The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: status of women
caption: widows
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: A widow may please herself whether she remarries or not, but if she is a young woman she is often encouraged to do so by her parents and relatives. If she remarries she loses all tight to her late husband's property and returns to her family, from whose house she remarries. The children of the first marriage go to the father's relatives, but infants stay with the mother until they are weaned.
text: There is no obligation to marry her late husband's brother or any other of his relatives, but should she do so from choice (her second marriage is governed by the same rules of exogamy as the first, so there is nothing to stop her doing so) he must pay her family the full bride-price, as she has left her late husband's family and returned altogether to her own. such marriages with the husband's relatives, however, appear to be rare.
text: The bride-price of a widow is less than that of a young girl, but the marriage ceremonies are exactly the same.
text: If the widow choses to remain in her husband's house she is spoken of and regarded as his wife, and frequently a widow does so remain with the express intention of dying his wife and rejoining him in the next world. She inherits the whole of his property, which passes at his death to whichever of her sons has been supporting her, subject to gifts during her lifetime to other sons marrying and setting up separate households. While in enjoyment of the property she may sell, if necessary, land bought by her husband or by others in comparatively recent years, but the ancestral land may never be sold by anyone, as this causes the family to die out. Necklaces, mithan or other property she may sell at discretion.
text: When she has reached an age when it is quite certain she will not remarry but will die as her late husband's wife, her brothers or nearest relatives may claim the Ndeo price from her sons, as they would have from her husband if he were living, and after her death her sons must pay the Katsai-mi, the 'price of her bones.'
text: If the sons should be unwilling to pay and so displease their mother's relatives (usually, but not necessarily, her brothers), their crops will fail, their mithan will not breed, and they will meet with ill-luck generally, so that they are careful to meet the claim as far as possible and even if they cannot pay they take care to explain how much they would like to give if only they had it. As when dealing with a widower, the claim is based on the means of those against whom it is made, but if the mother's family have done noting to help her and her children when they were poor it would be 'great shame' for them to press extravagant claims on her sons if they should become rich later.