Page images

their wrists. In Chhindwara the bride is taken on a bullock to the bridegroom’s house. At the wedding four people hold out a blanket in which juari, lemons and eggs are placed, and the couple walk round this seven times, as in the Hindu b/zdnwar ceremony. They then go inside the house, where a chicken is torn asunder and the blood sprinkled on their heads. At the same time the bride crushes a chicken under her foot. In Mandla the bride on entering the marriage-shed kills a chicken by cutting off its head either with an axe or a knife. Then all the gods of her house enter into her and she is possessed by them, and for each one she kills a chicken, cutting off its head in the same manner. The chickens are eaten by all the members of the bride’s party who have come with her, but none belonging to the bridegroom’s party may partake of them. Here the marriage-post is made of the wood of the mahua

. tree, round which a toran or string of mango leaves is twisted,

and the couple walk seven times round this. In Wardha the bride and bridegroom stand on the heap of refuse behind the house and their heads are knocked together. In Bhandara two spears are placed on the heap of refuse and their ends are tied together at the top with the entrails of a fowl. The bride and bridegroom have to stand under the spears while water is poured over them, and then run out. Before the bride starts the bridegroom must give her a blow on the back, and if he can do this before she runs out from the spears it is thought that the marriage will be lucky. The women of the bride’s and bridegroom’s party also stand one at each end of a rope and have a competition in singing. They sing against each other and see which can go on the longest. Brahmans are not employed at a Gond wedding. The man who officiates is known as Dosi, and is the bridegroom’s brother-in-law, father’s sister’s husband or some similar relative. A woman relative of the bride helps her to perform her part and is known as Sawasin. To the Dosi and Sawasin the bride and bridegroom’s parties present an earthen vessel full of kodon. The donors mark the pots, take them home and sow them in their own fields, and then give the crop to the Dosi and Sawasin.

Some years ago in Balaghat the bride and bridegroom

[merged small][ocr errors]

sat and ate food together out of two leaf-plates. When they had finished the bride took the leaf-plates, ran with them to the marriage-shed, and fixed them in the woodwork so that they did not fall down. The bridegroom ran after her, and if she did not put the plates away quickly, gave her one or two blows with his fist. This apparently was a symbolical training of the bride to be diligent and careful in her household work. Among the Raj-Gonds of Saugor, if the bridegroom could not come himself he was accustomed to send his sword to represent him. The Sawasin carried the sword seven times round the marriage-post with the bride and placed a garland on her on its behalf, and the bride put a garland. over the sword. This was held to be a valid marriage/( In a rich Raj-Gond or Khatola G‘ond family two or three girls would be given with the bride, and they would accompany her and become the concubines of the bridegroom. Among the Maria Gonds of Chanda the wedded pair retire after the ceremony to a house allotted to them and spend the night together. Their relatives and friends before leaving shout and make merry round the house for a time, and throw all kinds of rubbish and dirt on it. In the morning the couple have to get up early and clear all this off, and clean up the house. A curious ceremony is reported from one part of Mandla. When a Gond girl is leaving to be married, her father places inside her litter a necklace of many strings of blue and yellow beads, with a number of cowries at the end, and an iron ring attached to it. On her arrival at the bridegroom’s house his father takes out the necklace and ring. Sometimes it is said that he simply passes a stone through the ring, but often he hangs it up in the centre of a room, and the bridegroom’s relatives throw stones at it until one of them goes through the ring, or they throw long bamboo sticks or shoot arrows at it, or even fire bullets from a gun. In a recent case it is said that a man was trying to fire a bullet through the ring and killed a girl. Until a stone, stick, arrow or bullet has been sent through the ring the marriage cannot take place, nor can the bridegroom or his father touch the bride, and they go on doing this all night until somebody succeeds. When the feat has been done they pour a bottle of liquor over the necklace and ring, and the bride’s relatives catch the liquor as it falls, and drink it. The girl wears the necklace at her wedding, and thereafter so long as her husband lives, and when he dies she tears the string to pieces and throws it into the river. The iron ring must be made by a Gondi Lohar or blacksmith, and he will not accept money in payment for it, but must be given a cow, calf, or buffalo. The symbolical meaning of this rite does not appear to require explanation.1 In many places the bride and bridegroom go and bathe in a river or tank on the day after the wedding, and throw mud and dirt over each other, or each throws the other down and rolls him or her in the mud. This is called Chikhal-Mundi or playing in the mud. Afterwards the bride has to wash the bridegroom’s muddy clothes, roll them up in a blanket, and carry them on her head to the house. A see-saw is then placed in the marriage-shed, and the bridegroom’s father sits on it. The bride makes the see-saw move up and down, while her relations joke with her and say, ‘Your child is crying.’ Elsewhere the bridegroom’s father sits in a swing. The bride and bridegroom swing him, and the bystanders exclaim that the old man is the child of the new bride. It seems possible that both customs are meant to portray the rocking of a baby in a cradle or swinging it in a swing, and hence it is thought that through performing them the bride will soon rock or swing a real baby.

