Volume: I, Issue: I, July - December 2010
MARRIAGE INSTITUTIONS OF THE ZELIANGRONG OF MANIPUR
The article describes the traditional marriage institutions of the Zeliangrong of Manipur dealing with the different ways of acquiring a spouse,namely: arranged marriage; liverate form of marriage; elopement; marriage to defray debt; marriage by servitude and matrilocal residence; marriage by capture etc. It also sheds significant light on the related rituals of these marriages and customs. It is noteworthy that bride price is an essential feature of Zeliangrong marriage system. The data is based on available secondary sources and fieldwork. The information and opinions collected from the informants have been thoroughly cross-checked by the authors for culling out accurate facts.
The Zeliangrong is one of the indigenous tribes of Manipur. George A. Grierson has established Zeliangrong as belonging to the Naga-Bodo Sub-family of Tibeto-Burman language family. [George A. Grierson 2000: 477] The name Zeliangrong was formed by the combination of the cognate tribes, such as Zemei, Liangmei and Rongmei. It has been formed by stitching the first three syllables together out of the three sub tribes’ names. This composite name came into being with the formation of the Zeliangrong Council for the first time on the 15th February 1947 at Keishamthong, Imphal with the objective of bringing unity and for furthering the economic, socio-cultural, educational and political achievements of their tribes. This formation is strictly based on common ethnic, linguistic, social and cultural origin of the kindred tribes. It was formed with the consent of all the leaders and intellectuals of the sub tribes of Zeliangrong. Despite all the efforts to register among the Scheduled Tribes of India since the formation of the Zeliangrong Council, so far, they are known and recognized under the tribe name of ‘Kabui’ and ‘Kacha Naga’ of Manipur, which they consider as wrongly quoted by the British administrators.
The population of this tribe is quite sizable; according to 2001 Census Report of India, their population in Manipur is returned as 1,25,587 including 68,987 males and 66,603 females [S.C.Bhatt and Gopal K.Bhargava 2006: 61]. The people of this tribe are found mainly in Tamenglong District of Manipur. These people are also found scattered in neighbouring districts, namely, Senapati District, Imphal East District, Imphal West District, Churachandpur District and Thoubal District. Outside the state of Manipur they are found settled in Nagaland in its Paren District and Kohima District, and in Assam in its Cachar District and Hailakandi District. The present study is an attempt to throw light on the traditional marriage institutions of the Zeliangrongs of Manipur.
The necessary data on which the article rests have been collected in the form of secondary material from the published articles and books on several aspects of the ethnography of the Zeliangrong in general and marriage aspect in particular, and also on field work interviews with experienced aged people, as well as, educated ones who are executive members of the Zeliangrong Union, Zeliangrong Cultural Council and Zeliangrong religious forum [TRC] of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.
Nousonmei, meaning, marriage is a Zeliangrong word. In Zeliangrong society, marriage is the union of a boy and girl to form a family with social and religious consent, in which the mates, their parents and the village elders have to give consent--“Marriages are made in Heaven”[Maurice Freedman 1979: 261]. Tingkao Ragwang Kaithu Shamsuiloumei denotes those whose hair had been bound in the abode of Tingkao Ragwang, the Supreme God. And in the people’s marriage hymns: Gouna Gana Kum King Kubamkadutho means let their offspring be born as many as those of frogs and crabs. These local traditions give a vision that Tingkao Ragwang had already made man and woman in pair by tying their hair together in His Heavenly abode to make them husband and wife in this world, and to command the world on His behalf by extending throughout the surface of the earth. Thus, the basic idea of marriage is to act upon the plan and follow the command of Tingkao Ragwang. G. Bernard Shaw says, “What God hath joined together no man shall put asunder: God will take care of that” [Tryon Edwards 1999:373].
