Khinalughs - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Khinalugh community was strictly endogamous, with marriage between cousins preferred. In earlier times, betrothals were arranged between very young children, practically in the cradle. Before the Soviet Revolution the marriageable age was 14 to 15 for girls and 20 to 21 for boys. Marriages were ordinarily arranged by the relatives of the couple; abductions and elopements were rare. The girl and boy themselves were not asked for their consent. If older relatives took a liking to a girl, they would place a scarf on her, as a way of announcing their claim to her. The negotiations for marriage were undertaken by the suitor's father's brother and a more distant senior relative, who went to the young woman's home. Her mother's consent was considered decisive. (Should the mother refuse, the suitor might try to abduct the woman from her home—with or without the woman's consent.)

Once agreement had been reached between the two families, the betrothal would take place a few days later. The young man's relatives (among whom the paternal uncle had to be present) went to the young woman's home, bearing gifts for her: clothing, two or three pieces of soap, sweets (halvah, raisins, or, more recently, candy). The gifts were carried on five or six wooden trays. They also brought three rams, which became the property of the bride's father. The fiancée received a ring of plain metal from the groom-to-be. On each festival day between the betrothal and the wedding, the young man's relatives would go to the fiancée's home, bringing gifts from him: pilaf, sweets, and clothing. During this period as well, respected senior members of the groom-to-be's family visited their counterparts in the young woman's household to negotiate the bride-price. This was paid in livestock (sheep), rice, and, far more rarely, money. In the 1930s a typical bride-price included twenty rams and a sack of sugar. Some Khinalugh suitors would work in the Baku oilfields for several years to earn the necessary sum to pay the bride-price. The young man could not visit the woman's family prior to the wedding and took measures to avoid encounters with her and her parents. The young woman, once engaged, had to cover the lower part of her face with a kerchief. During this time she was busy preparing her dowry, largely consisting of woolen goods made by her own hands: five or six carpets, up to fifteen khurjins (carrying sacks for fruit and other objects), fifty to sixty pairs of knit stockings, one large sack and several smaller ones, a soft suitcase ( mafrash ), and men's gaiters (white and black). The dowry also included up to 60 meters of homespun woolen cloth, prepared by weavers at the family's expense, and numerous other items, including silk thread, goat's-wool cord, copper utensils, colored curtains, cushions, and bed linens. From purchased silk the bride-to-be sewed small pouches and purses to be given as gifts to her husband's relatives.

The wedding took place over two or three days. At this time the groom stayed at the home of his maternal uncle. Starting at noon of the first day, guests were entertained there. They brought gifts of cloth, shirts, and tobacco pouches; there was dancing and music. The bride meanwhile went to the home of her maternal uncle. There, in the evening, the groom's father officially presented the bride-price. The bride, riding a horse led by her uncle or brother, was then escorted from her uncle's home to that of the groom. She was accompanied by her and her husband's brothers and her friends. Traditionally the bride was covered by a large red woolen cloth, and her face was veiled by several small red kerchiefs. She was greeted at the threshold of the groom's home by his mother, who gave her honey or sugar to eat and wished her a happy life. The groom's father or brother thereupon slaughtered a ram, across which the bride stepped, after which she had to tread upon a copper tray placed on the threshold. The bride was led to a special room where she remained standing for two or more hours. The groom's father brought presents to her, after which she might sit down on a cushion. She was accompanied by her close friends (only women were allowed in this room). Meanwhile the male guests were served pilaf in another room. During this time the groom remained in the home of his maternal uncle, and only at midnight was he escorted home by his friends to be with his bride. The next morning he left again. Throughout the wedding there was much dancing, wrestling matches accompanied by the music of the zuma (a clarinetlike instrument), and horse racing. The winner of the horse race received a tray of sweets and a ram.

On the third day the bride went to her husband's parents, the mother-in-law lifted the veil from her face, and the young woman was put to work in the household. Relatives and neighbors were entertained throughout the day. After a month the bride went with a jug to fetch water, this being her first opportunity to leave the house after her marriage. Upon her return she was given a tray of sweets, and sugar was sprinkled over her. Two or three months later her parents invited her and her husband to pay a visit.

For a period of time after her arrival in her husband's home, the bride practiced various avoidance customs: for as long as two to three years she did not speak to her father-in-law (that period has now been reduced to a year); likewise she did not speak to her husband's brother or paternal uncle (for two to three months at present). She refrained from speaking to her mother-in-law for three to four days. Khinalugh women did not wear the Islamic veil, although married women of all ages covered the lower part of their faces with a kerchief ( yashmag ).

Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit was the nuclear family, although extended families were present up into the nineteenth century. It was not rare for four or five brothers, each with his nuclear family, to live under the same roof. Each married son has his own room in addition to the large common room with hearth ( tonur ). The home occupied by an extended family was called tsoy and the head of the family tsoychïkhidu. The father, or in his absence the elder son, served as head of the household, and as such oversaw the domestic economy and apportioned the property in case the family split up. Everyone shared in the work. One part of the household (a son and his nuclear family) would drive the livestock out to the summer pastures. Another son and his family would do so the following year. All produce was considered common property.

Socialization. Both mother and father participated in the raising of children. At age 5 or 6 children began to share in the work: girls learned domestic tasks, sewing, and knitting; boys learned to work with livestock and to ride horses. Moral instruction and the teaching of local traditions concerning family and social life were equally important.

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