Among North Indian Hindus the marriage between brother and sister is not allowed for seven generations from father side and three generations from mother's side, but among South Indian Hindus particularly among Brahmins cross-cousin marriage is prevalent (i.e. a boy can marry the daughter of his maternal uncle). What is the reason behind this? Does any Hindu scripture illuminate on this issue ?

  • There is no scriptural sanction or reference for this. Krishna pioneered this practice when he married off Arjuna and Subhadra. This gave it legitimacy.
    – user1195
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 18:37
  • Krisha belonged to Yadu vansh and Arjun belonged to Bharat vansh, therefore this example is not that of a cross-cousin marriage. Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 16:21
  • Shoorasena was the father of vasudeva (Krishna's father) and Prta(later named Kunti when she was given in adoption to King Kuntibhoja as he was childless). So Vasudeva and Kunti are siblings. Hence, Subhadhra and Arjuna were cross cousins. Mahabharata gives us a detailed account of relationships, and cross cousin marriages. Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 9:29

2 Answers 2


I am answering only this part:

Does any Hindu scripture illuminate on this issue?

Most of the customs in Hindu families are practiced according to Dharma-Shastras and Grihya-Sutras. Baudhayana Dharmasutra, PRASNA I, ADHYÂYA 1, KANDIKÂ 2 declares that people from South India can marry with the daughter of their maternal uncle.

  1. We will explain those (peculiar) to the south.

  2. They are, to eat in the company of an uninitiated person, to eat in the company of one's wife, to eat stale food, to marry the daughter of a maternal uncle or of a paternal aunt.

But there is one condition that, the above practices can be followed only in prevailed country.

  1. He who follows (these practices) in any other country than where they prevail, commits sin.
  • What do you mean by prevailed country? Hindi translation of prevailed is "प्रबल" but with this translation it is not making any sense.
    – Vishvam
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 4:37
  • 1
    @Rishabh Prevail also means "अभिभावी होना" Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 4:47
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    Interesting, so this old quote is really meant something important ... "Jaisa desh vaisa bhesh" since we can do some stuffs in our area only.
    – Vishvam
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 11:54
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    there are 2 types of cousins - sagotra and non-sagotra. father's sister's son/daughter, and mother's brother's son/daughter are acceptable spouses. but this is only in dravida desh (below vindhyas), but not above it in aryavart
    – ram
    Commented Feb 17, 2023 at 16:34

In fact it is not a north-south divide among Hindus on the practice of cross-cousin marriage but a divide of RigVedic culture and a culture evolved in north India under later Hinduism. Let us understand it stepwise :- 1. Incest taboo or barring milk relation - In the ancient times Hindus of RigVeda period were, perhaps, first to bar milk relation in marriage.As, RigVeda tells us through a dialogue between twin brother sister Yam and Yami ( ref. RV.10.10.(1-14). Here Yami wants to stick to a old tradition and asks Yam to produce child through her but Yam firmly denies her refering to the rule and vigilance of Asura/Varuna. While in European countries incidences of incest relations are reported to be practiced up to recent past. However, Muslim still holds that barring milk relations code in marriage. 2. Barring blood relation - with the emergence of paternal family system, a concept of blood relations emerged which envisages that offsprings carries blood of father and not that of mother. Thus the barring of milk relation was extended to the barring of blood relation. Here we find the origin of cross-cousin marriage. In RigVeda we don't find description of such marriages nor we should expect to find everything in it, but we certainly find a concept of lineage based on blood relation in varous hymns refered as 'tokasya tanye'. Here I assume that the cross-cousin marriage system must be a part of RigVedic culture and must be a practice at pan-India level among Hindus. 3. My assumptions are based on both textual evidence and data generated during my field studies. Various ethnographic studies suggest that in north India a joking relationship is allowed between a man and the wife of his maternal uncle but strictly prohibited with the wife of his paternal uncle. And tradtionally maternal uncle had a greater role in the decision making in marriage of a boy or girl.This could be a vestige trait of pre existing cross-cousin marriage. My field study, in the upper reaches of Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand state where fraternal polyandry(Draupadi vivah) is still practiced, was revealing. Not only I found some cross-cousin marriages but also learned that it was a prefential practice in the recent past. They also celebrate 'Vishu' festival which is also celebrated in Kerala with same name and same date, while in north India different name is used. In general we find that South India still retain most of the RigVedic cultural traits viz. 'YAKSHA GAN' of Karnataka, worship of 'INDRA DHWAJ' before starting classical dance while innovative North Indian Hinduism evolved new cultural practices like ' BURNING RAVANA'

  • would be interested in sources and research papers cumulative of field studies referred to. Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 8:48
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    Don't tick the "make this Community wiki" while submitting an answer. You won't get reputation and won't gain privileges. That also makes the post editable by everyone with a rep of 100. Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 6:55
  • @Nog Shine Thanks for guidance. May learn gradually. Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 9:05
  • @ LakshmiNarayan The sources relevant here may be (1) "Himalayan Polyandry" 1963 by Majumdar D.N. Asia Publishing House London - a study in Jaunsar-babar area just above the Deharadoon city (2) Kumaran R. In Sociology 4RTC.blogspot.in for further ramification on cross cousin marriage.And my field study area was further remote area adjoining Jaunsar-babar, where I confirmed that it was not an isolate area of this practice. Even some Gorakha laboroures stationed there stated it was also practiced in Nepal. My research paper is not published yet. Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 9:51

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