Marriage System of the Khaklu of Noatia Tribe

Noatia is one of the 19 tribes of Tripura. There are a number of groups under the Noatia tribe, namely, Garjan, Gaigra, Tongbai, Kewa, Aslong, Laitong, Khalisa, Khaklu, Anakiya, Gabin, Phadong, Deindak, Harbang and Murasing. In population Khaklu may occupy the second position among the various groups of Noatia tribe. At present, many Noatia have preferred to identify themselves as Tripura. For this reason, the population of Noatia has been decreasing in successive censuses.

The population of the Noatia is concentrated mainly in South Tripura District and Dhalai District. The Khaklus are found at Jalaya, Jadabpara, Muhurichar in Amarpur sub-division, Kuaifang, Ramraibari, Satbahybari, Manirambari, Sibpur, Matai, Debjpur and Gajaria in Belonia sub-division. The population of Khaklu is estimated to be around 30,000.

There are 12 clans under Khaklu namely, Khajan, Cheke, Hari, Tokkhi, Anthai, Angari, Achin, Riri, Atuang, Rabia, Bachung and Khaingbarai.

I would like to focus in this article the marriage system prevalent in Khaklu group which is, of course, more or less similar to the marriage system of other groups of Noatia tribe.

Marriageable age: The boy who has completed the age of 15/16 years is considered eligible to go for marriage. In case of a girl, the main criteria to be eligible to get married are puberty which occurs generally after attainment of the age of 12/13 years.

After the first menstruation occurs, a girl is considered eligible for marriage. The first menstruation is regarded as blooming of a flower. It is called “Sakni khong bamani.” The Sikla group generally arrange fastening of a girl’s breast with a piece of cloth called ‘Risa’. Fastening of ‘risa’ is generally done on a good day. Sree Panchami (Saraswati puja day), Laxmi puja day and New year day are considered as good days for fastening of risa. After fastening of Risa, she is considered adolescent with puberty and matured for connubial life. She adorns herself with a blouse and puts on a good ‘rinai’ and ‘risa’. She loves to wear flowers on her hair heap and jewellery such as ‘Taya’ in the upper ear and ‘nabak’ and ‘wakhang’/ ‘lalong’ in the bottom ear After piercing her nose she wears a nose ring - ‘nakisha’. Other jewellery worn is ring, chain, tal, bao, bachung, bathai, beki and bangri. Soap and perfumes are also used to project her as adolescent and attractive.

Visit of Sikla to Sikli: When a girl is declared adolescent by way of fastening risa on her breast, siklas start visiting her at night in a group/singly. They play flute and chongpreng, dandu etc generally near the bed of the sikli but outside the house. As soon as the sikli hears the sound of the music, she rises up from the bed and sits beside the hearth/oven and ignites fire in it and welcomes all the siklas. She prepares tobacco smoke by blowing on the bamboo pipe. The siklas offer her bidi, arecunut with leaf, etc. They exchange views on various matters. The sikli burns the bidi and offers it to the siklas. She also prepares the pan khili and offers it to the siklas. The sikla or sikli who can recite Chanakya’s verses is considered to be intelligent. This factor plays a vital role in the selection of wife or husband. The siklas or siklis who can tell stories/riddles are also considered as resourceful persons. Teetotaller and non-gambler are the qualities the sikli’s parents look out for in the selection of the son-in-law. They spend 2/3 hour’s time for conversation on various subjects. Parents who do not like the sikli visiting the sikli remind their daughter from time to time not to prolong the conversation and rather go to bed. The sikli obeys. Very often during this visit, the sikla approaches the sikli for marriage. Generally, a marriage proposal is raised to the sikli by a sikla pleader known as Raibang who pleads in favour of a candidate who chooses the sikli for marriage. The sikla offers the sikli various things like soap, scent and hair oil. The visit lasts for about 2/3 hour. Thereafter the siklas go back to their place of sleeping not necessarily their homes, and the sikli also goes to bed.

The siklas after having dinner assemble in a house where they generally sleep together and they decide the sikli they would visit that night. Then as decided they go to the house of the sikli. While on their way, they sing and also shout and entertain themselves with various conversations. On reaching the house of sikli, they stop singing, shouting and making conversation. Instead, they play the flute, chongpreng and dandu as mentioned earlier and thus awaken the sikli, enter the house and sit near the oven/fire place.