The institution of marriage is regarded as the backbone of all forms of human society with which we are acquainted. The myths, legends, and also the marriage hymns supply hints regarding the origin of marriage institution. One of the important clues is the marriage that took place between the son of Pauna, the king of worldly gods and the daughter of his eldest brother, Bisnu God. This relation is locally known as Bisnu Geng-Geng and Ragwang geng-geng but this kind of marriage is impossible in the human world and strictly prohibited. Another clue is the marriage of Pokrei and Dichalu, the first man and woman on the surface of the Earth. In the beginning, they were brother and sister but finally with the initiation of God they both decided to get married and became the first couple on the surface of the earth. The third clue refers to the narration of the marriage hymns, Mhairaksoi that reads: A village was founded by two friends. One of them desired a wife to establish a family. They searched first at downstream, Duibah, and finally to the upstream, Duipih where they found an unmarried girl. A proposal was made to her to be a wife of one of them. She accepted and lived at the house of the boy but she sat idle. Oracle, Pubumei was consulted to find out the cause of the behaviour of the girl and it was suggested to perform the Mhairakmei, an act of marriage. After Mhairakmei, she became active and worked hard in the house like the smart cow with tail raised [Gangmumei kamei 2004: 256-257].
In Zeliangrong society, marriage is considered not a simple social contract but a religious sacrament. Marriage relations between man and woman cannot be disunited because it contains rites and rituals performed in the name of Tingkao Ragwang [The Supreme God]. On the day of marriage, a ceremony, called Mhairakmei is performed in which a cock, a Laogai [hoe] and a Guh [ginger] are offered to Tingkao Ragwang for long life, prosperity, and a line of long generation of the young couple. It is carried out by a priest with the recitation of the marriage hymns called Mhairakshoi. In the ceremony, the groom and bride are made to sit on a bed placing their right legs on the hoe which is on a plantain leaf. At the end of the recitation, the priest holds up the cock high and strangles its neck to death. The legs of the victim are carefully examined in search of good signs. The omen is read as: If the right leg is over the left, it is assumed as good and the couple will be blessed with a male child and long life. This position is locally known as Jat Longdai. If the left is over the right, it is also treated well and the couple will be blessed with a female child. This position is called Chagan Longdai; If, both the legs are hanging down listlessly, it is considered to be a bad omen. Holy wine is also offered to Tingkao Ragwang, Shong—village deity, Kairao— ancestors of the groom, and to the evil spirits for wellbeing of the couple in the days to come. It is a compulsory ceremony. Without this, the relationship is considered invalid. Anyone can make an inquiry about this ceremony and on this basis interfere in the marriage. After this performance, they are recognized as husband and wife. Hence, in the light of the above facts, one can arrive at the conclusion that marriage in Zeliangrong society is a religious sacrament.
In Zeliangrong society, marriage is regarded as one of the important events in the life cycle of an individual. It is a necessity and duty for every man to get married to continue the society, although, he is expected to follow the certain norms of the society. It is an important characteristic that women are expected to be virgins before marriage [R.Vashum 2000:14]. Procreation of children without social and religious sanction of a marriage is scowled at [Lucy Mair 1984:83]. Varying with climate and race, between the age of nine to fifteen years, the child enters the age of puberty [Bronislow Malinowski 1960: 59]. Among the Zeliangrongs, the fourteenth and the fifteenth years in the life of a child are very important. At the age of fourteen girls and at fifteen boys come of age respectively. At this age, they usually sit near the elders and learn from them the way to achieve fatherhood and motherhood. J.P. Mills says, unless physically deformed or an imbecile every Naga marries [J.P.Mills 1980:205]. Generally, a boy marries between eighteen and twenty five and a girl between fifteen and twenty one years of age [Kamei Budha Kabui 2008: 251]. The age of boy is higher because he is expected to have source of income before he marries [K.B.Singh 1961:7]. In older times, the hair of the unmarried girl was often kept short, quite close to the head, and it was permitted to grow its natural length only after their marriage [R.Brown 2001: 23]. The style of coiffure indicates the difference between a girl and a married woman.
Monogamy, the union of one man with one woman, is the widely accepted form of marriage in Zeliangrong society. Monogamy may be called as non-serial monogamy because an individual has the same single mate life long [Makhan Jha1994:47-48]. Polygamy, though not prohibited, is a very rare case and concubinage is not at all tolerated [Naorem Sanajaoba 1995: 400]. Polyandry is totally absent. Child marriage does not exist and adult marriage is the rule. Widower or widow remarriage is allowed in the society without any loss of respect or social stigma in actual practice [William C. Smith 2002: 56].
