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In the South Madras , however, the pattern was very different. In this region, religious, professionals, and tribal castes had the highest sex ratios, although the differences are were not significant. In addition, whereas Hindus had higher sex ratios than Muslims in both Punjab and Bengal, the pattern is not significant in Madras, where there were few Muslims. Finally, when we run caste-wise regressions for Hindus and Muslims separately, the overall results are relatively similar, although the joint significance of castes based on the F statistics is not significant for Muslims.

Caste and Kinship in Kangra

Notes: Muslim is the omitted religion category; artisan is the omitted caste category. All regressions are weighted. In Table 8 , we analyze the relationship between sex ratios by language groups. Because there is little geographic overlap of languages in different regions, the regressions do not include geographic dummy variables. We find that sex ratios among people who spoke the southern Dravidian languages differed significantly from those who spoke Aryan languages in the northern and northwestern regions, but not for those who spoke languages of Aryan origin in the East or the South.

In column 1, we omit all the Dravidian languages. Compared with Dravidian languages, Central Aryan and North Aryan had and more males per 1, females, respectively. The northern hilly languages had more males. In column 2, we further break the Dravidian languages into the four major southern languages of Canarese, Malayalese, Telegu, and Tamil. In this case, the omitted category is all other Dravidian languages. Again, we find that northern languages had proportionately fewer females than Dravidian languages. Moreover, there were no observable differences compared with people who spoke languages in the other 11 categories.

However, because there is little geographic overlap of languages in different regions, these language differences are most likely capturing differences across regions. This is evident from column 3, where the variation across languages does not significantly affect the sex ratios when we include province fixed effects. Notes: Dravidian southern is the omitted category. All regressions are weighted with weights equal to the square root of the population in language i and district j. Because of the little geographic overlap of languages across broad regions, it is difficult to identify the impact of language on sex ratio.

In Table 9 , we overcome this constraint to an extent by using the census data to construct groups of bordering districts; this enables us to track people of the same language across different provinces. We constructed sex ratio by different language groups for the districts bordering Punjab, in the states of Rajputana, Kashmir, and United Provinces. Because all of these districts should exhibit little geographic variation, we should be able to identify the effect of language controlling for geographic effects. The data show that sex ratios differ by language. As compared with Punjabi-speaking societies the omitted language category , there were relatively more females within the Hindi Hindustani , Hilly, and Rajasthani and Gujrati western speaking communities.

However, even after we control for the language variation, the geographic variations persist. Punjab and United Provinces both had significantly more males than Kashmir, the omitted province. Notes: Western language group comprises different Gujrati and Rajasthani languages. Punjabi is the omitted language category, and Kashmir is the omitted province. Because our caste- and language-wise data on sex ratios are not linked, we cannot control for language variations in the caste-religion-district regressions.

However, as we saw earlier, accounting for district and province fixed effects possibly controls for all time-invariant regional variations, including those of language. That apart, we also ran an aggregated regression at the district level, combining caste, religious, and language variations as in Eq.

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The results are provided in Table Interestingly, even with very few units of observation, landholder and cultivator castes continue to show a higher fraction of males compared with artisans in all regressions. Moreover, after we account for caste variations, neither language nor the specific geography variables contribute much toward explaining the variations in sex ratios. See column 7 or column 8; the latter uses the square root of the population in each district as weights. However, we should be careful about the interpretation of these results because they do not include the district fixed effects, and the complete model is based on only 85 observations.

Notes: In column 7, the F statistic is 2. Column 8 uses the square root of the district population as weights.

Kangri Dhar, Village Nandrul, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh -- Himachal Darshan --

In summary, we argue that the data confirm the view that family, kinship, and inheritance institutions in India contributed significantly to determining sex ratios in India. As noted by numerous scholars, sex ratio was the highest in the North Punjab , where the society was patrilineal, patrilocal, and extremely exogamous; and was lowest in the South Madras , where the practice of close kin marriages provided more favorable kinship relationships for females.

Moreover, in the East Bengal , where the northern kinship and inheritance rules were modified, female proportion improved over those in the North but remained lower than those in the South. Because the ideal norms of kinship were held more strongly by the higher castes, the positive relationship between sex ratios and caste rank provides additional evidence on the importance of kinship.


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However, because caste rank is also correlated with wealth and income, it is difficult to distinguish the effects of wealth and kinship on sex ratios. Women from low castes often earned significant family income, so their bargaining power within the family and kin group was likely to be high; in contrast, high-caste women typically did not bring in any income. Yet, it is also important to note that kinship norms had a significant influence on the labor market of women.

High-caste women were forbidden to work outside the home, and their bargaining power was based on the rearing of children, especially sons.

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In the South, however, the high sex ratio of the upper castes poses a puzzle. If cross-cousin marriages were taken more seriously by the higher castes, one might expect a lower sex ratio for the higher castes. We believe that the high sex ratio of the upper-caste Brahmans in the South may be accounted for by the fact that the Brahmans brought with them the vestiges of northern family norms when they migrated south. Gough argued that even though the southern Brahmans adopted cross-cousin marriages, the Brahman family relationships were characterized by a northern family hierarchy.

