Baiga - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Premarital relations between men and women are common and socially sanctioned. Formal engagement takes place at any age, though frequently after puberty. The engagement process in initiated by the male. The consent of his desired spouse and her parents (along with payment of the bride-price) are required before the betrothal may take place. The chief actors in the ceremony are the dosi (two old men who are related to the bride and groom and perform the greater part of the religious ceremonies) and the suasin (young unmarried sisters or cousins of the bride and groom). The ceremony takes place over several days and includes feasting, the taking of omens, the anointing and bathing of the bridal pair, a number of ceremonial processions, the Construction of a booth ( marua ), the tying of the bridal pair's clothes in a ceremonial knot, and the giving of gifts (by the bridegroom's father to the bride's paternal grandmother, her mother, her brother, the dosi, and the suasin). The couple spend their first night together in the jungle and perform the beni chodna ceremony, part of which includes the ceremonial bathing of one another. The ceremony described above may be performed only once in life. A less elaborate ceremony (having no social stigma attached to it) called the haldi-pani or churi-pairana marriage may be performed more than once. The latter ceremony is roughly equivalent to marriage in a registry office. It may precede the more elaborate form described above. Its use depends on the preference of the parties involved. Divorce is allowed and polygamy is practiced to a somewhat limited extent. Postmarital residence is patrilocal. Baiga norms also permit the marriage of a grandparent to a grandchild.

Domestic Unit. The size and composition of the typical domestic unit vary. There is evidence of nuclear and extended family structure (e.g., father, mother, elder son, elder son's wife, younger son, and younger son's wife, forming a residential unit).

Inheritance. The practice of shifting cultivation and the nomadic tradition of the Baiga have contributed to a rather ambiguous stance toward property and inheritance. The corpus of Baiga possessions includes axes, cooking utensils, various ornaments, and cash. The home and all of its contents belong to the male head of the family. After marriage, Everything that a wife earns belongs to her husband. If she runs away from or divorces her husband, she forfeits claim to anything that her present husband has given her. However, whatever possessions she has brought with her into the union from her parents' home remain with her. A widow is able, in some instances, to retain a portion of her deceased husband's property. Such property would remain in the widow's possession should she choose to remarry. The earnings of sons and daughters also belong to their father. Should a father approve of his son's choice of a mate, then he may elect to give a Certain amount of his personal property (e.g., cooking utensils, axes, and cloth) to his son if the son has elected to establish a separate household. Otherwise, the earnings of the son and those of his wife belong to the son's father. The male head of household is empowered, during his lifetime, to apportion all property according to his discretion. When a man dies, his property is inherited by his son or sons. Provision is made for stepsons to receive a smaller portion. A son who remains with his father and maintains him until the time of the father's death will receive a slightly larger portion of the father's property. Widows are generally maintained on the estates of their deceased husbands until such time as they are remarried, and each widow is entitled to a share in her husband's estate equal to a son's share. Frequently daughters also receive a small portion of a deceased father's property. If a man is survived only by nephews and grandsons, his property is equally divided among them. Should he be survived only by an adopted son, then that adopted son receives all of the adoptive father's property.

Socialization. Child rearing is shared equally by both Parents. A child is suckled by the mother for three years, then weaned. From that point on, children are allowed a great deal of freedom, sexual and otherwise. As there are no children's dormitories, children are allowed to explore and experiment freely within their households and within the larger society.


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