- Yerukala tribe social customs
The information is about the
Yerukalatribe social customs.
Yerukalafamilies are usually nuclear but that is changing in sync with the 21st century Indian society. Descent is patrilineal (tracing descent through the paternal line), residence is patrilocal (family unit lives near the male relations) and authority is patriarchal (fathers have primary responsibility for the welfare of the family units).
The four prominent Yerukala gothras are Kavadi, Sathupadi, Maanupadi and Mendraguthi. Sathupadi and Maanupadi gothras are considered cousins. Marriage between those gothras is not encouraged. Both Sathupadi and Maanupadi can get married to Kavadi. The fourth gothra Mendraguthi maintains marriage relations with all the remaining three gothras.
Marriages within the gotra are banned under the rule of exogamy. Cross-cousin (menarikam) marriages are no longer preferred because of the medical awareness but still it is in practice. Marriages between the maternal uncle and niece are also permitted but not preferred any longer. Monogamy is the common form of marriage. Polygyny is socially permitted but the number of occurrences of polygyny is almost negligent.
Arranged marriage is the standard practise. Traditionally, the married women used to wear a bead necklace as the symbol of marriage. But now thali bottu or mangal sutram, the marriage pendent is being worn as a marriage symbol by most of the women. Widows are permitted to re-marry.
Yerukalas follow the law of the land, uniform civil code. They approach the relevant courts for justice with the domestic issues pertaining to marriages.
Marriage through negotiation and exchange are the common modes of acquiring mates. Traditionally, the married women used to wear a bead necklace as the symbol of marriage. Divorce is permissible on the grounds of adultery, barrenness and incompatibility between the spouses.
The Yerukala tribe has its own social control mechanism at each habitation inhabited by Yerukala to ensure proper observance of prescribed codes of conduct. This traditional council (Kula Panchayat) is headed by an elderly man whose office is hereditary traditionally. The traditional council (Kula Panchayat) tries and decides the domestic disputes, disputes relating to theft, adultery, loans, property and land. Apart from solving disputes, the Kulapanchayat is also competent to maintain the solidarity of the community by checking the behavior of the individuals. If a person commits the breach of incest taboo he is excommunicated and denied all community rights. The defaulter is readmitted into the community after the purificatory ceremony is observed. The characteristic feature of deciding guilt or innocence of an accused among Yerukalas was through trial by ordeal, which was in vogue till recent times such as
# Dipping of fingers in boiling oil.
# Picking up the burnt iron crowbar.
# Walking bare foot through the fire bed.
The Yerukala tribe has undergone many in its culture because of the assimilation into mainstream Indian society. They no longer follow the traditional council (Kula Panchayat) concept. The Yerukalas respect the law of the land and follow the uniform civil code. They approach the civil and criminal courts for justice. The excommunication and purification concepts are no longer in usage. The trial by ordeal, as mentioned above, are also discarded for good.
Yerukalas are not vegetarians. Rice is their staple cereal in coastal
Andhra Pradesh, while jowaris the staple cereal in Rayalaseemaand Telanganaregions. They consume all types of meat except Beef.
The traditional occupation of Yerukalas includes basket-making, mat weaving, pig rearing, rope-making etc. The Yerukala women were specialized in soothsaying and fortune telling but no longer practise either profession. Some of them also participate in the economic activities like basket making, mat weaving etc, and make baskets with wild date leaves.
The Yerukulas, called as Dabba Yerukalas, living in the plains of Andhra Pradesh make different types of baskets with bamboo.
The Yerukula society has undergone lot of changes in the recent past. Most of them are settled as Agriculturists and some of them as daily wage workers. The last generation was able to use Reservation facilities to some extent and this generation is using the Reservation facilities to a good extent. Hope the day comes when Yerukalas will be remembered for their intelligence and hardwork, not for the atrocities and exploitation they had to endure for the last couple of centuries.
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