The joint family system constituted the basic social institution of Hindus and traditionally the family among the Hindus was joint type. The family among the Hindus did not consist of only husband, wife and their children but also of uncles, aunts, cousins and grandsons .This system is called joint family or extended family system which was a peculiar characteristic of Indian social life.
Joint family is a household which has greater generation depth and the members of which are related to one another by property, income, mutual right and obligations. By joint family we mean the family in which several generations live together within the context of mutual obligations.
According to Jolly, the joint family includes at least four generations and three or more generations as says Desai. The joint family in India includes not only the generations who live together, but also the mutuality of obligations between the various members of the family. Fulfillment of obligations refers to identifying oneself as a member of a particular family, needing financial and other kinds of help.
According to Iravati Crave, “A joint family is a group of people who generally live under one roof, who eat food cooked at one hearth, who hold property in common and who participate in common worship at)d are related to each other as some particular type of kindred.
Hence, the joint family consists of blood relations who live together and who share a common life and common worship.
According to Henry Maine, “The Hindu joint family is a group constituted of known ancestors and adopted sons and relatives related to these sons through marriage.
Dr. Mamoria holds, “The fundamental principle of the Hindu joint family is the tie of sapinda without which it is impossible to form a joint family”.
As Davis describes, “The Joint family consists of males having a common male ancestor, female offspring not yet married and women brought into the group by marriage. Alt these persons might live in a common household or in several households near to one another. In any case, the joint family holds together, its members are expected to contribute to the support of the whole and to receive from it a share of the total product.”
The joint families are usually patriarchal and the eldest male member exercises authority. His authority reigns supreme. According to Majumdar, “The Karta of the joint or extended family has the right to make decisions for his family.
The residence is patrilocal. Property and name pass from father to son. Descent is reckoned along the male line. According to Prabhu, “The living members of the family are, so to speak, trustees of house which belongs to pitris, the ancestors in the interests of the putras, future members of the family”.
It is now clear that joint family is different from nuclear family on the basis of the members who constitute a single household. The joint family is an extended form of family which is common among most primitive societies. But the Hindu joint family differs from the family among the tribes on the basis of values and mutuality of obligations.
The reason why we call a family as joint family is that the members of the family are related to each other through bonds of kinship, same ancestor, same residence, common kitchen and common property.
It is not only the membership or the large size of the family which is responsible for the jointness of the family but it is the common mode of life and common values which bind the family members. Another distinguishing feature of a joint family is that persons belonging to different generations, both ascendants and descendants constitute the family unit.