Love vis-a-vis Arranged Marriage in Meitei (Meetei) Society : A View

Samar Kshetri *

Keinya - Lu-hong-ba-gee Dollai-da - a Meitei marriage ceremony ending where the bride goes on top of a 'Dollai' with her hand tied to her brother who guides the bride to her new home
Keinya - Lu-hong-ba-gee Dollai-da - a Meitei marriage ceremony ending where the bride goes on top of a 'Dollai' with her hand tied to her brother who guides the bride to her new home
Pix - David M Mayum

I am just wondering "What is happening in Manipur in recent times particularly rape, betrayal and killing of young girls in Meitei (Meetei) society!" and is on the rise. Most of the cases involved persons known to these girls (who claimed to be in love) in these heinous crimes. The reasons are many but mostly involved love angle like married boy pretend to be in love with a girl who didn't know about his marital status and sometimes vice versa and so on.....

These recent incidents of rape and killing of young girls in Manipuri society has angered many where love marriage is continuing as a tradition since ages. There are many folklore like Khamba Thoibi, NaothingKhong Pitang-nga etc which tells the custom of love marriages. In Manipur, eloping a girl by a boy for getting married is a tradition where the boy and girl (who are in love for some time) stays together away from families for a night which is known as "NUPI CHENBA" (meaning eloping the girl with intention of getting married). Next day morning, the boy's family is informed by his friends or himself about the eloping and then the father of the boy and some elders go to the girl's place in traditional dress to inform about the elopement of the girl which is known as "HAIDOKPA" (means to reveal). Thereafter, the two families fix the date of marriage after consulting the astrologers if they agree that the boy and girl should get married. If the girls family disown then the boy's family manage the wedding on their own without the family of the girl. There after the (fairy) tale continues.............

In some occasions, after "HAINABA" (arranged marriage between the families of the boy and girl) the boy and girl are told to elope on a planned day to show to the society that they were in love and following the tradition of "NUPI CHENBA". Nothing to laugh but is a tradition!!!

Though there are pros of love marriage, there are many flaws and disadvantages in the practice/tradition in present situation which I feel needs to change for the betterment of the society. These disadvantages have been more highlighted with the recent rape and killing of young girls. The misuse of the mobile telephones adds to these woes in the present context. Some of the relevant cons of love marriage in our society out of many are:

a. There is a believe among the high percentage of teenagers that from the young age, they have to run after the opposite sex to woo and make their girlfriend or boyfriend. The peer pressure is also highly effective to these teenagers as they keep telling "Don't you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" They believe that each one of them should have one. Boys look out for good looking girls and girls look out boys preferably from a richer family (pretend to be rich). Girl looks for boys who comes with a bike or car (hire or rented or stolen). However, there seems to be slight change in these criteria after seeing domestic violence, drug addicts & AIDS/HIV issue, alcoholic and school dropouts. But this ratio is only about 10 %. Still the major problem is the tradition or culture to seek for boyfriend or girlfriend at young age.

b. Those seeking for love may suffer rejection and relationship breakups many times before they are successful in finding their life partner. This can result in waste of valuable time, wealth, low self-esteem, confidence and affect their studies. In present scenario, it may lead to crime against the girls.

c. The participation of parents in match making are nil but they think their sons will bring a good looking working girl from a richer family and also their daughters will get married to a handsome rich boy working as white collar job in a Govt department. What a ridiculous thought or believe! Can a kid of 14/ 15 years who is not mature enough decide their future?? That is where the whole believe goes wrong and we are still following! It is really like a "LUCKY DIP"! The boy, girl and also the families are to share the brunt for their whole life with this lucky dip. Some are successful or the syndrome called "MOU MANGKHRE" (missing of married girl) increases!

d. Due to this, child marriage (below the permissible age) is also in the rise. The marriageable age as per Indian Hindu law of 21 years for boys and 18 years for girls is not applicable in Meitei (Meetei) society with an excuse/tradition that the boy and girl had consent to elope and enter into the wedlock. Most of the Meitei (Meetei) follow Hindu as religion (Muslim personnel law allows girl can get married at puberty. Christian law allows minor girls to get married with consent of parents). Parents and guardians are also not bothered by believing themselves that they did the same. That is where the society continue to suffer continuously and much more now-a-days.

e. "Love is blind" is actually happening as these teenager's life are in the dreams of love and not understanding the actual realm of life. It leads to non-concentration in their career as they think they will get married with the boys/ girl they fall in love whether their career are in place or not. Most alarming is the affairs between unmarried boys/girls with married girls/boys (using boys/girls because of their age) without/with the knowledge of previous marriage.

f. The increase in premarital sex is on the rise and leads to increase in number of so call RESTAURANTS with that mud wall and rusted steel roof sheets without light in those dark cabins to give that intimate privacy. These are the places where most of these heinous crimes originated.

