About JK's Marriage and Family Life



Presented by Jeba Melwin


Jenu Kurumbas are primitive tribal group living in the States of Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka.  They are called as ‘Kattunayakas’ in Tamilnadu and Kerala and as ‘Jenu Kurumbas’ in Karnataka.  ‘Kadu’ in Tamil means ‘Jungle’ and ‘Nayaka’ in Tamil means ‘King.’ ‘Jenu’ in Kannada means ‘Honey’ and ‘Kuruba’ stands for caste.  Jenu Kurumbas have retained their own traditions and differ from other tribal people (and even from other Kurumba subgroups) of the area in their language, social system, customs and habits.



When a JK girl attains puberty, she is kept inside ‘gummanu’ – a small make-shift hut.   Lot of rituals are done during these days.  After 30 days during the day of the ceremony the ‘gummanu’ is destroyed and the girl is given bath in the nearby river.  After the bath, the girl will break the coconut with a ‘katti.’  They believe that if the coconut breaks into two equal halves that is a good omen.  If they fall near, groom will come from a nearby place.  If they fall farther, groom will come from a faraway place.  If one half is small, the first child will die.  Here begins a JK girl’s marriage dreams.


In JK community, both arranged marriages and love marriages are common.  Usually those who fall in love elope. Earlier arranged marriages were very simple with exchange of betel leaves and betel nuts, etc.  Nowadays they are conducted in a comparatively grand manner.  The marriage proposal can be initiated by either party. 


Both the boy and the girl must be from the same clan and same community.  The 3 clans of the JK community are ‘muthsa kurumbar,’ ‘arey nadu kurumbar’ and ‘goodumane kurumbar.’  All of them are considered equal.  In the earlier days marriage between the clans and with the other communities were strictly prohibited.   If it happened, the married couple was ex-communicated from the village.  Now it is relented a bit. 


The marriage is fixed only if the boy and the girl like each other.  If the boy and the girl are from the same or nearby villages the parents and elders meet each other there itself and fix the marriage.  If they are from distant villages parents and elders travel to the village of the other party and fix it. There is no special function for fixing the marriage.  In the earlier days there was no dowry system among JKs.  Nowadays it is practiced where the boy receives from the girl. It varies according to their capability.    


There are no specific norms as to where the marriage should be held.  It depends upon the convenience of both the parties.  The marriage expense is shared by both the parties.  Invitation for the marriage can be extended to the relatives of both the parties.  But it is a must to invite the village leader. 


Usually the village head who is also the priest performs the marriage ceremony.  A necklace (‘bangara’) made of tiny white and colorful beads is tied around the neck of the bride by her maternal uncle’s wife.  Marriages are usually not registered according to the law of the Government.  In the earlier days, no wedding feast was given. Only the betel leaves and betel nuts were given.  Nowadays wedding feast is given – mostly vegetarian food.


Right after the marriage, the couple go to the forest for their honeymoon.  Sometimes the entire family accompanies them and make two grass huts (‘hullu mane’) one for themselves and the other for the couple. In the forest, there is a tree called ‘zalu mara,’ which has strong and sweet-smelling flowers.  The honeymoon couple spend their time in forest until the period of blossom is over. 


In cases of elopement, parents mostly accept the couple.  In some cases they do not accept them and even go to the extreme of murder for going against their consent.  


Normally JKs practice monogamy.  Polygamy is exceptional.  Since the marriages are registered, there is no hard and fast rule for divorce.  They simply get separated.  This also enables them to get reunited easily.   

if you wants to see JK's marriage video please click here




In the JK community, mostly nuclear family pattern is followed.  Normally both the husband and the wife are bread-winners.  If they have small children they carry them along to the workplace.  Earlier they used to go to the forest in search of food and firewood.  Nowadays most of them work as daily laborers in the nearby plantations.  The husband makes all the decisions.  He is the dominant member of the family.  The maternal uncle and aunt play major roles in all the ceremonies of the family. 


JKs normally have very less property.  It is distributed to both the male and female members of the children.   If there is dispute beyond control regarding the distribution of the property, the village head intervenes and solves the issue. 


There is normally no preference regarding the sex of the child.  Both male and female child are welcome.  Childless couple is looked down in the community.  They take herbal medicines in order to have children.  Sometimes the husband remarries in order to have children.


JKs love their children very much.  They don’t even punish them.  They always want their children to be near them.  For this reason many don’t send them to school. 




The JK community is patrilineal with patrilocal residence.  There are some exceptions.  Earlier they were nomadic moving from one place to another inside the forest in search of food.    It is told that even today there are some JKs who live in caves and move from one place to another deep inside the forest.  Usually in a JK village there are 5 to 10 houses.  There is no set pattern in the village regarding the settlement.  


In some places the Government has resettled JK people in colonies built in the outskirts of the forest.   


Every village has a village head ‘modhali.’   Usually the village head performs the duty of the priest.  There is a temple ‘deiva mane’ in every village.  It is situated outside the village.   Sorcerers and witchdoctors live inside the village.  They are feared by the others. 


Christian believers are either ex-communicated from the village or deprived of the privileges from the Government.




JKs practice monogamy. They have strongly knitted families.  What are the deepest values on which their customs and behavior are based?  Presenting the gospel to the head of the family / the village head would be more effective since they are the decision-makers.  The rest of them could follow easily.   

Your encouragement is valuable to us

Your stories help make websites like this possible.