Kinship and marriage among the Zeliangrong-2


Budha Kamei

From previous issue
Forms of marriage: Monogamy, the union of one man and one woman, is the widely accepted form of marriage in Zeliangrong society. Polygamy though not prohibited, is a very rare case and concubinage is not at all, tolerated.12 Polyandry is totally absent. Child marriage is not existed and adult marriage is the rule. In present day Zeliangrong society, there are two types of marriage namely, (1) Khamthan Noushon (arranged marriage), and (6) Saamtonmei (Elopement).13

(1) Khamthan Noushon:
Khamthan Noushon, arranged marriage is regarded to be the best form of marriage in the society. There are two types of arranged marriage, namely (i) Tuna Noushon (girl marriage) and (ii) Luchi Noushon (woman marriage).14 The main processes of the arranged marriage are :(a) Lakpuilamkeo Keomei(opening by womenfolk), (b) Nouthanmei Khatni Noutimei (proposal for marriage and bride giving day), (c) Manthing Lemmei and Nouman Manmei (settlement and payment of the bride price) and (d) Noushonmei (wedding ceremony).15

a) Lakpuilamkeo Keomei:
Generally, in arranged marriage, initiative is taken by the boy’s parents. The first duty of the parents of the boy is to trace the clan of the intended bride to ensure that they are not from the same clan.16 It is getting confirmed that they are not from the same clan, only then the parents of the boy will start to act under the customs of the people. Formally, the proposal will come from the boy’s family. If both the boy and girl are from the same village, the necessary formalities are quite relaxed. But, if the girl belongs to other village, the necessary procedure is that some respected elderly women of the boy’s village will go to the girl’s house taking with them a Laogai and a jar of wine. The women on behalf of the boy’s family will talk to the girl’s parents asking the hand of their daughter for the boy. They will offer the wine to the girl’s parents. In the meantime, one of them will keep the Laogai on the bed of the girl’s parents or anywhere inside the house which can be seen easily by the girl’s parents. This act symbolizes that the girl is being proposed. This process is known as Lakpuilamkeo Keomei.

If the girl’s parents are not willing to accept the proposal, it is a custom to return the Laogai to the boy’s family within five days. If it is suitable for the girl, the same will not return. If the Laogai is not return, it means the proposal is accepted then, the boy’s family will continue the process of engagement. In this connection, two respected elderly men having living wives of the village are selected by the boy’s family as Nouthanpous, meaning negotiators. They will act as go between the two families until the marriage is solemnized. “Without clouds in the sky, there is no rain and without go between there is no marriage.”17

b) Nouthanhutmei khatni Noutimei:
News will be conveyed to the parents of the girl that on this date or day, people are coming to meet them. On the appointed day, the two Nouthanpous will go to the house of the girl and talk to her parents on behalf of the boy’s family. The day on which the final words are given by the girl’s parents in favour of the boy is called Noutimei, meaning the bride giving day. On this particular day, a date is fixed to declare the list of bride price.
c) Manthing Lemmei and Nouman Manmei:
On the fixed day, the bride’s family will announce the list of bride price. The items and number of articles in each item will be counting by breaking pieces of sticks. The counting will be done by the Lugaan, son-in-law of the bride’s family. Thus, the bride-price is settled. This is called Manthing Lemmei.18 The same pieces of sticks will be handed over to the Lugaan of the groom’s family. At the end of the settlement, a date is appointed for the payment of the bride-price.

Nouman: Nouman, bride price is an important part in their marriage system. The family of the groom has to give the bride price fixed by the customs to the bride’s family. But, if the bride does not like to live with the husband and if she divorces, then the bride price has to be returned by the bride’s family. On the other hand, if the groom divorces her the bride price has not given back. Traditionally, the bride price is comprised of thirteen items, namely (1) Goiroi Kanei, two buffalos, (2) Bui Kanei, two spears, (3) Napkok Kanei, two eating brass vessels, (4) Phei Kanei, two cloths, (5) Bang Khat, one dao, (6) Taduie Padei, two pairs of brass bangles,(7) Nathang Padei, two pairs of spiral armlets, (8)Pongnai Khat, one lower garment, (9) Guangkuam Khat, one neckband made of conch shells,(10) Shenpak Khat , one large eating brass vessel,(11) Loidu Khat, one big cock, (12) Manpi Khat, two Laogais, and (13) Bamlinshen, some coins.