g. The boys elope girls without realising whether they are mentally and financially ready to start a married life. Marriage by eloping looks like a child's play in our society. No planning is required to get married but decided in fraction of second. Later on they expect the women to earn for their living while they got drunk (pretend to get drunk) to avoid any responsibilities of the family. Manipur has a renowned IMA Keithel (Women's market) which is the only market in the world where, as the name suggests (Ima-Mother, Keithel-Market), all the stalls are run by women. All the markets with sitting temporary stalls in Manipur are run by women only (very young mothers to aged mothers). In my opinion as the men do not take the responsibilities to run the house after marriage (most of the unemployed), the women took the responsibilities and come out at market selling petty stocks of all items.

h. Love marriage looks good in cinema where love birds run around singing, dancing and sharing a piece of bread. Life is not a cinema where you enjoy sharing the hard earn bread. Have you seen any love birds running around and dancing in real life!!!

Some pros of arrange marriages though it also has some cons

a. This practice or tradition is being followed in mature societies where parents involve in deciding the match by considering similar class, background of the family, reputation, wealth, vocation, health, qualification and job profile of the boys/girls. The boys/girls understand that according to their career they can get married to boys/girls of reputed or good families. So the boys/girls concentrate more to their studies and careers.

b. In an arranged marriage, the bride and groom are usually selected by their parents, rather than by each other. Arranged marriages are accepted by the boy and girl as they believe their elders are able to make the best decision when it comes to who they marry. Arranged marriages have been one of the more dominant forms of marriage recorded throughout history even in Manipur like Panthoibi and Tarang Khoinucha (son of Khaba Shokchongba), Khuyoi Tompok (son of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba) and Langmainu Ahongbi, marriage of Princess of Manipur to Ruler of Kabaw who was latter known as "Kabaw Leima Sana Hekpi" etc.

c. The boy and girl have time to understand each other and adjust accordingly. If they found that they cannot adjust, the engagement can be broken without any heartbreak.

d. One of the major benefits of an arranged marriage is that young boys/girls do not need to dedicate their time searching for a life partner. They are able to concentrate on their education and career knowing that when the time is right, their parents will look for a suitable girl or boy. They are also saved from the pain of rejection that is inevitable when seeking to find your own love partner. Above all for those who are shy or suffer from social anxiety, having their partner provided for them is a huge relief.

Need of the hour

We need to change the tradition for the better future of the society and the parents need to involve and take lead in making their wards understand what the life is after marriage. Few suggestions are:

a. The participation of the parents in guiding their wards to make them understand what is marriage and life after marriage is the urgent need of the hour. We cannot leave it to our wards to decide their future married life as we guide them about their career. The span of bachelor/spinster varies from 22 to 25 years in normal course of life (15 to 20 years for most of cases in Manipur) and rest of life they have to spend with their spouses (wife/husband). The need to concentrate on their career should be encouraged so that they do not waste time running around the girls/boys. Once the career is set, there are many options to look forward. The boy who made to believe that can afford a Palace and many vehicles around with billions in his suitcases (black money so not in bank balance) may not be able to give a square meal after marriage, forget the Palace and vehicle.

b. The practice or tradition that is being followed in our society is that of immature society or that of a primitive tribe. The community does not accept to be a tribe by itself, however the practices that are being followed are of that of a primitive tribe. This point will be agreed by most of the anthropologist and sociologist. We need to grow ourselves and sensitise our wards and society as per the prevailing conditions and environment. We cannot go back to history to hamper progress in the society.

c. Parents cannot stay as a mute spectator waiting for the doomsday of their wards and their families. The involvement of parents in changing over to arrange from love marriage is the call of the day. Parent should not be waiting their daughters to elope and HAIDOKPA from the boy's family. Instead we should go for match making under proper supervision for their better future married life.

d. As Meitei (Meetei) parents are liberal, they always ask their wards whether they are in relation with someone (KHANGNABA KAANA LEI). Instead of eloping to get married, if families are also involved love cum arrange marriage can be planned. The advantage is as families are to be involved, the boy/girl will have to concentrate in their career or at a marriageable age.

When people are going and thinking about live in relationship, this view may be awkward to few. However, the crime against girl in the name of love and betrayal can be reduce if the practice of elope marriage is changed to arranged marriage. However, it will take years to change the tradition but earlier the better. Before I conclude, I like to question all those parents "Would you like your daughter or son to elope for getting married?"

Please refer my previous articles
1. When You Are In Rome, Do As Roman do!
2. Chinese LED lamps: A Boon for People of Manipur

* Samar Kshetri wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at samar_dp(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)in
This article was posted on October 19, 2013.

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