The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Village Organization Among the Central Nzemi Nagas', M.A. thesis by Ursula Betts

caption: Chapter three - the Ram or village community
caption: the individual's relations with the kienga
caption: bride-wealth negotiations
medium: theses
ethnicgroup: Nzemi
person: Betts/ U.V.
date: 1950
refnum: M.A. thesis, University College, London
note: footnotes indicated by boxes within square brackets
text: Bride-wealth is paid partly in cash and partly in kind. The negotiations are carried on by the young people's male kin and the youth and girl have no part in them. The cash payment is decided on when the match is first broached and later negotiations concern the payment in kind, which includes necklaces, cloths, pigs, hoes and cooking-pots. The value of these is estimated in terms of the India rupee. Up to 1942 bride- wealth ranged from a total of Rs.20/-, of which Rs.10/- or Rs.12/- would be in coin, to Rs.150/-, of which Ra. 100/- would be paid in cash. After 1942, when the extensive cash payments made by the Army for work on the Imphal-Kohima road were producing inflation throughout the Naga Hills, Manipur and North (61) Cachar, bride-wealth rose in some cases to a total of Rs. 600/- of which Rs. 400/- or more was paid in coin. The amount of wealth paid over varies with the means of both parties and also with the girl's beauty and skills. It tends to be higher in arranged matches and lower in those marriages based on mutual attachment. To a certain extent public opinion prevents exorbitant demands by the girl's parents, as they will not willingly incur the stigma of seeming to sell her to the highest bidder. As there is loss of prestige in abandoning negotiations once they have been begun, there are on both sides factors conducive to compromise. Generous bride-wealth confers prestige on both parties and a special device is used to inflate the total. The goods paid over are reckoned at one-third more than their actual value in terms of the rupee, and the total wealth in both cash and kind is then stated in terms of cash. On the youth's side the main part of the wealth is provided by his father and the balance is made up by gifts and loans from kinsmen, the father's brothers and classificatory brothers being the chief contributors. On the girl's side, the wealth is retained by her parents and not distributed among her kin, but they send with her to her husband and his parents a substantial provision in clothes, household utensils, and food for the wedding-feast, this provision being proportional to the bride- wealth.