 

Restriction from visiting Khaklu sikli by non-Khaklu sikla.

In Khaklu society, if any sikla of other group, i.e. other than Khaklu sikla, wants to visit a Khaklu sikli, he has to take permission from the local Khaklu siklas. If he visits without permission, he will be caught and fined arecunut numbering 4/5 pons (one pon is 80 nos). The sikla will not be released until he hands over the fined arecunuts to the local Khaklu siklas. Violation of rule/convention/custom is tantamount to insult to the local Khaklu siklas. This is implemented rigidly. Sometime the Roaja (Headman of the area) has to intervene to solve the problem amicably. The collected arecunuts are distributed to all local siklas and siklis. There is, however, no restriction in marriage.

System of Marriage: Generally, there are three systems of marriage in Khaklu society. They are: (i) through arrangement by parents/guardians (ii) through love marraige and (iii) by elopement/ capture.

The first system is where parents of sikla and sikli are in favour of the marriage. In this case Raibong (pleader) is engaged. He narrates the eligibility and quality of the sikla to the parents of the girl as well as to the sikli. His role continues till the time of marriage. The sikla visits the sikli and discloses his desire to marry her and he projects himself as an would be ideal husband. If the response is satisfying, the sikla presents her a blouse/Rinai/Risa/ ornaments, etc. If she accepts the presents, it is considered as a sign of agreement. But if there is another sikla trying to marry her, he will try his best to break the deal and also try to defame the candidate. If he can convince the sikli, he will arrange elopment with her. On the other hand, if he fails to lure away the girl, he has no choice but to stop his effort.

Second one is called “Chao kameni” i.e “Visit with wine”. Such type of visit has to be done three times. Proposal for marriage to the girls’ parents is made with due submission and politeness. They will praise the quality of the sikli overwhelmingly and express their desire to get

her in marriage. Response of the girl’s parents is that they would ask their daughter and will also see if the sikla and sikli are in love. There the first visit ends. The second visit with two bottles of wine takes place generally after 2/3 months. In the meantime sikla visits the sikli’s house frequently and tries to gain her consent in favour of marriage. Raibang also continues to project the sikla as a qualified candidate for her life partner. If any favorable signal comes to surface, the visiting party expresses the same to the parents of the sikli. In the meantime, parents/guardians of the sikli give a green signal to the parents of the boy. Otherwise, the marriage proposal ends at this stage.

When both the parties agree to the marriage, there is a verbal agreement not to entertain any other prospect for the marriage. This is called “Sutu Buthamini”. This final decision is confirmed by bowing down before “Lampra’, the chief god of all gods worshipped by the Noatias and reciting Sloka or Mantra which goes as follows : -

Anhasai siris Mukundrai babai, Lampra kata, Lanja kata, Taj, Sakra tini, Bar ganga din gamga, Phonani basa, Phanani basajak baona jati katongai, bongsa katongai, yaphang pongranai bachow dong kariranai bachow sarga khunatai, yarong patal hanaikasong Kunjri Lawantai, kibing Faklai oanatai, sirishkundrai, sirismukundrai, bini Sri baikya”.

(English translation: Today being a good day, this date being good date in the name of Lampra god, son of some-one and daughter of some-one, who comes from high family, who fills the vacant throne, who is high upto heaven, the length of whose leg reaches the bottom of water, the length of whose head touches the roof, whose house bati is wide, whose first child is a son, whose house is full of paddy. Let it become a reality – this word is not mine but the word of Lampra.

Lampra is considered to be the Supreme source of blessing for the prosperity of the bride and bridegroom and also of all members of the family. In the worship of Lampra, two fowls are sacrificed. The meat is cooked and served to the party who come on behalf of sikla. But the date of marriage is generally not finalised in the second visit. Parents/guardian opine that further observation is required and some more time should be given for observation on the growing intimacy and love between the sikla and the sikli. During this period, relation between them becomes closer and more cordial. In this period both the sikla and the sikli go to market and fair together and develop more intimacy. Generally, the sikla offers gifts selected by the sikli. The decision taken in the second visit amounts to betrothal. The sikla and the sikli become fiancé and fiancée. Their movements and activities are observed and confined. They avoid mixing and speaking with other siklas and siklis as they are not free as before. This is necessary to ensure maintenance of confidence. But there are instances of the betrothal breaking down.

