The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

miscellaneous papers, notebooks and letters on Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower, 1937-1947

caption: conditions of marriage
caption: love marriages
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Zemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: Many marriages are the result of a couple falling in love and of a courtship in the dekachang and elsewhere, but among the richest and poorest classes they are more often a matter of arrangement. A poor man has to take what he can afford, the well-to-do like to make as desirable a match as possible. Even when the couple are in love, the parents of either may forbid the banns if they think the match unsuitable. It is open to the couple to elope, if they can, and if the man comes from another village and his parents are agreeable to the marriage he takes the girl home and lives with her there without further ceremony, the marriage-price being settled and paid later. If, however, the girl's family fetch her back, or if the man cannot pay the price or his parents are also opposed to the match, he must either give up the idea altogether or run away again to some village where he and the girl will not be traced. Parents, however, are expected to put as little opposition in the way of a couple who are obviously very much in love, and even if they approve the match, custom demands that the girl's price be less than if the match were an arranged one.
text: A girl who has run away and spent even one night in the man's house loses her unmarried status, and if she returns home again she may not dance or return to the dekachang, but must live in her parents' house.
text: Suicide is the traditional refuge of thwarted lovers, but no modern cases of a boy and girl committing suicide seem to be known. The Zemi say that men are apt to think better of it and go home again, but that girls show more determination and quote in support of this theory cases of suicide or attempted suicide by girls in recent times.
text: Occasionally a youth will propose to a girl in the middle of the night, while courting her in the dekachang, and if she is willing, the couple go off to the boy's home forthwith and explain the situation to his parents. If they are agreeable, the girl stops there till the following morning, when the news is broken to her parents, and if they too agree, there she stops, and the marriage-price and all other arrangements are settled when convenient. This modified form of elopement seems to be uncommon, and by far the greatest number of weddings take place in the usual form.