There are definite rules regulating whom the members of the community may and may not marry. They strictly follow clan exogamy which means a man must have his spouse from outside his own clan. Endogamy, marrying within the tribe is the rule. But, nowadays they are encouraged to have wife from outside the tribe. The Zeliangrongs are divided into four exogamous clans namely- Kamei, Golmei, Gangmei and Longmei [Rajat Kanti Das 1985: 35]. Marriage between parent and child, brother and sister is strictly prohibited. “Each clan is an exogamous unit and a man cannot marry a woman if she belongs to the same clan. A man cannot marry his father’s brother’s daughter or mother’s sister’s daughter because parallel cousins are regarded as taboo and marriage with any of them is unthinkable. However, marriage with mother’s brother’s daughter is allowed and preferred. When the parents of a boy are in search of a bride for their son, boy’s mother will first ask for the hands of her brother’s daughter if any, before looking for other girls. It is also obligatory on the part of a man to offer his daughter in marriage to the son of his sister. Marriage with father’s sister’s daughter is not permissible” [K.B Singh 1961: 8]. Like Meithei, they are not permitted to marry persons of their own kin and the violation of this rule is a taboo [T.C.Hudson1975: 75]. There is no evidence of any linked marriage among the Zeliangrong such as - “a man with his wife’s brother’s daughter, a woman with her husband’s sister’s son; a man with his sister’s daughter and a woman with her brother’s son”[Rajat Kanti Das 1985: 37]. The society prohibits such oblique marriages.
“Marriage constitutes the most important of the transitions from one social category to another, because for one of the spouses it involves a change of family, clan, village or tribe and sometimes newly married couple even establish residence in a new house”[Arnold Van Gennep 1960: 116]. In Zeliangrong society, a girl after her marriage leaves her natal family [George Peter Murdrock 1960: 16] and undertakes womanhood by changing her clan to that of her husband [Alana Golmei 2004: 42]. According to Fustel De Coulanges, for a girl marriage is like her second birth; henceforth, she becomes the daughter of her husband [ Fustel De Coulanges 1874: 59]. A girl after marriage normally shifts to her husband's residence bringing with her resource of knowledge and experience [Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Srathern Sept. 1999: 347]. In the real sense of the term Noushonmei is the change of family and clan name of the woman to that of her husband [M. Chandrasing 1972: 38]. She will worship the ancestors of her husband’s family not those of her own parents [Garrick Baily and James Peoples1999: 110]. Gluckman writes, “a married woman among the Zulu of South Africa had virtually no rights outside her husband lineage; once a woman was married her natal lineage forfeited virtually all authority over her”[ David L. Sills 1968: 13]. In the same way, a married Zeliangrong woman virtually gets dissolved into the clan of her husband.
The different types of marriage that prevail in Zeliangrong society may be studied under the following heads:  Khamthan Noushon [arranged marriage],  Kakhaomei [marriage of the widow of the deceased brother],  Chamimei [marriage to defray debt],  Nimjaimei [marriage by capture],  Noumangmei [marriage by servitude and matrilocal residence], and  Saam Taunmei [elopement] [Gangmumei Kamei 2004:257].Besides these, there are some other forms of marriage which are prevalent in Zeliangrong society.
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] [Tingkao Ragwang ChapRiak 2002:7]. Usually, the process of arranged marriage is pretty long and it takes 2 to 3 years. 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] [Tingkao Ragwang ChapRiak 2002:8-9].
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, because marriage within the same clan or with blood relation is a dreaded taboo [L.H. Dev Roy 1981: 32]. After it is confirmed that they are not from the same clan, only then, the parents of the boy start to proceed under the customs of the society. 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. In case, the girl belongs to other village, then, the necessary procedure is, that, few 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 hands 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 the proposal is suitable for the girl, the same will be kept signifying acceptance. If the Laogai is not returned within five days, it means the proposal has been accepted, and then, the boy's family will continue the process of engagement. In this connection, two respected elderly men—having living wives—from the village are selected by the boy’s family as Nouthanpous, meaning, negotiators. They will act as authorised mediators [go between] 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” [Maurice Freedman1979: 262].
b. Nouthanhutmei khatni Noutimei
News will be conveyed to the parents of the girl that on the given 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 category are counted through the method of breaking sticks into pieces. 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 [K.S Singh 1998:60]. 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 means bride-price in local dialect. It refers to the gifts presented by groom’s Kin to that of the bride [David L.Sills1968:13]. It may be interpreted into two ways: labour price and soul price. Through a marriage, a productive member of a family is lost. Compensation is to be given by the groom’s family, in the form of bride-price to the bride's family for the loss of a daughter. According to Indira Barua the bride-wealth compensates the bride's family for the loss of an active member, because, among the Indian tribes, the female members of the household make a substantial contribution in the production as they are active members of agricultural and other household works [Indira Barua 2001:64]. This compensation is not for the use of the bride. It is utilized by the bride's family, often used, to get a wife for a son of the family [A.R Radcliffe-Brown and Daryll Forde 1964:53-54]. And in some societies, even the father of the bride uses it to get himself remarried. [Jack Goody and S.J Tambiah 1973:8].
