Family Ties in India


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Most people in the world have strong family ties that may consist of grand parents or even great grandparents. They are sometimes referred to as grannies. In India and in some Asian and African countries, not only grandparents but also uncles, aunts, cousins are part of these family ties.

The family relationship is a consequence of how we live and what our occupation is. In agriculture for example, for growing of grains — wheat, rice, maize, or oils etc, we need several people to undertake and complete the various requisite tasks. After the growth of the current crop, the soil has also to be got readied for the next round of planting seeds for the various crops. In India usually there are two agri seasons every year — the   Rabi  season for growing of wheat, and the   Kharif  for growing of the rice crop which also requires abundant water — often as rainfall.

For getting the soil ready, husks, or leaves or branches of the earlier crops have to be removed or burnt— this often results in smoke and air pollution. The ground has also to be earmarked for watering, for making paths for the persons to walk on the field to carry on the requisite tasks, and even for cattle to move for watering and feeding on leaves or grains etc. if these preparations are done properly, the agri output is abundant, making the farmers satisfied and contented.

After the growth of the crops, farmers and their children and neighbours often sing and dance to express their happiness. The dancing — usually by about a dozen people is an appropriate expression of their satisfaction and pleasure. Often some specific festivities are also undertaken at this juncture —  new clothes or even jewellery may also be acquired.

If the family has a grown up son or growing up daughter,  the parents look around for other families — neighbours  or distant relations who may have daughters and sons of marriageable age and discuss about possibility of marriage with their own children. If this happens, dates of these tie ups, possibly in the next festive season, would also be decided upon. Marriages are happy, boisterous occasions that supplement the joys in the agriculture field.

Sometimes as happens in the western countries, young men and women meet each other, make friends and decide to marry each other even if they are of different  religions  and social backgrounds.

As indicated, agriculture requires participation of a dozen or so people — men, women, children, uncles, aunts, cousins. They have specific names — Chacha , Chachi     for paternal uncles and aunts,    mausa, mausi  for corresponding maternal relatives. The children who help in the agri work are usually known as   bhatija , bhatiji (nephew or niece) and treated like their own sons and daughters.

One wonders how in India names of uncles and aunts are differentiated depending on them being on the fathers’ side or mothers. There may be a few reasons for this, but one possible reason is that a child may more often  ask for gifts from the paternal side than the maternal one.

Those families that live in urban centres, have to buy grains, vegetables, oils, milk etc from the market. They do not have the strong family feelings as their rural counterparts. Many young men, who work in urban centres, often feel isolated and try to go to their families living in villages whenever an opportunity arises. These visits are joyous both for these men as well as children who look for gifts that are brought by these persons. They also add to the concept of family togetherness. Family breakups or divorces are rare.

So if you are a person working in an office or industry in an urban centre and feel isolated and lonely go to a neighbouring village and enjoy the life of a common farmer and his family.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Mar 2023.

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