The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary four

caption: divorce and remarriage
medium: diaries
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
date: 19.2.1937
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 12.2.1937-31.3.1937
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
text: I also asked him whether a man who has married and paid the bride price could dissolve the marriage and demand the return of the payment (34) because he realised that the girl who is still living with her parents has an affair with another man and has become pregnant by him. Medzou said that it was not customary to dissolve the marriage for this reason but instead the man accepted the child and it would grow up in his house as a member of his clan. If he would go to the girl's father and demand the return of the bride price he would not get far as the father would protest and say: "You have seen a girl who is prettier, eh? As you don't want to take my daughter you want to marry another one. I know how it is. My daughter has another man, why don't you beat him up. That isn't my fault. It is for you to see to it that your wife does not sleep with other men". etc. If you know the Konyak it is not difficult to imagine the flow of language which greets the unfortunate accuser, but if he is determined not to take the girl, he loses the bride-price unless the other man marries the girl and refunds him his payment.
text: (35) The girl's situation actually is more advantageous as if she finds another man who she likes and he is willing to marry her there is no difficulty in dissolving the first marriage. Her new husband then refunds the bride-price to the first husband and sometimes adds a small compensation. This is a very common practice which has its cause in the custom that fathers marry off their exceedingly young sons and daughters. In general these marriages have only the nature of a betrothal and marital intercourse is only taken up years later where it often happens that another young man moves faster than the hesitant spouse and gains the girl's favours. When I took down the gaonbura, Nieang's genealogy in the afternoon of the Nokanokphong clan I came across a clan called Tanyeangnok which lives in the Aukheang and of which Yona too is a member. This clan, which is an Ang clan, originates from the abandoned village Tanyeang between Kongan and Oting. This explains why Yona's daughter wears red porcupine quills in her ears, which is not done by the other Aukheang girls.