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
location: Asalu
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: One girl in Asalu cost her father-in-law - nominally, at least - over Rs 200/-, which included Rs 80/- in cash, a mithan and a necklace; but she was the best weaver of her generation, a capable housewife, a strong field worker and attractive into the bargain, and as her husband was the son of a rich man and in love with her her parents held out for all they could get.
text: Various considerations influence a girl's marriage-price. A good family and influential connections raise the price, poverty and a lack of relations lower it; her health and abilities matter most of all, as does her personal character. A shrew or a girl of many lovers may find themselves going cheap, and no takers at that. The custom of free intercourse among the unmarried leaves very little unknown about a girl's morals and personal habits; for example a girl in Laisong, though presentable and capable enough to look at, remains unmarried because she is too sound a sleeper and can be picked up and shaken without waking her, while another has taken as a lover almost every buck who cared to approach her, with the result that though she has many nightly visitors and her marriage-price is low, no-one has been found to marry her. In contrast to the freedom allowed to unmarried girls, the Zemi demands absolute chastity from his wife; and any girl likely to fall below that standard finds it difficult to get married at all, let alone to a good husband.