Brahman and Chhetri of Nepal - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Most marriages are monogamous, but polygynous unions were traditionally frequent and are still occasionally found. Second and subsequent wives are often members of other ethnic groups, such as the Gurungs, Magars, Tamangs, Sherpas, and Newars, but not low-caste artisan groups. With the exception of Thakuris, the self-proclaimed aristocrats among the Chhetris who practice matrilateral cross-cousin marriage, cousin marriage is not practiced. Brahman girls traditionally married by the age of 11, and Chhetri girls a few years later; but educated urban dwellers now marry in their late teens or early twenties. Grooms are normally a few years older than their brides. Village exogamy is usually observed, and parents arrange their children's marriages with the help of an intermediary. An astrologer also is consulted to ensure that the couple make a good match. The boy's family priest, in consultation with the bride's family, sets an auspicious date and time, based on the lunar calendar (several months of the year are inauspicious for marriage). The entire wedding ceremony lasts a full day, from the time the members of the groom's party arrive at the bride's home till they leave the next day with the bride. The most important part of the ritual is kanyadan, the gift of the bride to the groom by her parents. A married woman always wears vermilion powder in the parting of her hair, so long as her husband is alive.

Domestic Unit. The newly married couple ideally, and usually, live with the groom's family, along with his parents, brothers and their wives (if any), and unmarried sisters. A new bride enters this household in a lowly position, and her mother-in-law usually gives her the most onerous chores. Her status rises after she has given birth to a child, particularly if it is a son. Eventually she herself succeeds to the powerful position of mother-in-law.

Inheritance. Except for what a daughter may receive as dowry, all property, particularly all landed property, is inherited by sons. If a joint family is dissolved before the senior parents die, a woman is entitled to a share of her husband's property.

Socialization. Mother and child are considered polluting until the eleventh day after birth, when a purifying ceremony is conducted and the baby is given a name. The first feeding of rice, called pasni, is given after 5 months for a girl and 7 months for a boy. A boy's head is shaved at about 7 years of age (a small tuft of hair is left on the back as a sign that he is a Hindu), and he is formally initiated into full caste membership when he receives the sacred thread, either at the time of the haircut or a few years later. At her first menstruation a girl is removed to another house, where she is shielded from the sight of any men in her family and from the sun. Both parents participate in raising their children, but women perform most of the child care, especially in the preteen years. Fathers act as disciplinarians as their children grow older.

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