TODAY -

Marriage ceremony : The Zeliangrongs and Tais of Southeast Asia
- Part 3 -

Dr Budha Kamei *



Among the Red Tais, the marriage rituals commence when the envoy of the boy arrives at the girl's house. The envoy will bring a tray covered with presents like alcohol, tea, betel, chewing bark, sticky rice cooked in banana leaf cones and some money.

If the response of the girl's family is positive, then the boy's family will send him again. In the second visit, the mediator brings somewhat more important presents like sticky rice, chewing bark, and forty or fifty tubes of Pa Xum (river fish mixed with salt and rice powder and preserved in a segment of bamboo).

Again the envoy of the boy's family will arrive at the residence of the girl accompanied by some eighty tubes of Pa Xum, four dresses, a piece of silk, a roll of cotton, a pig, one or more jars of rice-wine and some money. This time the girl's family is represented by its own envoy.

After this the two families are allied. In a separate occasion, the groom along with his parents, mediator, and friends will visit the girl's house with presents like one or more bars of silver, a robe and a vest, silver bracelets, alcohol, tea, a buffalo or a pig, areca and betel, cakes, some thirty tubes of Pa Xum etc.

Young girls will bombard them with fruits and douse them with water so as to prevent from entering and therefore the main guests will be permitted to enter via a back door. The boy is presented to the girl's parents and the ancestors of the house. The actual wedding takes place on an auspicious day.

When the girl arrives at the groom's house, the mediator of the boy's family will wash the feet of the bridal couple before they claim the stairs. A ritual specialist will conduct a ceremony in which the Khwans of the bridal are strengthened. The bride and groom eat some cakes and drink some alcohol together.

Then the ritual specialist takes two eggs and presents them to bride and groom with a few good wishes. According to Somsonge Burusphat, Jerold A Edmonson and Megan Sinnott, "Polygyny is allowed. Among the nobility a man may have up to four wives acquired through first rank marriage. Marriage is exogamous with respect to the chao. Marriage between a noble woman and a commoner man is forbidden."

Bride price/bride wealth

Bride price is referred to the gifts presented by groom's Kin to that of the bride. It may be interpreted into two ways: labour price and soul price. By a marriage, a productive member of a family is lost. Compensation is to be given in the form of bride price to the family for the loss of a daughter by the groom's family.

According to Indira Barua, the bride wealth compensates the bride's family for the loss of an active member, because among the Indian tribes, the female members of the household make a substantial contribution in the production as they are active members of agricultural and other household works.

This compensation is not for the use of the bride. It is utilized by the family because sometimes, it is employed to get a wife for a son of the family. And in some societies, even the father of the bride uses it to marry himself another wife.

The payment of the bride price is permitted to the groom right to marry the bride and the right to her children. In most patrilineal societies, a marriage is marked by the transfer of bride wealth (in cattle, spears, money or other goods) from the groom's family to that of the bride. Bride wealth ensures that the children of the union shall be legitimate and affiliated to the husband's clan or family.

Bride wealth is not, of course, purchase of a woman but a means of legitimizing the marriage. The payment of bride price, a woman has to lead to remain a wife rather than come back to live as a sister in her parental family. Bride price is commonly also a guarantee that the young wife will be well treated in her new home.

Among the Zeliangrongs, the bride price consists of
(1) Goiroi Kanei, two buffalos,
(2) Bui Kanei, two spears,
(3) two eating brass vessels,
(4) two cloths,
(5) one dao,
(6) taduie, two pairs of brass bangles,
(7) Nathang, two pairs of spiral armlets,
(8) Pongnai, lower garment,
(9) Guonkam, neckband made of conch shells,
(10) Shenpak , large eating brass vessel,
(11) one big cock,
(12) Manpi, two laogais, and
(13) Bamlinshen, some coins
(Tingkao Ragwang Chapriak, 2009:15).

Among the Tais groups of Assam and Southeast Asia, bride price is compulsory and it usually consists of like a sum of money, silver bars, valuable draught animal etc. Sometimes, bride service takes place in lieu of a bride price. Bride wealth is not, of course, purchase of a woman, but a means to legitimize the marriage.

Location of wedding ceremony

Regarding the location of main wedding ceremony, the Tais, unlike the Zeliangrong, celebrate at the bride's parents. It is there that the bride price is received and shown to the ancestors and senior members of the family. Among the Zeliangrongs, wedding ceremony is solemnized at the residence of the bridegroom. Both the Zeliangrongs and Tais avoid the inauspicious date for the wedding.

Divorce

Divorce is permitted by the custom, but it is very rare among the Tais and Zeliangrongs. Among the Zeiangrongs, the procedure of divorce is that, the Pei, village council is convened and it is done on the initiation of the man or woman who wants to get divorce by giving a Jar of wine to the Peikai, house of Pei.

If the husband introduces a divorce, he has to pay Mhasi, a buffalo, a big brass vessel, and a laogai to the wife and it is sought by the wife, she has to return the bride-price to the husband. The woman along with the buffalo, a laogai and a brass vessel will be sent to her parental house escorted by the members of Pei.

It is done with the knowledge of the village council. The village council plays very important role in bringing two people together for life and it also has the role in giving to their separation.

Conclusion

We may conclude that there are some connections between the Zeliangrong and the Tais. It seems that in the distant past, the way of life of the native peoples of Southeast Asia influenced with each other in domineering way.

As northeast, a part of Southeast Asia geographically there may have linkages between northeast and southeast Asia. Amongst the Tai groups too, there are some variations in their marriage rituals. It may be because of, they lost contact with each other since the days of their migration, there is, however, no longer homogeneity in the Tai culture maintained by them.

(Concluded)


* Dr Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at budhakamei(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on March 02, 2019.



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