Page images

VI.-Marriage Customs of the Oraons* By Rai Bahadur Sarat Chandra Roy, M.A., B.L., M.L.C. II.-The Wedding (Benja) Proper

(1) Preliminaries

On the night of the Kōhā Pāhi ceremony at the bride's house, a large number of small roundish wedding cakes (benjā lāḍḍu) are prepared by girls in the houses of both parties. These cakes are made of rice-flour moistened in water, made into small balls and boiled in water; these are distributed among the young men (dhangars) of the village, every young man (even married young men) getting his share of these cakes. Other articles made ready in the houses both of bride and bridegroom for the ceremony include one new winnowingbasket (keter), one new basket of a large size (dowra) and one of a small size (bōgi); one small new earthen pitcher (kanṛsabhānḍā), one new earthen lamp (ṭāṭṭi) with four grooved projections for holding wicks, some tender grass shoots (dubbāghachhi), a little vermilion (sindri), some sun-dried rice (ābdātikhil), some powdered arua rice (ābdā-tikhilgāhi-gūṇḍā), little salt (bek), some mustard seeds (mani, a little raw turmeric (khenā balka) with three or five bulbs each, a bundle of sheaves of paddy (khes) with straw (būsū) attached, some urid pulse (Phaseolus roxburghii), a little oil (mani-isũng) that has been pressed out of mustard seeds by a female member of the house whose husband is living, and who has remained fasting until the oil has been extracted and two pots of beer (borey), one brewed out of rice another out of māṛuā (Elusine corocana). The sheaves of paddy used for the ceremony are specially selected and set apart for the purpose at the time of the preceding harvest. These sheaves are selected and made into a bundle by some young bachelors in the morning after they have satisfied *Concluded from Vol. XII (September 1926) p. 388,


calls of nature; and they must not spit during the selection of the sheaves nor leave the place even temporarily before the selection is finished. None of these ceremonial articles may be touched by a widow.

On the morning of the wedding day, the ängan or open space in front of the house is cleansed with cowdung diluted in water, and the articles mentioned above are brought out to the angan. Three boys select fine long sheaves out of the bundle of the paddy sheaves mentioned above. The ārua rice, turmeric, tender grass and mustard seeds are placed in the earthen pitcher kāṛsa-bhāṇḍā), and the selected paddy sheaves are also put into the pitcher in such a way as to make the upper portion containing the paddy, stick out of the pitcher; and the leaves attached to the sheaves are are plaited together at the mouth of the pitcher so as to cover it up like a lid. Over this lid is placed an earthen lamp with two wicks laid cross-wise so that their ends project outwards. The two ends of each of the twe wicks are lighted, being fed by oil and urid pulse placed in the lamp. In some villages a separate lamp-stand (chaumkā) with a similar earthen lamp is provided and similarly lighted. The small basket (bowgi or nāchuā) is covered over with sal leaves, and ropes made of the remaining sheaves of paddy are wrapped round it. In this basket are carried a new cloth (māi-sāṛi) for the bride's mother, a few measures of rice and oil and vermilion for the isum-sindri ceremony to be described presently. This basket and the kārsa-bhāṇḍā pitcher are arranged side by side on the courtyard (angan) cleaned with cowdung. The Pahan or village priest anoints the basket and the pitcher with a little rice-flour moistened with water and marks each of them with three vermilion lines. The rice-beer in the two pots is now strained and poured into one vessel. The Pābān then ceremonially pours a little of the rice-beer over the basket and the pitcher, and invokes the Gaon-deotis or guardianspirits of the village, saying " You are the māliks (masters) of the village, O Gaon-deoti. May the wedding pass off successfully;

1 See The Oraons of Chota Nag pur, pp. 298, 299.

and may the couple never quarrel." Then all present drink rice-beer. And two women come out to the angan, one of them taking on her head the ceremonial pitcher (kārsābhāṇḍā) and the other the leaf-bowl in and around which are placed the paddy sheaves left over after selecting those put into the kārsā-bhāṇḍā. And thus along with other women they dance the wedding dance to the accompaniment of music played by the village Gōrait and Oraōns. These preliminary ceremonies are gone through in the houses of the bridegroom as well as of the bride.