The payment of the bride-price gives groom the right to marry the bride, and also ensures legitimacy to her children yet to be born [Makhan Jha 1994:52]. In most patrilineal societies, a marriage is marked by the transfer of bride-wealth [in form of cattle, spears, money or other goods] from the groom’s family to that of the bride's. Bride-wealth ensures that the children of the union shall be legitimate and be affiliated to the husband’s clan or family. Bride wealth is not, of course, purchase of a woman but a means of legitimizing the marriage [E.F. Bozman 1967: 250]. Through the payment of bride-price it is ensurd, that the married woman has to live as a wife in her husband's household rather than come back to live as a daughter/sister in her parental family [Jack Goody and S.J Tambiah 1973:12]. Bride-price is commonly also a guarantee that the young wife will be well treated in her new home.
Bride-price is an important part in Zeliangrong 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 her husband, and if she divorces, then the bride price has to be returned by the bride’s family [ Jack Goody and S.J Tambiah 1973: 12]. On the other hand, if the groom divorces her, then the bride-price is not returned. T.C. Hodson has mentioned about the bride-price of the Zeliangrongs as “seven buffaloes, two daos, two spears, two strings of beads made of conch shells, two ear ornaments, two black cloths, two eating vessels, two hoes and what is called a meilon”[T.C Hodson 1996: 90]. Less than this can also be given, and usually, this is being followed by the people, except the rich, amongst whom—having paid a high price for a daughter-in-law— it is a matter of their high status, pride and honour which they boast of. The meilon is given by the family of the bridegroom; it may be an article of much value but without it, it is not thought that the bride-price has been fully given. [T.C Hodson 1996: 90]. Traditionally, the bride price is comprised of thirteen items namely-  2 buffalos,  2 spears,  2 eating brass plates,  3 clothes,  1 daos,  4 taduie,  4 nathang,  2 hoes,  guonkam,  1shenpak , 1cock,  1 manpi, and  bamlinshen [Tingkao Ragwang ChapRiak 2009:15].
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 [Rajat Kanti Das 1985:36]. It also signifies that the man, thereafter, becomes responsible for accidents that might befall to his bride [A.R Radcliffe-Brown and Daryll 1964:47]. 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 beings. But it means several ideals and values, compensating the parents for parting with 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 be performed until the bride-price is paid fully. On this particular day, the year, month and the day or date for the wedding is decided and settled by the two parties. Under the Zeliangrong custom, a marriage is required to be performed within three years from the day of the payment of bride-price and it should not cross the three-year time limit [Pongringlong Kailuang Chapriak1999-2000: 37]. Generally, it is accepted that courtship and engagement should be long enough to ensure that each partner is aware of other’s personality, needs, attitudes and goals [New Standard Encyclopedia 1981: 154].
A marriage involves not only two individuals but several groups of the dormitories. The boys and girls of the dormitories will present gifts like necklaces, bangles etc. to the bride. This is locally known as TuTaTammei. It is a rite of incorporation [Arnold Van Gennep1960: 132]. Like other Naga tribes, the people also 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 [Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak 2002: 16]. This is called Lupotshumei.
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, that the people think to perform marriages at a time when the granary is full. They hold marriage in November, December, January and February, when the agricultural work is finished and the granaries are full, and there is a good opportunity for bachelors to establish a home for themselves for the winter.
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 Guak-Pai-Jaomei [examination of the pig’s spleen] is performed in which a healthy pig [Pongringlong Kailuang Chapriak 1999-2000: 38] on behalf of the bride is offered to the Supreme God. The spleen of the pig is examined by the elders very carefully in search for good indicators [Rajat Kanti Das 1985: 38]. 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 [J.H.Hutton 1969: 221]. 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 [Arnold Van Gennep1960: 117].