Finally, the examination of sex ratios by language and religion seem to indicate the importance of kinship. Even when we control for geography, societies who speak the northern Indo-Aryan language, like Punjabi and Kashmiri, exhibited significantly higher sex ratios.

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Similarly, even in the North and East, Muslims whose kinship norms were similar to those of the Dravidian South possessed lower sex ratios than their Hindu counterparts, even after we control for caste rank. However, although our data analysis does not include the Sikhs, the high sex ratios observed for the Sikhs in Punjab present a significant puzzle because their religious principles were based on the equality of men and women.

Why did kinship and inheritance systems differ across the regions in India? Most scholars believe that the origin and the spread of the northern kinship system can be traced to the historical path of the Indo-Aryan conquest.

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When the indigenous Indus civilization disintegrated around BC, Aryans started migrating into northwestern India and brought with them new technologies of agriculture as well as military and political organization. The variations in the relationships between the political and economic elites in different regions also led to variations in their family, kinship, and inheritance institutions. In the northwestern Indo-Gangetic plain, the Aryans developed a stable, decentralized, lineage-based, political, and kinship system that survived for centuries.

Yet, as the Aryans marched to the eastern Bengal frontier, their political and kinship institutions were modified to form a more centralized state bureaucracy.

The royal political elites formed alliances with local Brahmans, who in turn formed alliances with local elites. However, in the South, the slow diffusion—rather than the invasion of Aryans and their ideas—created a distinctly different Aryan-Dravidian society that was much more varied, localized, and segmentary Stein In the South, the Aryans adopted the southern practice of cross-cousin marriages.

The Indo-Aryan culture arose in the northern Gangetic plain, where the monsoon rainfall was moderate, and irrigated agriculture prior to British rule was limited. From a pastoral society that raised cattle, a mature, settled agricultural society emerged in this region.

The dominant form of agriculture was wheat and millet, but in places of sufficient water supply, rice was also cultivated. According to Thapar , the rise of settled agriculture coincided with the rise of a kinship lineage society, which was to last for centuries. Each clan, composed of its maximal lineages, controlled a compact area of 12 to 84 villages, Fox ; Pradhan Even when the territory was organized under the Mughal Empire, these Rajput clans retained significant control of their local territories.

Given the importance of the kinship clan as a political and economic institution in the North, its kinship system fostered the alliance of kin networks over its maximal lineages. At the clan level, marriages between the families of the same maximal lineage can threaten the political balance within the clan because these families can use marriage to build a more powerful political coalition.

By requiring women to marry outside their gotra or sapinda and by requiring them to marry outside the villages of the maximal lineages, the northern system insured the political stability of the maximal clan lineage by significantly reducing the bargaining power of women. At the level of the joint family, marriages also threatened the break-up of the family property because wives had an incentive to seek partition of joint property. By severely restricting the rights of women, the northern system limited the power of women to exercise their autonomy over their husbands and joint family Mandelbaum ; and Mathur In the fifth and sixth centuries, the Indo-Aryan culture gradually marched eastward toward the Bengal jungle frontier.

The Hindu Brahmans brought with them the technology of settled agriculture, but because of the abundance of rainfall, the new Bengalis adopted wet rice agriculture. Unlike the pastoral wheat and barley agriculture of the Indo-Gangetic plain in Punjab, wet rice agriculture was intensive in capital and labor: it involved building and maintaining tanks and irrigation channels, planting, transplanting, monitoring of water levels, and harvesting. Although wet rice agriculture was probably associated with a significant increase in productivity, it was also much more risky because few other crops could be grown submerged in water.

As a result, the lives of villagers were more likely to be tied to the fortunes of the annual rice crop.

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The regional political structure that emerged in Bengal differed in important respects from Punjab. In Bengal, the imperial state seems to have achieved a significant level of centralization by building alliances with Brahmans and other dominant castes who were granted land and protection for tribute and taxes.


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  • The Brahmans, in turn, formed local alliances with other dominant Sudra castes to strengthen their local power. Thus, individual Brahmans were able to acquire large territories through the imperial and local alliance. In Bengal, the northern kinship system was modified. Because the political stability of the maximal lineage was not important, evidence suggests that the gotra or the sapinda rule and the rule of village exogamy were not enforced in Bengal. In addition, as noted earlier, the inheritance rule was modified in Bengal from the rights of equal division of property by sons at birth to rights of the father to divide property at his death.

    Given that the patriarchal father had significant rights over his property, marriages did not threaten the devolution of family property.


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    • Thus, in Bengal, there were fewer benefits from suppressing the autonomy of women. In addition, Bengal was much more ethnically diverse, as evidenced by the greater numbers of languages and castes than in Punjab.