On the fixed day, all the items of the bride price are paid to the bride’s family. This is called Nouman Manmei. The acceptance of the bride price symbolizes fixation of the marriage. It also signifies that the man thereafter becomes responsible for accidents that might befall to his bride. In case of a married woman (widow), one will have to pay only one of each items and it is considered complete. However, the practice of giving and receiving of bride price is never in the sense of selling and buying of human being. But, it means several ideals and values, compensating the parents for parting their daughter and symbolizing a new relationship between the two families. It is only to observe and honour the traditional customs and the price is rather symbolic and nominal. In Zeliangrong society, marriage ceremony is not allowed to perform until the bride price is paid fully. On this particular day, the year, month and the day or date for the wedding is appointed and settled by the two parties.

Bridal gift: The Zeliangrong people give some articles such as, a large covered basket for keeping cloths called Khuk, five clothes, weaving implements, transporting baskets, a pig, a fowl and utensils etc. as bridal gift to their daughters at the time of marriage.20 This is called Lupot.

Marriage seasons: Regarding the seasons of marriage, the Zeliangrongs avoid unfavorable months and cultivation period in general. Marriage requires a lot of rice and domestic animals for feasting. So, it is wise and convenient, the people think to perform marriages at a time when the granary is full.

(d) Noushonmei:
A marriage is usually formalized at a wedding or marriage ceremony. Among the Zeliangrongs, wedding ceremony is solemnized at the residence of the bridegroom. In the early morning of the day of wedding, a ritual called Guakpai-Jaomei (examination of the pig’s spleen) is performed in which a healthy pig21 on behalf of the bride is offered to the Supreme God. The spleen of the victim is examined by the present elders very careful in search for good indicators. The pig is roasted and cut into small pieces and then it is boiled. This boiled meat will be taken to the groom’s house. After morning food is over, the bride takes bath and attires traditional marriage dress and costume. Then, the bride along with her companions will leave her parental house and move in the direction of the groom’s village. When the bride arrives at the residence of the groom, the bride is warmly received by her mother-in-law and a leaf cup of drink is offered which she drinks it. Before she enters the house, she is purified with the smoke of kham, a kind of leaf. Then, she will enter the house by stepping her right foot first. This act symbolizes that the bride is incorporated into the new environment.
Finally, the marriage ceremony, Langdai Mhairak is performed to recognize them as husband and wife. The custom of Zeliangrong does not permit the young couple to sleep together until the Pukpaomei function is performed. It is held on the fifth day after the wedding. The groom will sleep at the Khangchiu (boy’s dormitory) and the bride with a female member of the family. Arranged marriage gives stability and cohesion not only between husband and wife but also between two families.

Luchian Luh:
Luchian Lu, a song of good gesture and best wishes is sung slowly by a group of male standing without rhythm and musical instrument long before the marriage, on the eve of marriage and on wedding day.
Remarriage of widow/widower:
Widower or widow remarriage is allowed in the society without any loss of respect or social stigma in actual practice.

Noumumei, divorce is permitted by custom, but it is very rare. Divorce takes place on the ground of mutual consent, adultery etc. But, every spouse is entitled to seek and get divorce in the court of the village council (Pei) on the terms and condition based on the customary laws.

Conclusion: Kinship is the web of social relationship that forms an important part of the Zeliangrong society. The kinship structure of the Zeliangrong is of descriptive and classificatory type. A girl on her marriage leaves her parental house and lives in the house of her husband. Thereafter, she becomes the essential member of her husband’s family. This establishes firmly the right of the husband and the paternal authority. The system of kinship and marriage play an important role in maintaining group cohesion and solidarity. (Concluded)

Source: The Sangai Express


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