The third visit is about half a month after the second visit. The sikla’s party visit the sikli’s house with two bottles of wine and offer it to the parents/guardian of the sikli. Leaders of the village attend the occasion as they are formally invited by the sikli’s parents. Wine is served. Feast with pork and chicken is also given. Everybody enjoys the occasion. Thereafter they fix the date for sending the sikli to the house of the sikla. This is generally done at dawn. A group of siklas come to sikli’s house at night and receive the sikli from the parents and return to the house of the sikla. The family of the sikla receives the bride cordially and offers one Renai and one Risa to her. The sikla’s family arranges puja for washing of head. This is compulsory ritual in marriage.

The second system of marriage is held in the house of the sikli. Both the parents are to be economically sound because this marriage is expensive. In this marriage jatra party etc is arranged. A feast is offered to all the invited persons. Celebrations take the shape of a festival. Preliminary actions are taken as in the case of the first system.

Throughout the night jatra is held and all the villagers assemble and enjoy the jatra. Marriage is held in the morning. Both bride and bridegroom put on new sari and dhuti and shirt

respectively. They take their seat on the bamboo structure which is decorated nicely. On this occasion, two cocks and one pig are sacrificed and are cooked and served to the invitees.

Four couples who are relatives of the bridegroom and three couples who are relatives of the bride pour water over the heads of the bride and bridegroom. A widow or widower cannot participate in this. The ceremony ends with feast. Thereafter, the bridegroom’s party returns home with the bride and arranges a puja for washing of heads (Khrok Sumani).

The third system of marriage is by force. When the sikli does not consent for marriage, the sikla takes the sikli forcefully to his house. When the sikli goes to the forest to collect vegetables or when she goes to the friend’s house or to the chhera for taking bath, the sikla takes the opportunity of capturing her to make her agree to marry him. The parents of the sikli generally search and find her out without much difficulty. In that event, the parents ask the sikli whether she would like to marry the sikla. If the answer is positive, the parents return home leaving behind their daughter. The parents of the sikla arrange puja for washing of heads of the sikla with sikli. But if the answer is negative, the parents take home the sikli.

Performance of Khrow Sumuni puja:

As stated earlier, performance of puja for washing of head (Khrok Sumoni) is compulsory in the marriage within the Noatia society. Solemnisation of marriage is completed when puja of khrok sumoni is done.

A bamboo structure is constructed at the juncture of two streams for seating the bride and the bridegroom. Materials required for the puja are as follows: -

One towel, one patil for keeping kharChakhai”, raw turmeric, kuchei, sugai, Iron one rupee (silver)/chanka grass, leaf of small danger tree, leaf of khamai-slok (which is bounded by cord (rope), tiger teeth, a pair of upper leaf of banana and one bottle of wine. Generally, 4 cocks are sacrificed. Two pairs of bamboo about 2 feet long are plaited on the ground and one pair of bamboo is bounded over the two pairs of bamboo. The bamboos are decorated by way of carving on them. Painting is also done with red colour. Cotton, rice and egg are also required for this puja. Small lamps are lighted. The bride and bridegroom bathes, put on new clothes and take their seats in the bamboo structure made for the purpose. A promise is recited by the Achai which is followed by the bride and the bridegroom. Achai recites a promise first to the bride groom which is as follows: Nini bihi jadi Rogi pira Angai, Sithai Sipra Nakhakhai, nong cheya ma tongya, chla replies “yes”.

English version: -

Even if your wife suffers from various diseases and if your wife becomes handicapped, you cannot discard her. The groom replies – Agreed. Again Achai recites: Nini chla jadi rogi pira wngai. Ochal wngai or libao nakhagwi tongo, Nwng Nashian yagkagwi ma thanya do. The sikli says “Yes” with uttering Laxmi sakti, Ganga sakti, Chandi Sakti, Brahma Sakti. Summary is that even if your husband suffers from scrotum [swelling disease], you cannot discard your husband. Witnesses are Laxmi, Ganga, Chandi and Brahma. Thereafter puja begins, four cocks are sacrificed. It is mentioned that as per puja ritual, the bride and bridegroom have to sit on the bamboo platform facing the up stream and Achai moves around the bamboo platform seven times uttering this mantra and again the couple has to sit facing downstream and Achai has to move around the spouse seven times uttering the same mantra. In every round Achai has to pour water from the crockery vessel with bounded grass. He lets the crockery vessels knock the head of the spouse. Before the sacrifice the following mantra is uttered by the acahi: Sili bokhata, Akhatra, ma gangi, Ma Chandi, Kalbang dandoga, Mandaba, Krishna nagra, motia, Raksha darkha, churikha, rekenda, pekenda, barabai, bara boon. Thereafter cocks are sacrificed and movement around the sitting spouse follows facing upstrem.

