan
Machan's Daughter, Sister's Daughter (Male), Daughter-in-law - Marumagal
My wife’s younger sister becomes my Kolunthiya. I can call my Kolunthiya’s husband as Thambi. Our relationship is also known as Sagalai, brothers through marriage as our wives are sisters. Sagalais and their children become Panggalis. They are like siblings.
The kinship of the Tamils was created to ensure that there is a proper system to define family relationships. It was also created to avoid incest among the people.
The choice of words in Tamil kinship may vary depending on the region or clan a person originated from. But the family relationship in general, is the same for all Tamils.
The earliest ancestor 7 generation ago is known as Paran (male) and Parai (female). This is how the term Paramparai is born for the Tamil family tree. The Tamil word for tradition, Parampariyam, is taken from Paramparai Niyayam. So our ancestors are not only the founders of our family tree but also the pioneers of our tradition.