Section 3(1) (h) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 defines “Marumakkattayam Law” as the system of law applicable to persons
i) who, if this Act had not been passed, would have been governed by the Madras Marumakkattayam Act, 1932, The Travancore Nayar Act, the Travancore Ezhava Act, the Travancore Nanjinad Vellala Act, the Travancore Kshatriya Act, the Travancore Krishnanvaka Marumakkattayee Act, the Cochin Marumakkattayee Act, or the Cochin Nayar Act with respect to the matters for which provision is made in this Act, or
ii) who belongs to any community, the members of which are largely domiciled in the state of Travancore-Cochin or Madras (as it existed immediately before the 1st November, 1956) and who, if this Act had not been passed, would have been governed with respect to the matters for which provision is made in this Act by any system of inheritance in which descent is traced through the female line.
But does not include the Aliyasantana law.
Marumakkattayam law is a law wherein the law of inheritance is through the females as against males in the Mitakshara Law. This law is prevalent in some communities of Tamilnadu and Kerala. The joint Hindu family under this law is also known as Tarwad and the Karta under this law is known as “karnavan”.
Section 7(1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 also states as follows:
When a Hindu to whom the marumakkattayam or nambudri law would have applied if this Act had not been passed, dies after the commencement of this Act, having at the time of his or her death an interest in the property of a tarwad, tavazhi or illom, as the case may be, his or her interest in the property shall devolve by testamentary or intestate succession, as the case may be, under this Act and not according to the marummakkattayam or nambudri law.
The Apex Court in the case of N. Venugopala Ravi Varnia Rajah v. Union of India, (1969) 1 SCC 681, at page 683[(=(1969) 74 ITR 49] observed as follows in relation to Marumakkattayam law:
Marumakkattayam law applied originally by usage to a section of the Hindus inhabiting the South-Western coastal region in India. Some centuries ago a section of the Hindu inhabitants of North Malabar were converted en masse to Islam, but they still continued to remain governed by the Marumakkattayam law especially in maters of property relations among members of the family. The law administered by the Courts to these communities is, subject to express statutory provisions, a body of customs and usages which have received judicial recognition.
Moreover, the Apex Court in the aforesaid case also observed as follows citing points of distinction between Mitakshara and Marumakkattayam law:-
The Mitakshara law of joint family is founded upon agnatic relationship; the undivided family characterised by community of interest and unity of possession among persons descended from a common ancestor in the male line. The principal incident of Marumakkatta yam law is that it is matriarchate: members of the family constituting a Marumakkattayarn tarwad are descended through a common ancestress in the female line with equal rights in the property of the family. .Under the customary Marumakkattayain law no partition of the family estate may be made, but items of the family property may by agreement be separately enjoyed by the members. On death the interest of a member devolved by survivorship. Management of the family property remained in the hands of the eldest male member, and in the absence of a male member a female member. A tarwad may consist of two or more branches known as thavazhies: each tavazhi or branch consisting of one of the female members of the tarwad and her children and all her descendants in the female line. Every tarwad consisted of a mother and her children — male and female living in commensality, with joint rights in property.