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: parents' role in marriage-making
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Zemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: When the parents of an eligible young man feel it is time he married, they begin to drop hints and make inquiries as to whether he feels like settling down yet or not. Even if he does, he will probably return evasive replies at first, but eventually the matter becomes practical politics. If he has a suitable sweetheart, well and good; if she is unsuitable, his parents will refuse to have her; if he merely has an open mind on the subject, his parents will select a girl whom both they and he approve.
text: Once the choice of a bride has been made, the boy's parents or a relative go to the girl's father and mother and ask if they are agreeable to the match. It is usual for them to make some deprecatory remarks about the girl - she is such a fool, they are ashamed to saddle anyone else with her, and so on; and the boy's father having answered that he will look after her as if she were his own daughter, or some such suitable reply, her parents, if they are agreeable to the match, give some idea of the terms they expect. If they are such as the boy's family can afford - and this has to be carefully considered, as it is "shameful" to go as far as the formal discussion of price and then cry off for lack of funds - the girl's parents agree to consult her about it. If she refuses, there is an end of the matter, and though her parents may try argument and persuasion, no case is known of a girl being married against her will. Such a thing is counter to all Zemi feeling, and - more practical reason - if she finds life unbearable and runs away, her parents will have to refund at least part of the marriage price. Conversely, if the boy cannot stand the bride of his parents' choice and divorces her for no fault of hers, he will have to pay her damages for the shame to which he has put her, all of which makes for wise choice at the beginning. If the girl is willing,then the matter if settled, a date is fixed for the discussion of the price. the girl's parents set about brewing zu for the day, and the boy's family begin collecting, mostly by borrowing and contributions from relatives, the hard cash which they will have to pay down on the day appointed.