The following mantras are uttered consecutively: -

First round – Bakhong, Ganang, Maga Naritha Kaladusi sia, Agudara, Jarang, Jarang, Faiya, Gurnming, Anceya, Gathuyas, Palong, Kaiya SurusingSnalota. The Chakai is poured on the heads of the spouse.

In the second round the following mantras are uttered: -

Aija Sanibar, Aija Mangalbar, Amabashya, Purnima, Gadai, Gadai, Khua na feliba, Khunchi na feliba, Garer balai, Apar balai, Stri balai, balai No laiya Jha, Dur balai Jha. Chakai is poured on the heads of the spouse. (Meaning Let all the bad things of the spouse go away).

Third round starts with the following mantra: -

Silure, Silure, ban, Silure lohar ban, chicken darina ban, kar Hukume bandiba, siri Bekhatra, Akhatra, ma gangi, machandi Kalbang, kulbang, dandaga, mandaga, Krishna Nagra, Matia, Raksha, daraka, churika, rekenda pekenda, bara bai, baraboon, Hukume feliba. Chakhai water are poured on the head of the spouse. (meaning– after the names of all spirits are called, the achai chased them away so that they may not harm the spouse).

Fourth round begins with the following mantras: -

Aba, dasong, mangalbar, dingli, dingli bar ar, berate ar, Khelong, par Berate par khelong, damura sharia Jha. Chakhai water are poured over the head of the spouse. (Meaning – you o bad spirits go away; you may eat the flesh of all beasts but you can not touch this spouse).

Fifth round begins with the following mantras: -

Trayee, Rupini Samasnya, same Jha, dur balai Jha. (Bad lucks of the bride and bridegroom are discarded).

The sixth round of mantra is as follows: -

Turma, Sudini, murama, baithani, Turma, Shutan, Murma baroni, Dohai ma Kalika patina: Chakhai (Lime water) is poured on the heads of the spouse. Goddess Kali is asked to chase away all the bad spirits.

The seventh and last round begins with the following mantras uttered by the Achai:

Bile, bile, tur bile, mahamani na hale, bile, bile na bile, kar Hukume bile, Siribekhatra, akhatra, ma Gangi, ma chandi, Kalbang, kulbang, dandaga, mandaga, Krishna nagra, matija Raksha, darakha, Chrakhas, Rekenda, pekenda, barabai, baraboon, tar hukume bile:

Chakhai (lime water) is poured on the heads of the spouse and the Achai lets the vessel knock the heads of the spouse. The same mantra is repeated during the movement of the vessel and the couple keeps faces down stream seven times. All the bad spirits are chased away by this Mantra.

Finally, Achai asks them to close their eyes and he throws the eggs away. The puja ends. Marriage is solemnised. Thereafter, feast is served to all invited persons and the marriage ceremony ends. A week after the marriage, parents of the bridegroom visit the house of the sikli and give gifts to the parents of the bride which is called as Dafa if claimed by her parents.

Divorce:

Divorce in Khaklu Society takes place mainly due to barreness, impotence, madness and adultery. Divorce is affected by “Rajinama” ie Agreement signed by both. Sometimes Roaja (headman) has to interfere to solve the divorce. There is no restriction for marriage by widower.

Generally, the Noatias follow monogamy. But there is no restriction for polygamy in special circumstances like barreness/madness etc.

Reference:

1. Socio Economic Survey of the Noatia Tribes by Dr S B Saha.

2.1340 Tring Tripura Rajya census Bibarani by Thakur Sri Somendra Chandra Deb, (Harvard).

3. Chakla Roshnabad Estate by J Cr Cumming.

4. Mantra is collected from Sri Bishwadar Tripura of Belonia.

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