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: private property and inheritance
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: Private property includes livestock, ornaments, household effects, personal effects and privately owned land, ie. land bought by the man himself of his father or grandfather for themselves, and not for the clan. Subject always to death-bed bequests, inheritance is as follows:
text: 1. The widow enjoys the property during her lifetime, provided she continues to live in her husband's house and does not remarry. While her children are minors she may sell property at her discretion, but must ask the consent of her husband's kinsmen to the sale of valuables, such as necklaces or mithan. The widow inherits even if one of her sons is grown-up and married, but if she is very old when her husband dies, and both were living with and being kept by one of their sons, that son will inherit direct from his father if it is quite clear that he will care for his mother till her death and perform her funeral ceremonies.
text: 2. Failing the widow, the property passes to whichever of the sons has been keeping and looking after his father and is to perform the funeral ceremonies - usually the youngest. If the children are minors, the property goes to the nearest male relative, often the dead man's brother, who takes custody of the children and property till one of the sons marries and is able to take over the property and his younger brothers and sisters. While they are all still minors their guardian may sell part of the property for the upkeep of the family, subject to the consent of the heirs; which consent may be overridden. If a younger brother inherit to the exclusion of the elder and the younger brother die leaving minor children, then, failing the younger brother's widow, the elder brother takes over both the children an the property; but on the children marrying or otherwise becoming fit to take charge, all their father's property returns to them, their uncle retaining only that which was his before his brother died.
text: 3. Failing sons, property passes to the brother or failing brothers, to the nearest male relative on the father's side. An elder brother inherits in preference to a younger, unless the man directs otherwise on his death-bed. Daughters are passed over except for small bequests of clothes and personal effects, but unmarried daughters become the wards of the heir, who has the right to their marriage-prices. Since the girls' character and upbringing will directly affect their marriage-prices, they are generally very well looked after.
text: 4. Failing all male heirs except very distant ones, a man may leave all household effects and personal effects to his daughter, but as has been said, the jappas and their contents must go to men of his own clan, however distantly related. He may make a gift of mithan, necklaces and other valuables to his son-in-law and grandchildren if he likes, and the heirs from his own clan cannot claim these back.
text: It should be noted that in all cases the phrase 'nearest male relative' refers to the nearest male relative on the father's side, kinship on the mother's side not being recognised at all in this connection.