Opinion

Right to choose and right to reject among Tribes

Punjab Tribune Bureau | August 31, 2020 12:58 PM

Let there be faithfulness to each other until death. This, in short, should be known as the highest duty of Husband and Wife. So let husband and wife ever strive doing all their duties; that they may no be separated from each other, wander apart.

Manu Dharma Shastra Centuries ago, civilized societies recognized and acknowledged the most basic instincts of all – ie., the need for companionship and founded an honourable institution known as marriage. In ancient times, our ancestors set out some guidelines to make sure that the institution is a permanent one capable of not only bringing happiness to two young people but also providing a delicate balance so that the family enjoys the fullness of life within the framework of what they called Dharma, the Hindu code of right conduct.

           

This may sound like a newly discovered concept by modern psychologists but ancient Hindu prince known as Yudhishtira revealed this ‘Secret’ about 4000 years ago. In an episode known as Yaksha Prashna in the Aranya Parva of the great epic, the Mahabharata. One of the questions Yaksha  asked Yudhishtira was,

                       

Who is the friend of a householder?

To which the prince answered

The friend of a householder is his spouse

           

The basis for marriage is friendship and such friendship is the understanding; the promise and the commitment that unites a man and a woman.

           

India is a country, which is slowly opening its doors for western ideas and lifestyles and one of the most crucial episodes amongst it, is the concept of Live-in relationships. In ancient India, through the marriage was a general norm, ancient scriptures described and admitted the existed both in the Vedic period and afterwards. This concept of live-in relationship is not new in India; in ancient times it was known as maitri-karar in which a written agreement was made between the two opposite sex that they would live together as friends and look after eachother.

           

Also, Gandharva marriage, i.e., one of the eight Hindu marriages, has incidents which are quite similar to that found in a live-in relationship. The concept of live-in relationship is defined neither in dictionary nor in law. Live-in relationship means a woman living with a man as husband and wife for a reasonable period, without marrying him.

           

These relationships are called and stigmatized as socially ambiguous and  sexually exploitative  relationships.

           

The fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution of India grants to all its citizen “right to life and personal liberty” which means that one is free to live the way one wants. Live-in relationship may be imoral in the eyes of conservative Indian Society but it is not ‘illegal’ in the eyes of law.

           

In Nagarnar (Chhattisgarh), live-in is not a sin. The couple is not ostracized. Infact the entire practice has social sanction. Pethu, or live-in relationships are quite popular among tribes of Bastar in Chhattisgarh with many couples marrying  after the birth of their children.

           

Live-in relationship have social and legal sanction in Bastar region. The Udhalka Vivah, or marriage after kidnapping is equally popular with the Gond and Muriya tribes in Bijapur, Farasgaon and Narayanpur blocks of the region. Under the system, any youth can grab hold of a girl’s arms in a public place – usually weekly haats or Madiyasthe festivals. If girl doesn’t object, the boy takes her to his home and informs society about the Udhalka Vivah. Pethu and Udhalka Vivah are forms of the Ghotul system, still common among tribes of Anu Jamad in Bastar under the system, boys and girls spend a fortnight together in makeshift pre-honeymoon camps and get accustomed to their partners before formalizing their relationship.

           

The tribes in Bastar follow the tradition of Ghotul. According to this age-old tradition, single men and women are allowed to explore compatibility before marriage. Highly prevalent in Dantewada’s Gond and Abhujmadia Community, the panchayat provides housing facilities to the potential couples for a fortnight. After the end of the term, the couple can get married or go their separate ways. According to the community the tradition prevents adultery and post marital issues.

           

After 14 years of  Living – in, Jharkhand tribal couple got married in 2019. Traditionally, in tribal society, both men and women have equal rights including the right to choose a life partners under it, a girl could get into a Live-in relationship  (Called ‘dhuku’ Marriage) with her male partner without even getting married to each other. Generally, these women termed as ‘dhukni’ in Jharkhand.

           

Himmatnagar, Gujarat :  Gamnabhai solanki (75) a resident of Malgaon near Lambadiya in Posina Taluk of Sabarkantha, sought Banjari Devi’s (72) hand in marriage five decades after in 2019, accompanied by their sons, daughters and grand children.  

           

Members of the indigenous Garasia tribe in the northwestern state of Rajasthan have been Cohabiting in Live-in relationships outside wedlock since time immemorial.

           

Live–in relationships, the heart of the culture of this tribal group concentrated in the region around Udaipur and Kotra. The Garasia tribe in Rajasthan and parts of Gujarat holds a fair for their teenage children to befriend partners of their choice – and they then elope with them before returning and living together without having to marry.

           

Social scientists studying the arrangement called ‘dapa’ and recognized through formal rituals – point to a low incidence of rape and dowry deaths in their communities where women retain a high status.

           

In tribal society, democracy is deep rooted, whereas the institution of marriage gives superiority to mankind. “ Tribal people are more into practices that give equality to both sides – what democracy actually preaches to us”

           

Indeed a community considered by so many Indians as backward  may even be able to teach mainstream society a few lessons about gender relations – cases of violence against women such as rape and dowry death are rare among tribes.

           

Live–in relationships between couples who see little reason to marry may be a modern fashion in India’s Bollywood film industry, but for tribes of India, they reflect thousands of  years of tradition.

           

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the  years.

      Ramya 

      Assistant Professor  & Tribal Researcher

      Department of English

      P.K.R  Arts college for Women

      Erode Dt. Tamilnadu.

      Ph-77089 26226

      Mail – ramyaindia1947@gmail.com

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