Selection of mate among Indian tribes

They say marriages are made in heaven. But you still have to go about finding a mate. Finding one is simple in Indian societies. Either the marriage is fixed by parents or it is a “love marriage” agreed upon by both the individuals. But amongst tribal people, there are some interesting customs and practices. Some have adopted the custom of mutual agreement by the two families, and many have their own customs.
Among Bhils of Rajasthan and Gujarat provinces, there is a festival called “Gorgadedo”. Marriageable boys and girls dance in a circle on the tune of the tribal music instruments. While dancing, if a boy wants to propose to a girl, he goes behind her and kicks her heel with his toe. If the girl agrees, she kicks the boy’s heel by her toe and both fall out of the circle, as their marriage is fixed. If the girl doesn’t agree, she shall turn around and give a hard slap on the boy’s face and they go on dancing.

Like in the epics, Mahabharata and Ramayana, a trial is given to some suitors. For example, they may be asked to go and kill a wild boar. Even if there was only one suitor, he has to give the test. This is called “marriage by trial”. The one who passes the trial is given the hand of the girl in matrimony.

Marriage by elopement is also practiced in some communities. The two would-be couple runs away and if they are caught before crossing the village boundary, they are beaten up and are not permitted to marry. But if they cross the village boundary, without being caught, they are accepted as husband and wife and some rituals are conducted.

During the middle centuries, “marriage by capture” was also practiced. Military force was used and the girl captured would be the bride. The kidnapped girl legally gets the status of a wife.

In Chhotanagpur area, a youth organization called Gotul organizes informal meetings for unmarried girls and boys. Every evening, they all sit under a thatched roof and there are singing, dancing and story telling sessions. Boys and girls mix freely and decide about their marriage. No married person or young child is allowed anywhere near Gotul. The only source of light is the bonfire in the middle of the hall.

Jonsaries of Chakrata district in Uttranchal practice a strange kind of polyandry (one wife and several husbands). They call themselves the descendants of Pandavas who also led a polyandry life. Among Jonsaries, only the eldest brother gets married and the bride becomes the legal wife of all the brothers of the groom. If there is a big age difference between the eldest brother and his siblings, he gets married to another girl and the second bride also becomes the wife of all the brothers. In schools or colleges of Dehradun, students ask Jonsari students about the number of fathers they have. And they innocently reply “four” or “five”.

In some societies, there is “trial marriage”. The prospective couple is given a separate hut to live together and try out their compatibility. More than compatibility, it is the fertility of the bride. If she didn’t conceive within a year, they cannot be married. If she does, the marriage ceremonies are conducted. Also, better suitors may come forward to marry the girl.

Marriage by purchase” is a common feature among tribes. The girl’s father fixes a ‘bride price’ and the suitor pays this amount in cash or kind to marry the girl. If the suitor has no money to pay, he could pay by service to his father-in-law, by living in their house and works as a domestic servant or a daily wager in the house and/or in the farm. When enough service is over to cover the entire bride price, the boy is married to the said girl. This is called ‘marriage by service’, which is an extension of ‘marriage by purchase’.

Amongst caste Hindus, till 60 years ago, marriage negotiations were conducted through the village priest or the village barbers. They would carry the message as intermediaries. Marriages were fixed without the bride’s family seeing the groom or without the bridegroom’s family seeing the girl. Amongst Hindus, the first proposal has to go from the bride’s side. But amongst Muslims and Christians, the proposal has to be sent from the groom’s side.

In spite of stringent legal provisions, child marriages are still rampant. Rajasthan state is notorious in allowing child marriages. Cousin marriages are preferred among Muslims and Christians. In a few societies in south India, maternal uncle and niece marriage is also preferential mating. Same caste is necessary for all Hindu marriages.

But now inter-caste marriages have also started happening, because they believe “it doesn’t matter where you come from; all that we need it is love”. ;)

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This Article was Sent to Us from our Indian reader,  previously he has written
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