Finally, the marriage ceremony, Mhailakmei 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 Khangchu [boy’s dormitory] and the bride with a female member of the family. A.R. Radcliffe-Brown and Daryll Forde opine, arranged marriage gives stability and cohesion not only to newly-wed husband and wife but also to the two families involved [A.R.Radcliffe-Brown and Daryll Forde 1964: 51]. Thus, the man becomes a responsible adult of the family, as well as of the clan. It is marriage which gives him a soul and incorporates him into the clan [Arnold Van Gennep1960: 133].
Obtaining a mate by marrying the widow of his deceased brother is called Kakhaomeoi. In this type of marriage, there are two essential features; firstly, the man should be unmarried [L.Beals and Harry Hoijer 1953: 427] and the woman should not have passed the age of child-bearing [ A.R.Radcliffe-Brown and Daryll Forde 1964: 64]. However, the man can marry the woman only when the family of the woman gives him permission to do so and such permission may be given after the assigned period of mourning for the dead [L.Beals and Harry Hoijer 1953: 427]. Thus, the consent of the bride and her parents are obtained. The payment of bride-price is not involved, but parents of the bride may demand it; it is permitted by custom to pay half of the bride-price. Mhairakmei ceremony is observed to recognize them as husband and wife. In this type of marriage, only the younger brother of the deceased is applicable and in reverse, she is not allowed to marry her husband’s elder brother [J.H. Hutton 1969: 224]. The main idea of this liverate form of marriage is to protect and support the widow and her children. Another idea is that a step-father is more likely to have proper affection for his step-children if they are the children of his own brother. Nowadays, such kind of marriage is not encouraged in the society. However, a widow may not wish to marry at all, and as long as she is fully capable of looking after herself, she can stay at her deceased husband's house along with her children or with her married sons.
Marrying a girl by way of selling her to a man is called Chamiloumei. Here the consent of the girl is not taken. This type of marriage happenes when the parents of the girl cannot repay the debt to a particular person. To neutralize the debt, the parents give the hand of their daughter to the person from whom they have borrowed, or, to repay the debt, the parents sell their daughter to a particular person at a fixed price. Nowadays, this form of marriage is not being practiced.
Obtaining a spouse by means of capture is locally known as Nimjaimei. The Nagas practice marriage by capture by adopting the method of physical capture [L.P.Vidyaarthy and B.K.Rai 1985: 282]. Here, the consent of the parents of the bride or the bride herself is not taken. Mhairakmei is performed if the girl expresses her willingness to accept the man as her husband. If not, no Mhairakmei is performed and she will be sent to her parental home under the protection of Pei. The Pei will impose fine on the man for violating the social norms.
Nou Mhangmei :
It is, actually, a spouse selection by negotiation in which bride-service takes the place of the bride-price. In this type of marriage, the groom is required to live at the residence of the bride rendering services to, or, working for the family for a period of time. Because bride-service, normally, accompanies matri-patrilocal residence and is also common under matrilocal residence [George Peter Murdock 1960: 20] therefore Mhairakmei is performed to recognize them as husband and wife. It is regarded that a period of five years is equivalent to half of the bride-price and ten years to full bride price [ Benjamin Gangmei 1994: 2]. Robert H. Lowie opines that the main idea of such tasks is, of course, to make sure that the young man is capable of providing for a family [Robert H. Lowie 2004: 21]. After ten years, the couple will return and live at the residence of the husband. In view of George Peter Murdock, "When a family has daughters but no son, an exception to the customary patrilocal rule is made in the case of one daughter, who is married without the usual bride-price and whose husband comes to reside matrilocally with her parents and takes the place of a son"[ George Peter Murdock 1960: 21]. In Zeliangrong society, this type of marriage also happens, in case, when there is no male heir in the family of the bride or when there is no one to look after the house if the girl leaves the house.
