Kinship and marriage among the Zeliangrongs

Dr Budha Kamei
The Zeliangrongs are one of the natives of Northeast India. In terms of race and language, the Zeliangrongs fall under the Tibeto-Burman family of the Mongolian race.2 Tradition says, the Zeliangrong people originated from a cave recognized as Mahou Taobei; they moved to Makhel and to Ramting Kabin, and then to Makuilongdi, Senapati District of Manipur. From Makuilongdi, they migrated to different directions: East, West and South. The population of this ethnic group is found mainly in the Tamenglong district of Manipur. These people are found scattered also in the neigbouring districts of Tamenglong namely, Churachandpur, Senapati, Imphal East and West, Thoubal and Bishnupur districts. Outside the state of Manipur, they are found settling in Nagaland in its Paren and Kohima districts and in Assam in its Cachar and Hailakandi districts. As a tribal population they are quite sizable, according to 2011 census, their population is returned as five lakhs in three states. The present article is a humble attempt to look into the kinship and marriage systems of the Zeliangrong inhabitants of Northeast India.
The term Kinship system is explored for a system of kinship and marriage or kinship and affinity. It is the system of human relationships derived from marriage and descent. It is an important factor regulating behavior between individuals and affecting the formation of social, political and territorial group.4 This social rule binds different members into one and forbids them from doing certain anti-social activities. If the kin is directly related by blood is called consanguinal kinship relation. For example father and son, father and daughter, mother and son, mother and daughter relationship etc. Lewis Henry Morgan uses the terminology, genes for the body of consaguinal descended from the same common ancestor, distinguished by a gentile name, and bound together by kinship affinities of blood. Similarly when the blood relationships are counted through a distant it is termed as collateral kinship relations. On the other hand, when the kins are related by marriage, then the kinship is called affinal.
The two main types of kinship system are: patrilineal and matrilineal systems. In patrilineal system, the relationship is counted from male line and the later is from the maternal relationship. The Zeliangrongs like other Naga tribes follow the patrilineal system.
Kinship Terminology:
Kinship terminology forms an important part in the whole kinship system as it serves as an index to understanding of the kinship relation and patterns of behavior among various kin groups. The kinship terms of the Zeliangrongs include both descriptive and classificatory type. Among the Zeliangrongs the father and father’s brothers are designated by the same term Apu, but this term again modified by a descriptive suffix term indicating seniority as in Aputhao and junior in Apulao. Thus, father’s brother’s son is designated as Achai. In this case also, some descriptive terms are suffixed to indicate seniority and junior to the speaker as in Achaibung and Akaina respectively. In the same way many descriptive terms are used by the Zeliangrong. There are the terms used for one’s father’s brother’s daughter, (elder as Achailu and younger as Akainalu), brother (elder as Achaibung and younger as Akaina) and so on.
The kinship structure of the Zeliangrong is also of classificatory type as stated above. That is usually one kin term is used to denote different categories of relations. To exemplify the classificatory terms it may be mentioned that, one term Pu is used to address all the male persons of father’s age. All women of mother’s age are similarly addressed by the term Pui.
The term Apou is used for father’s sister’s husband, wife’s father, husband’s father, husband’s elder brother, mother’s brother, elder sister’s husband, father’s father, and mother’s father. In the same way Apei is used father’s mother and mother’s mother. The term Anei is used for husband’s mother and wife’s mother. Here the writer does not purpose to deal with all systems in which classificatory principle is applied to in the terminology, but only with a certain widespread type. In these systems the distinction between consaguinal and collateral relatives is clearly recognized and is of great importance in social life, but it is in certain respect subordinated to another structural principle of the solidarity of the siblings group. For example, a group of siblings is constituted by the sons and daughters of a man and his wife in monogamous society/community or of a woman and her husbands in polyandrous society or of a man and his wives where there is polygyny. The bond uniting brothers and sisters together into a social group is everywhere regarded as important, but it is more emphasized in some societies than in others. The solidarity of sibling is shown in the social relations between its members.
(To be contd)

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