20. Special customs.

In Bastar an omen is taken before the wedding. The village elders meet on an auspicious day as Monday, Thursday or Friday, and after midnight they cook and eat food, and go out into the forest. They look for a small black bird called Usi, from which omens are commonly taken. When anybody sees this bird, if it cries ‘ Sun, Sun,’ on the right hand, it is thought that the marriage will be lucky. If, however, it cries ‘ C/zi, C/zi,’ or ‘Fie, Fie,’ the proposed match is held to be of evil omen, and is cancelled. The Koya Gonds of Bastar distil mahua liquor before arranging for a match. If the liquor is good they think the marriage

21. Taking omens.

1 The above rite has some resemblance to the test required of the suitors of Penelope in the Odyssey of

bending the bow of Odysseus and shooting an arrow through the axes, which they could not perform.

[merged small][ocr errors]

will be lucky, and take the liquor with them to cement the betrothal ; but if it is bad they think the marriage will be unlucky, and the proposal is dropped. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are held to be lucky days for marriages, and they are celebrated in the hot-weather months of Baisakh, Jesth and Asar, or April, May and June, or in Pfis (December), and rarely in Magh (January). A wedding is only held in Kartik (October) if the bride and bridegroom have already had sexual intercourse, and cannot take place in the rains.

Survivals of the custom of marriage by capture are to be found in many localities. In Bastar the prospective bridegroom collects a party of his friends and lies in wait for the girl, and they catch her when she comes out and gets a little distance from her house. The girl cries out, and women of the village come and rescue her and beat the boys with sticks till they have crossed the boundary of the village. The boys neither resist nor retaliate on the women, but simply make off with the girl. When they get home a new cloth is given to her, and the boys have a carouse on rice-beer, and the marriage is considered to be complete. The parents do not interfere, but as a rule the affair is prearranged between the girl and her suitor, and if she really objects to the match they let her go. A similar procedure occurs in Chanda. Other customs which seem to preserve the idea that marriage was once a forcible abduction are those of the bride weeping and hiding, which are found in most Districts. In Balaghat the bride and one or two friends go round to the houses of the village and to other villages, all of them crying, and receive presents from their friends. In Wardha the bride is expected to cry continuously for a day and a night before the wedding, to show her unwillingness to leave her family. In Kanker it is said that before marriage the bride is taught to weep in different notes, so that when that part of the ceremony arrives in which weeping is required, she may have the proper note at her command. In Chhindwara the bridegroom’s party go and fetch the bride for the wedding, and on the night before her departure she hides herself in some house in the village. The bridegroom’s brother and other men seek all through

22. Marriage by capture. Weeping and hiding.

23. Serving for a wife.

24. Widow remar


the village for her, and when they find her she runs and clings to the post of the house. The bridegroom’s brother carries her off by force, and she is taken on a bullock to the bridegroom’s house. In Seoni the girl hides in the same manner, and calls out ‘Coo, coo,’ when they are looking for her. After she is found, the bridegroom’s brother carries her round on his back to the houses of his friends in the village, and she weeps at each house. When the bride’s party arrive at the bridegroom’s village the latter’s party meet them and stop them from proceeding further. After waving sticks against each other in a threatening manner they fall on each other’s necks and weep. Then two spears are planted to make an arch before the door, and the bridegroom pushes the bride through these from behind, hitting her to make her go through, while she hangs back and feigns reluctance. In Mandla the bride some

times rides to the wedding on the shoulders of her sister’s .

husband, and it is supposed that she never gets down all the way.

The practice of Lamsena, or serving for a wife, is commonly adopted by boys who cannot afford to buy one. The bridegroom serves his prospective father-in-law for an agreed period, usually three to five or even six years, and at its expiry he should be married to the girl without expense. During this time he is not supposed to have access to the girl, but frequently they become intimate, and if this happens the boy may either stay and serve his unexpired term or take his wife away at once; in the latter case his parents should pay the girl’s father Rs. 5 for each year of the bridegroom’s unexpired service. The Lamsena custom does not work well as a rule, since the girl’s parents can break their contract, and the Lamsena has no means of redress. Sometimes if they are offered a good bride-price they will marry the girl to another suitor when he has served the

greater part of his term, and all his work goes for
The remarriage of widows is freely permitted. As a

rule it is considered suitable that she should marry her deceased husband’s younger brother, but she may not marry his elder brother, and in the south of Bastar and Chanda

« PreviousContinue »