Marriage and divorce in Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak (TRC)

Dr Buddha Kamei
From previous issue
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.
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 (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.
Bride price:
Nouman means bride price in local dialect; (Nou means bride and man, price) It is referred to the gifts presented by groom’s Kin to that of the bride. It may be interpreted into two ways: labour price and soul price. By a marriage, a productive member of a family is lost. Compensation is to be given in the form of bride price to the family for the loss of a daughter by the groom’s family. Indira Barua (2001:64) writes, 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 This compensation is not for the use of the bride. It is utilized by the family because sometimes, it is employed to get a wife for a son of the family (Radcliffe-Brown and Forde, 1964:53-54). And in some societies, even the father of the bride uses it to marry himself another wife (Goody and Tambiah, 1973:8).
The payment of the bride price is permitted to the groom right to marry the bride and the right to her children (Jha, 1994:52). In most patrilineal societies, a marriage is marked by the transfer of bride wealth (in cattle, spears, money or other goods) from the groom’s family to that of the bride. Bride wealth ensures that the children of the union shall be legitimate and 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 (Bozman, 1967:250). The payment of bride price, a woman has to lead to remain a wife rather than come back to live as a sister in her parental family (Goody and 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 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 (Goody and Tambiah, 1973:12). On the other hand, if the groom divorces her the bride price has not given back. T.C. Hodson (1996: 90) has mentioned about the bride price of the Zeliangrong as Seven buffaloes, two daos, two spears, two strings of beads made of conch shells, two ear ornaments, two black cloths, two eating vessels, and two hoes. Traditionally, the bride price is comprised of thirteen items namely; (1) Goiroi Kanei, two buffalos, (2) Bui Kanei, two spears, (3) two eating brass vessels, (4) two cloths, (5) one dao, (6)  taduie, two pairs of brass bangles,(7)  Nathang, two pairs of spiral armlets, (8) Pongnai,  lower garment, (9) Guonkam,  neckband made of conch shells,(10) Shenpak , large eating brass vessel,(11) one big cock, (12) Manpi, two laogais, and  (13) Bamlinshen, some coins(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. It also signifies that the man thereafter becomes responsible for accidents that might befall to his bride (Radcliffe-Brown and Forde, 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 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 TRC, 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. Under the TRC custom, a marriage is required to perform within three years counting from the day of payment of the bride price and it should not cross three years (Pongringlong Kairong chapriak, 1999-2000). Generally, it is accepted that courtship and engagement should long enough to ensure that each partner is aware of other’s personality, needs, attitudes and goals.
Luchenlu Shonmei:
Luchenlu is a song of good gesture and best wishes; it will be sung long before marriage, on the eve and on the day of marriage by the boys of the dormitory.
Presentation of gifts:
A marriage is involved 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; in return the bride also presents gifts. This is locally known as TuTaTammei. It is a rite of incorporation (Gennep, 1960: 132).
Bridal gift:
Like other Naga tribes, the TRC 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.
Marriage season:
Regarding the seasons of marriage, the Zeliangrong 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. They hold marriage in December, January, February and March when the agricultural work is completed and the granaries are full, and there is a good opportunity for bachelors to establish a home for themselves for the winter.
Payment of a cow/buffalo:
A cow or buffalo or cash in lieu of cow/buffalo will be given or paid to the bride’s family in the morning of marriage day; this permits the groom’s party to take the bride to groom’s residence. This is known as Nouragoi Timei.
Wedding ceremony:
A marriage is usually formalized at a wedding or marriage ceremony. Among the TRC followers, 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 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 known as Bngdun will be taken to the groom’s house. In addition, seven food packets called Kaipui Napdom will be brought to the groom’s house for the women of the boy’s family and relatives.  After morning food is over, the bride takes bath at the village pond called Duikhun along with her friends 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 (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 (Gennep, 1960:117).
Finally, the marriage ceremony called Langdai Mhailakmei is performed to recognize them as husband and wife. The custom of TRC 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 (1964:51) opine, arranged marriage gives stability and cohesion not only between husband and wife but also between two families. Thus, the man has become a responsible man of the family as well as of the clan. It is marriage which gives him a soul and incorporates him into the clan.
Elopement:
The elopement of two lovers who have decided to marry is called Saamtomei. It is a more or less approved 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 with their own will. Mhairakmei is observed if the girl belongs to exogamous clan. Such a marriage is not considered a completely valid marriage. (To be contd)


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