Gond - Marriage and Family

Marriage. A normal marriage among the Gonds is the monogamous union of a man and a woman based on mutual choice, sanctioned by the ceremonial exchange of vows, with the approval of the tribal council, witnessed by the relatives of the partners and the village community, and concluded with a festive wedding dinner. Although the Gonds have liberal views on premarital sex, they are strict in the observance of married fidelity. They believe that adultery is punished by the ancestral spirits that can cause crop failure or an epidemic among humans and cattle. A Gond wedding is solemnized with many significant ceremonies. The essential wedding rite consists of the groom walking with his bride seven times around a wedding post erected in the center of the wedding booth. Marriage is obligatory. Originally Gond boys and girls married on reaching physical maturity. Nowadays the Gonds increasingly follow the example of the rural Hindu population and parents arrange the marriage when children are still young. The father of the groom has to pay a bride-price, the amount of which depends on the position and wealth of the two families. Cross-cousin marriages are much preferred, so much so that a youth has to pay a fine if he refuses to marry an available cross cousin. A Gond can have more than one wife, polygyny being restricted only by the capability of the man to support a number of wives. The Gonds practice the sororate and the levirate. Widow marriage is forbidden only among the Sanskritized Gonds. Gonds who are too poor to pay the bride-price and the wedding expenses contract a Service marriage. Families with no sons prefer such a marriage arrangement. Other more irregular forms of marriage among the Gonds are the elopement of an unmarried girl with a boy or the capture of a girl and her forced marriage to her captor. Marriage by capture was in the past a popular form of Marriage among the Gonds. The marriage must later be legalized by the relatives and village councils of the partners. The Gonds permit divorce and easily resort to it for various reasons. For instance, a man may obtain a divorce if his wife is barren, quarrelsome, or negligent in doing her assigned work. Likewise, a woman may elope with another man if her husband is a bad provider, a drunkard, or a wife beater, or if he is habitually unfaithful. A divorce requires the legal sanction of the tribal council of the village.

Domestic Unit. Gond marriages are as a rule happy and lasting if the husband is able to provide a frugal livelihood for wife and children and if the wife is competent in her Household tasks and field work. Gond men and women are affectionate toward children and enjoy having large families.

Inheritance. Property, primarily land, descends patrilineally to the sons equally (unless one son should move elsewhere, in which case he forfeits his rights). Daughters inherit next to nothing from their fathers. A widow usually remains in the house, which is inherited by her youngest son (ultimogeniture) . If not too old, the widow may be remarried to a close relative of her deceased husband.

Socialization. The ambition of every Gond woman is to bear a son. Barrenness in a woman is considered a curse. Pregnancy and birth are surrounded with protective rites against magic spells and evil influences. Children are generally welcome and treated with affection. Although sons are preferred, daughters are welcome too. Children grow up without much restriction, but the community teaches them correct behavior. Children are early invited to take over some tasks, first playfully, then in earnest. Boys spontaneously seem to prefer male company, while girls seem to gravitate naturally toward other females. The change to adulthood is gradual; there is no initiation ceremony. The first menstruation of a girl is not specially celebrated, but she does learn in advance what prohibitions she has to observe. Only three Gond sections in the south have youth dormitories, and only the Murías use the dormitory for the education of youth in married and civic life. The other Gond sections have no dormitory system.

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