(2) The Marriage Procession Generally, the bridegroom and his party start in procession for the bride's village early in the morning. The party includes both male and female relatives. Among the semiHinduised section of the Oraons known as the Bhagats, the party halt under a mango tree on the borders of the village, and the bridegroom together with a woman whose husband is living goes to the tree, ties cotton thread in three folds or turns round its trunk, marking the trunk at each turn with marks of vermilion and of rice-flour moistened with water. The bridegroom ordinarily goes on foot; only in exceptional cases, when his family owns villages or has otherwise grown rich, the bridegroom may be seen riding a pony. In almost all cases, however, the bridegroom carries a sword or knife or sometimes. only an iron-shod stick and is attended by musicians playing upon drums and flutes. The party take with them besides jars of rice-beer and provisions for one meal, as they do not take food at the bride's parents' place until the wedding is over. The bridegroom and bride have to keep fast until the wedding is over.

(3) The Welcome (Parchhana).

On their arrival at the outskirts of the bride's village, the bride's people and their friends and relatives approach them in a body as if to attack or repulse the bridegroom and his party. Men and women on both sides sing indecent and abusive songs accompanied with dances; and young men on both sides, who

carry sticks and clubs, whirl them in a mock-attack on the other side. Formerly this was something more than a mock-fight; and some thirty years ago one could see now and then a few members of either party actually receiving wounds in seeking to ward off the blows of the opposite side. One man on each side carries a special lighted torch made of a sickle wrapped round at its blade with cloth and placed on a plate containing oil. An old woman of the bride's side now approaches the bridegroom's party carrying on her head, over a pad of unbleached cotton thread, a brass jug filled with water in which is dipped a mango trig with its leaves sticking out at the mouth of the jug. She then takes out the mango twig and with it sprinkles water from the jug, first on the bridegroom and then on the rest of the party. The object of this sprinkling with water is, or at any rate was in origin, probably lustration, though now the original purpose is in many places forgotten and there is a tendency to explain it in the manner of the Hindus as a benedictory and not a lustral rite; although when it is suggested to an Orãon that the object is lustration he readily assents that it must be so. (4) The Bridegroom pressing the Bride's Heels with his Toes (gurkhi tirkhna)

Two or more men of the bride's side now carry the bridegroom on their arms and take him inside the bride's house; one or two relatives of the bridegroom sometimes follow him into the house, and the rest of the bridegroom's party go to the quarters (dera) allotted to them. The bride and bridegroom have their feet washed and are then made to stand on a curry-stone under which are placed three or five bundles of thatching grass and a yoke. The bridegroom stands behind the bride with his great toe and the next toe of his left foot enclosing the bride's left heel as a fork. During this ceremony the couple are screened round on all sides with cloth screens. A few female relatives of the bride and bridegroom remain inside the screens. One or more male relatives of the bride and bridegroom stand outside the screens with sword in hand, and go on brandishing the sword to ward off evil eye and evil spirits. In some places, the couple

are anointed all over their limbs with pounded turmeric diluted in oil by female relatives. The screens are then taken down and the couple are then bathed in water fetched in two new earthen pitchers from some neighbouring spring or tank by two unmarried girls. While the water is being poured over the heads of the couple a woman of the bride's party rubs the head of the bridegroom with her hands and a woman of the bridegroom's party similarly rubs the head of the bride. The bridegroom then puts a mark of vermilion diluted in oil on the forehead of the bride with the ring finger of his left hand and the bride similarly marks the forehead of the bridegroom. Then two elderly woman take up, on their heads, one the grindstone (silout) and the other the curry-stone (lorha); some other women take up in their hands the bundles of thatching grass and with these they perform a merry wedding dance. When the couple have been bathed, they are given a change of clothes. The bridegroom is then taken to the quarters allotted to his party.

(5) Isum Sindri, or Anointing with Vermilion After a short time the bridegroom is again taken to the bride's house, where a mat is turned upside down three times and spread with its length from north to south. The couple are seated on it, the bride to the left of the bridegroom, both facing east. The female relatives of bride bring a kia or small red wooden receptacle (of the size of a snuff-box) containing vermilion, and so too do the female relatives of the bridegroom; and each party exchanges its vermilion-box (kiasindri) with that of the other party. Then either an elder sister or elder brother's wife of the bride combs the hair of the couple and ties up the bride's hair into a knot and takes up vermilion from the vermilion-box (kia-sindri), dilutes the vermilion in oil and smears the vermilion thus diluted on the forehead and the temples of the bridegroom and on the forehead and parting (sinthi) of the combed hair of the bride. In some places the vermilion marks are made by the bridegroom and bride on each other's forehead and temples, their female relations assisting them by holding and guiding their hands

« PreviousContinue »