Marriage and divorce in Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak (TRC)

Dr Budha Kamei
“A good wife is heaven’s last, best gift to man, –his gem of many virtues, his casket of jewels; her voice is sweet music, her smiles his brightest day, her kiss the guardian of his innocence, her arms the pale of his safest, her industry his surest wealth, her economy his safest steward, her lips his faithful counsellors, her bosom the softest pillow of his cares.”
— Dr Budha Kamei
The Zeliangrong, one of the natives of North East India belong to the Tibeto-Burman family. Tradition says, the Zeliangrong ancestors 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; the Rongmei to the South, Zeme to the West and Liangmai to the North. On the basis of traditions and linguistic history, it has been identified that the original homeland of the Zeliangrong and other ethnic groups of Tibeto-Burman family was in South West China. As the Zeliangrong  are “Tibeto-Burman, they must have lived with other groups of the same family in South West China about 1000 BC and migrated to their present habitat” (Kamei 2002: 24) through various routes in batches and at different periods. Now, they are found inhabiting in three states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. They follow a profound indigenous religion known as Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak in short TRC. The present article attempts to look into the marriage systems and divorce found among the TRC followers.
Methods and Materials:
The study has adopted inter-disciplinary method particularly the application of knowledge of both history and anthropology. The data have been collected from available primary and secondary material of published works and also from information collected from selected well informed informants of the TRC.
Basic concept of marriage:
In many respects, marriage is the important institution in every society. The stability of human society does depend on this universal institution. The very basic of the family and the society are organized and fulfilled through marriage. Due to its vital importance, the sanctity and permanence of marriage has been emphasized in all societies.  In TRC, 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 (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 double by tying their hair together in His heavenly abode to become husband and wife in the world and to command the world on His behalf by extending throughout the surface of the earth. Thus, the basic concept 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 (Edward, 1999:373).”
Origin of marriage:
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 speaks: ‘A village was founded by two friends. One of them desired a wife to establish a family. They searched first at Duibah, downstream and finally to the Duipih, upstream, 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. Pubumei, oracle 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 of the house like the smart cow with tail raised (Kamei, 2004:256-257).
Religious Sacrament:
In TRC, marriage is considered not a simple social contract but a religious sacrament. A marriage relation between a man and woman cannot be disunited because it contains rite and rituals performed in the name of Tingkao Ragwang. On the day of marriage, Mhairakmei ceremony is performed in which a cock, a Laogai (a small iron spade, a symbol of sanctity) and a Guh ( ginger) are offered to Tingkao Ragwang for long life, prosperity, and a long line of generation of the young couple. It is carried out by a priest with the recitation of the marriage hymns called Mhairakshoi.
(To be contd)

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