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: bride-price
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Zemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: On the day, the boy's parents go to the girl's house with a party of friends and kinsmen, choosing the best debaters available, and the mathais, if the boy and girl are of different villages. the party generally totals half-a-dozen or so. The minimum cash price is already more or less fixed, but the girl's family may try to increase it or the boy's to get it reduced. In any case there is a heated argument about the necklaces, mithan, cooking- pots and other goods in kind. If no compromise can be arrived at and the whole arrangement has to be cancelled, the girl's parents are entitled to Rs 1/- as compensation for their trouble and expenditure on zu. In most cases some sort of a compromise is arrived at, the cash is paid down, and the hoarse and thirst debaters are revived with zu.
text: A girl's marriage-value is conditioned by a number of factors - her personal beauty, character and abilities, the last two outweighing the first; the status, means and reputation of her parents and relatives; whether the young couple are in love, and whether the girl is to go to another village or her own also influence the price, her parents being expected to make a reduction if it is a love-match, and his to pay more if she is to go to a strange village. In the villages east of Haflong, the total price is seldom higher than Rs 200/- and may be Rs 20/- or less, but in the western villages prices of Rs 400/- are not unknown, and the general run is almost double that of the eastern group. More than half the price is usually in kind, and in reckoning the total the real price is enhanced by a third or so - e.g. a necklace worth Rs 40/- in cash will be reckoned at Rs 60/- - but the cash price, which may be Rs 80/- out of a total nominal price of Rs 200/-, is exactly as stated and must be paid on the nail.