The elopement of two lovers who have decided to marry is known as Saamtomei. It is, more or less, approved as a means by which determined individuals can disobey their parents and choose their own mates. In this type of marriage, the consent of the parents is not taken and they elope on their own will. Mhairakmei is observed if the girl belongs to exogamous clan. Such a marriage is not considered to be a completely valid marriage. Consequently, the girl is not allowed to visit to her natal home as she has separated herself from her family and changed her clan to that of the boy's without the consent of her parents. This is called Khamei. This creates an embittered relations between the two families. Elopement marriage is later neutralized by observing a ceremony called Dui Louduk Mhairak. It is performed at the residence of the bride. Here, the bride-price is not yet involved. The groom's family will pay the bride-price after some years when the couple have their children. After Dui Louduk Mhairak, the two families are permitted to visit each other.
Kanei PidoiKadoimei :
Marriage of a man with the daughter of his maternal uncle is considered to be the most preferred union in Zeliangrong society [K.S.Singh1998: 59]. This type of marriage is locally known as Kanei Pidoi Kadoimei.
Mandu, meaning the price of the bones of the deceased wife is a distinguishing and peculiar custom of the Zeliangrong society [R.Brown 2001: 26]. Under this custom, the living husband has to pay the Mandu to the family of his deceased wife when demand is made by the deceased wife’s family. Colonel McCullock writes that “On the death of a man’s wife the extraordinary practice exists of taking from her husband ‘Mundoo’ or ‘the price of her bones’. If he be alive, this will be demanded by her father, in fault of the father by her nearest of kin. Mundoo is also payable on the death of their children. On each demand of Mundoo the demander kills a pig; the Mundoo or price is fixed at one buffalo. No Mundoo is payable for persons killed by enemies or wild beasts, or whose death has been caused by any swelling, or the cholera, or smallpox ………. She [the wife] cannot return to her parental home as long as there are any near male relatives of her husband remaining”[T.C.Hudson 1996: 92]. Once the Mandu is taken, marital alliance between the two families ceases to exist. T.C. Hudson explains that the existence of the custom of Mandu certainly proves, that the interest of the birth clan of any married woman is not completely destroyed by simply by the act of her marriage and severance from them [T.C. Hudson 1996: 71]. This custom is not yet annulled, but now, it is believed to be rather a selfish and insulting demand, so, it has been gradually declining.
Noumumei means the complete dissolution of a marriage tie that permits remarriage. In the opinion of William j. Goode divorce may be seen as a personal misfortune for one or both spouses in any society, but it must also be viewed as a social invention, one type of escape valve for the inevitable tensions of marriage itself [William J. Goode 1965: 92]. In every society divorce takes place, although, the prevailing rules or social norms discourage it. In Zeliangrong society also, divorce is permitted by custom but it is very rare. Barenness of the wife, adultery on the part of the wife [P.R.T.Gordon 1975: 91] and maltreatment of the wife, biological defects like impotency on the part of the husband are assumed main causes which may lead to breakdown of the marriage. I. Schapera states that the causes of divorce may be excessive cruelty, or no-support on the part of the husband, and wanton capriciousness, or no performance of domestic duties on the part of the wife[I. Schapera 1970: 159]. The procedure of divorce is, that the Pei—the village council is convened, and it is done on the initiation of the man or woman who wants to get the divorce by giving a Jar of wine to the Peikai, house of Pei. The elders of Pei will try to reconcile them. At last, when there is no hope of reconciliation between the two, the initiator will get the divorce from his or her partner. If the husband introduces a divorce, he has to pay Mhasi, a buffalo, a big brass vessel, and a laogai to the wife and if it is sought by the wife, she has to return the bride-price to the husband. The woman along with the buffalo, a laogai and a brass vessel will be sent to her parental house escorted by the members of Pei. After divorce, the children will remain with the father. The young and nursing child may stay with the mother. When the father wants to get the child back he has to pay Nagongjang, a buffalo for bringing up the child to the mother. In Zeliangrong society, a divorced wife and husband are not allowed to remarry until a purification ritual called Charungchuk is performed.
In Zeliangrong society, as we have seen, 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 firmly establishes the paternal authority and also the right of the husband, and hence, Zeliangrong society is a patriarchally organized society.
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The authors are thankful to Mr. Panmei Lanchonglung, chairman Zeliangrong Union Pei, Mr. Dingbulung Panmei, Golmei Makuchung, Secretary Zeliangrong Cultural Council, Manipur, Chaoba Kamson, Secretary Tingkao Ragwang ChapRiak Fom[TRC] and R. Tale Newmai Ex. Vice president Zeliangrong Union for providing all the necessary information regarding their traditional marriage systems.