Social Scientist. v 4, no. 43 (Feb 1976) p. 20.


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ADHIR CHAKRAVARTI

Mother-right in Ancient Cambodia

THE DIFFERENT primitive tribes inhabiting the mountainous and jungled regions of Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam are known to possess a social structure which is indicative of strong matrilineal affiliations. Among the Me, family property is inherited by daughters only and of these the eldest is the favourite since it is she who is entitled to perform the funerary rites* The Rhades also recognize the right to property to girls only . But among the Sedang, Jarai, Stieng and Bahnar, family property is divided equally amongst the sons and daughters.i Indeed Eve Poree-Maspero has observed that if among some of these tribes succession is determined strictly in the female line, there is on the contrary none in which succession passes exclusively through the males.2 Side by side with this pre-eminence of womenfolk, there is found among some of these peoples like the Rhade and Bahnar another institution, moitie, that is division of society into two exogarnous groups opposed to each other which unite for matrimonial purposes8.

On an analogy of the socio-economic organization of these tribes it has been suggested that Cambodian society in pre-Indian times was also matrilineal. This receives confirmation from the earliest Chinese notice of the state of Fou-nan left by the envoys K'ang T'ai and Tchou Ying in the first half of A D fourth century.4 According to K'ang T'ai, Houen-



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