April 13, 2008: In every marriage the groom pays the ‘dowry’ (marriage price) to the bride’s family. The price varies according to clans. The highest price is that of the Singson clan which is up to 30 mithun. Except ‘Manpi lamkai’ which is generally a grown up female mithun – Dahpi, dahbu, khichuong, khichang and puon etc. are generally accepted.
The father of bride may accept the price of the bride through his brother or his “Jol” or “Be”. In this case, others should reciprocate their daughter’s marriage. The practice is resorted to show the affection to one another.
Among the daughters if the younger one marries earlier than the elder, the husband is fined. A person may have paid the full price of his wife, yet on her death or on the death of her sons he has to pay a further sum called “Luongman” to her nearest male relative.
‘Luongman’ is not claimable in an unnatural death. On a husband’s death his next eldest brother can insist on marrying the widow and taking care of the children, provided he is a bachelor. And if the marriage price has been paid by the deceased in full he need not pay again.
The marriage ceremony is usually held at the bridegroom’s place. If the bride is from a different village, the groom’s party goes there with his relatives, tucha, becha and friends. An informal feast is arranged in the bride’s house to bid farewell to the bride by killing a pig or a mithun.
On the day of departure the young boys and girls of the village makes “Buontuolchou” (a challenge to the groom’s party for wrestling). Wrestling is performed between the boys from the bride and bridegroom’s side.
Till the groom’s party defeats the village boys they can not move forward. If the groom’s party is defeated they are to pay fine in cash or kind so that the villager can arrange a feast. The bride is then taken out of her village wearing her best attire.
If the girl is from the same village, except some formal ceremonies like “buontuolchou” – wrestlings are not performed. The Thadou form of marriage is very expensive and many formalities are to be observed. That is why some shy boys and girls or poor families prefer elopement.
The actual marriage is solemnized by Thiempu (priest) killing a fowl, feathers from the right wing are placed on the head of the young couple. The Thiempu, then, after muttering some charms binds a cotton thread round their neck, which must be worn till it falls off on its own. Then the Thiempu presents each with a comb. Only very near relatives can use the comb.
Husband and wife (and uterine brothers and sisters) may share the comb. To see whether the union will prove harmonious, the Thiempu takes a hair each from the couple, moisten it in zu (wine) and twist it together.
If the hairs remain twisted all will go smoothly, but should it fly apart marital discords are to be expected. A grand feast hosted by the parents of the bridegroom concludes the marriage ceremony.
The author is a Range Officer in the Forest Department of Manipur government, India.