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Customs - Birth | Marriage | Death


Marriage

Marriage as an institution is recognised by all the tribes and castes of Orissa. Marriage is not an occasion for happiness in Orissa. When the bride takes leave of her parents and elders and companions, sorrowful  verses are recited dolefully by the bride and sometimes by others of whom  she takes leave. These verses, recited while weeping are known as 'Kandana'. Many folk tales and folk songs take as their theme the day-to-day family scene in a typical joint house hold. The newly-wed young bride must not only cater to the varying tastes and humour the changing moods of the various in-laws, but also observe  the family customs, rituals, fasts and other observances peculiar to her husband's family and village.

Some of the forms of marriage prevalent among the tribes are marriage by capture or institutionalised force (often a mock capture arranged by agreement between the parties), marriage by intrusion when a partner intrudes into the family of the unwilling partner or unrelenting parents-in -law, or marriage by elopement when two lovers elope into the forest or to some distant place because their marriage was opposed by their relatives, marriage by agreeing to serve in the bride's parents house either on a trial basis or under a custom of bondage. In most of the tribal groups the very fact of living together of a man and woman through any of the traditionally recognised manners constitutes a marriage for all social and economic purposes.

Before marriage, in some tribal communities such as the Juang, the Bhuniyan, the Ho, the Kond, the Oraon, the Bondo and the Gadaba, youth dormitories offered opportunities for a lot of sex-play and experimentation in companionship. Pre-marital sex relationship is also known to be common among the Santhals, the Saora and certain other tribal groups. Even then this pre-marital sex is disciplined and institutionalised through observance of certain social taboos on sexual contact between girls and boys belonging to the same clan. But faithfulness in marriage at least on part of the wife is insisted upon and rigidly enforced. All over tribal India, divorce is granted on persistent cases of adultery and the wronged husband, often also the wronged wife, has the right to claim compensation or restoration of the money and goods given to the other party at the time of marriage.

In the former princely states, as also in the zamindaries till their abolition soon after independence, concubinage was a recognised custom. The concubine or 'poili' or 'rakhni' was given a social status much lower than that of the married wife, but placed higher above the prostitutes. The children of the concubine were customarily given some share in the property of the father and the concubine had the right of maintains from her man and her sons and step-sons. The custom was so widespread that it was often institutionalised.

In tribal societies or among the Hindu peasants in Orissa, to remain unmarried is a curse, not only for the boy or the girl, but also for the parents and the other relatives. Similarly widowhood is considered as a punishment  for some serious sin committed either in this life or in the previous life. For, among the higher castes in Orissa, widows  were not given in marriage and had to undergo a number of fasts and penances and a veritable self-denial, closing their eyes to all the pleasures of life. They were not treated well either in their father's house  or in their husband's, as they were considered inauspicious persons  and hence a burden. The widows among  the so called  lower castes and among the tribals did not have to face such an ordeal, provided  they were of a marriageable age and if they were not considered witches. Widow remarriage was usually practiced apart for the inheritance of the elder brother's  widow by one of the younger brothers.

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