The mystical land of India holds a rich cultural heritage. And when it comes to the most blessed occasion of marriage, each tribe, race, sect and religion of people have their own traditions and customs. But what if the sanctity of such an occasion is wrapped under some unusual and bizarre customs? Some of these will make you blink in sheer disbelief and may compel you to think twice before marrying! So, before we outrightly condemn these customs, it would be good to make an attempt to understand them.
Marrying an animal: For a ‘fruitful’ married life!
On the face of it, this seems utterly ridiculous and almost bordering on evil. However, Indians deeply believe in their traditions, culture and customs. Sometimes, the horoscope of a boy/girl predicts that he/she will have a fruitful second marriage. The reasons for the non-fruition of the first marriage are not mentioned.
So, the person with the affected horoscope is wedded to a tree or a dog or a goat (depending on the traditions of that region) first and then the second marriage is done immediately with a human! This wards off the evil effects of first wedding.The disappointing fact being the practice of this custom by the educated classes as well because nobody wants to take the chance of something bad befalling the bride or groom.
Groom kidnapping: Say ‘yes’ to marriage or ‘no’ to life!
One often comes across of the hassles a bride’s side goes through, when it comes to dowry and other demands. In some interior parts of Bihar, a crazy solution is practiced. The bride’s father hires goons to kidnap the groom and literally force him to marry the girl. The groom has no choice but to accept. ‘Pakrau Vivaah’, as it is called, can get ugly if the groom refuses and the groom has to say ‘yes’ at gun point. There is no law that protects him from the harassment that the goons mete out! However, this custom is prevalent only among the uneducated and under-developed parts of the state.
Matrilineal system of inheritance: It’s the Wife’s World!
While almost every community and race of the people have a system wherein the child takes on the title or name of the father, it is different for the Khasi tribals in India. Here the child takes on the name from the mother and thus, there is no illegitimate child!
The husband stays in his mother-in-law’s place and the wife inherits the property and children by right. Instead of the eldest son becoming the successor, the youngest daughter is made the successor of the family riches and fortunes. In a world with female infanticide and male domination, the Khasi wedding custom definitely lends relief!
Polyandry: Sharing ‘wife’ for a lifetime!
Kinnaur is another place where the matriarchal system is practiced. Here, a single woman is shared as a wife among brothers. Any resulting child has different fathers as no effort is made to determine the exact dad! While the eldest dad is called Teg Bawal, the youngest is known as Gota Bawal. If at all there are more than five brothers, a second common wife is brought into the family. A maid usually accompanies the bride to the grooms home to help her adjust to the new family and home.
Child marriage: Not at all a doll’s play!
At first mention, child marriage seems so terrible. But it has evolved in response to several factors. One was the fact that the Muslim rulers in India were often very crude and cruel. They used to rape young girls. In a country where virginity before marriage and chastity after, are given paramount importance, child marriage seemed a good solution. However, the scenario changed with child marriage becoming a social custom, resulting in mortality, illiteracy, poverty and health issues.