Lepcha - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



The Lepchas are divided into groups based on birth and marriage; these are the patrilineal clan and the immediate nuclear and extended family. The Lepchas count descent for nine generations on the father's side and a minimum of four on the mother's. They have a very small number of kinship terms and exclude the whole category of cousins; and, except for the mother's brothers, they make no distinction between the paternal and maternal lines. For people younger than the speaker, they do not make any distinction based on gender. Only children's spouses have different terms for son-in-law and daughter-in-law.

Any sexual connection with blood relations for nine generations on the father's side and four on the mother's side is considered incestuous. Lepcha traditionally marry very young, girls usually before age 14 and boys by age 16. There are two stages in Lepcha marriage: betrothal and bringing home the bride. The betrothal phase is a validating ceremony at which the family of the groom presents the bride's family with gifts, called "the price of the bride," and once these are accepted the marriage is completed and the groom may have full access to his bride.


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