TODAY -

Marriage- Its Rules and Practices in Meitei Society
- Part 2 -

Dr. L. Basanti Devi *

Jatra puba (marriage procession)
Jatra puba (marriage procession)
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Loukhatpa: Loukhatpa is a very simple form of recognition ceremony of the unsolemnised union of the husband & the wife. A couple might become husband and wife without performing either Luhongba or keinya katpa. When the parents of the girl wish to recognised the union, the Loukhatpa Ceremony was performed.

Failing this Loukhatpa function the bride is excommunicated by her parents and some orthodox in laws refused to take food cooked by her. She is also forbidden to enter the house of her parents.

The preliminaries to be observed before the marriage ceremony are given below:
i) Hainaba or Haina Singnaba (G0 between )
ii) Yathang thanaba ( formal order for the marriage)
iii) Wairoipot Puba ( final decision for the marriage)
iv) Heijing Kharai Puba ( impending marriage known to all).

Hainaba of Haina-Singnaba ( go between): It is the initial approach of the parents of the boy to the girls' family. A mission headed by the mother of the boy usually accompanied, by two other female friends or relatives go to the house of the girl with fruits and articles of food. If the latter regards the union as unsuitable then negotiation stop forthwith and if the response is favourable a date was fixed for the next stage in which the men folk of the boy's family go to the girl's house to finalise the negotiation.

Yathang Thaba: After the initial negotiation is completed a formal agreement is to be reached between the two parties. This is called Yathang Thanaba in which elderly man including the father of the boy go to the house of the girl. This stage of negotiation among the males shows their agreement to the union by prostrating themselves before each other.

Waroipot Puba: The third step in the preparation of marriage is waroipot Puba. At this stage the contract is scaled by the groom's family approaching the girl's house with their relatives. In this ceremony the family of bridegroom goes to the house of the bride accompanied by a limited member of close relatives, friends and neighbours with sweetmeats, betal nuts and leaves and various kind of fruits.

Heijing Kharai Puba (Heijingpot): This function is the last and most important of all the preliminary stages of marriage. Many kinds of gifts of fruits, sweets, items for God and clothes for the girl will be presented. Among the fruits two particulars fruits Heikru (ambalica) and Heining ( Spondias mangi fera ) must necessary be included unlike other preliminaries, Heijing Kharai Puba has a deeper social and religious significance.

As in the previous case the articles were offered to their ancestral God Viz ancestor of the clan and sub clan, Sanamahi (family God) etc. The articles were distributed and consumed. After this ceremony, it is presumed that the girl no longer belongs to her parents but to the family of the boy. All this implies that the girl formally becomes the wife of the boy even before the performance of the final wedding ceremony.

Such a tradition also exists among the Hindus. Betrothed girls were also regarded as married, even though they did not necessarily live with their husband. In most cases even a girl betrothed verbally wasregarded as a widow if her betrothed died ( Hindu world, walker Page 601 Vol-II)

Wedding Ceremony: - When all the preliminaries were over, the date of the marriage is fixed on an auspicious day. The day before the wedding the groom himself is formally invited to the wedding. This is done by a younger brother or other suitable male relative of the bride. The groom is garlanded and offered betal nut and leaf. While all the preliminaries of marriage with or without rites have been performed in pre Meitei traditional form, the wedding ceremony as it is now performed is an admixture of both Hindu and non Hindu elements.

After their conversion into Hinduism in the 181h century Meitei marriage has been performed in basic Hindu pattern while at the same time retaining most of their pre Hindu elements. Wedding ceremony is usually accompanied by Kirtans at which suitable religious lyrics are sung. But in pre Hindu days the wedding ceremony was not accompanied by Sankirtan as in done now.

In each Meitei house the Tulsi or Tairen Plant is grown over a raised rostrum. All ceremonies including the wedding are conducted around this plant. The bride circumbulates the groom seven times and on completion of each round she throws flowers over the head of the groom. But on the seventh round she places two garland of flowers over the neck of the groom. The groom then removed one of the garland and places the same over the neck of the bride.

The main item of the ceremony was to solemnise the tie by sacrificial ritual either by the kindling of fire or installation of water pot. Kujaba Punba (tying of brides' palm with that of the groom) is an important item before going round the groom. Along with it, Omen was also sought through Chiruk Nungshang (basket containing rice, salt coin, Ginger, tabacco and cotton etc) and Ngamu thaba (setting free of the fish in the water)

At the end of the ceremony sweets are distributed to the guest with Dakshina ( about Rs. 2 or Rs. 5 or Rs. 10 ) Bridal dress is different according to the faith of the family. If, Hindu Meitei, she should wear the Potloi (round embroidery skirt) and of Non Hindu, Phanek Mayek Naiba ( garment with stripe) but for bride grooms's dress white dhoti, Kurta and turban is the same.

The ceremony came to be close with families exchanged betal nuts and bowed down to each other. When the bride reaches the gate of the bridegroom's house she is received by the mother-in-law and another lady of the family who conduct her into the house in embrace covering the backside of her with their own innaphis (sheets). This custom has been in vogue among the traditional Meiteis is evident from old texts like Panthoibi Khongul ( M. Chandra Singh P.41 Panthoibi khongul)

On the morning and evening of the fifth day of the marriage Phiruk Kaiba or Chiruk Nungshak Kaiba (opening of the basket which were brought on the day of the marriage kept in both families) is performed. This predicted the omens of the newly married couple. The marriage ceremony is ended by a grand feast known as Mapam Chakouba on the sixth day of the ceremony. The quantity of the giving of dowry is not compulsory. It depends upon the family status. There is no hard and first rule to deal with divorce.

Conclusion: After the adoption of Hinduism in the 18th century, many changes were brought on the traditional Meitei Society. The prohibited degrees of marriages like Yekthoknaba , Shairuk tinnaba, Pentinnaba and Mungnaba existed from very early times till date. Many preliminaries of marriage as stated above are pure Meitei traditional forms. But the actual wedding ceremony as it is now performed is an admixture of both Hindu and traditional elements.

Conlcuded....


* Dr. L. Basanti Devi wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is with Standard College, Imphal
This article was webcasted on September 09, 2016.



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