Nagas - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Angami are monogamous. There are two forms of marriage—one ceremonial, the other nonCeremonial. The ceremonial form is desired as a symbol of status and consists of an elaborate ritual involving the services of a Marriage broker, the taking of omens, and the negotiation of a marriage-price (usually nominal). The nonceremonial form involves the taking of a woman to the house of a man where they remain kenna (forbidden) for one day. Divorce is allowed and is common. The wife gets one-third of the couple's joint property, exclusive of land. The divorced and widowed are permitted to remarry (though a widowed woman may not remarry into her deceased husband's house). Polygamy is not allowed and women are allowed freedom of choice in the selection of mates. By contrast, the Lhota are polygynous, a husband having as many as three wives. Young girls are preferred and bride-prices are high; they are paid in installments over ten years. Divorce among the Lhota is also common. Arranged marriages are the norm with women having no Freedom of choice in the selection of a spouse. A husband may also allow his brother or nearest relative on his father's side to have conjugal access to his wife when he is absent for any length of time. The Semas are also polygynous. A Sema husband may have as many as five to seven wives. Sema women have freedom of choice in mate selection. As is the case among the Lhota, marriage-prices are high. Marital residence practices seem to differ among the various Naga tribes. Part of the Angami marriage ceremony involves the giving of land to the new couple by the bridegroom's parents. The new couple work and eat on this land. This may be an indication of a patrilocal postmarital residence pattern. Part of the Ao betrothal process involves the husband's construction of a marital home (location not indicated) with materials gathered from the fields of his parents and the parents of his wife.

Domestic Unit. The typical Angami household contains about five persons: a husband, a wife, two to three children, possibly an aged and widowed parent, and perhaps a younger unmarried brother.

Inheritance. An Angami man cannot leave property to anyone outside of his clan or kindred without considerable complication. If no special provisions have been made, the next male heir within a kindred usually inherits a man's property (after the widow receives her third). The normal practice is for a man to divide his property during his lifetime. When sons marry, they receive their portions. When the father dies, the youngest son inherits all property including the father's house. At this time, the best field must be given to the eldest son in exchange for another field. This and all procedures governing inheritance may be modified by verbal agreement. The inheritance of adopted sons is determined at the time of adoption. Land may not be left permanently to daughters. It may be left for the daughter to enjoy during her lifetime, but it returns to the male heirs after her death. Very few exceptions to this general rule are known.

Socialization. After an elaborate postbirth ritual (part of which places the newborn in close relationship with the Father's kindred), Angami children are suckled by their mothers for two to three years. Girls' ears are pierced six to twelve months following birth, while those of boys are pierced as soon as they are able to speak. At 4 to 6 years of age, an Angami boy leaves his mother's side of the house (where he has slept up to this point) and moves to his father's side of the house to sleep. From this point on he is considered a member of the male community and no longer remains with women when sex separation takes place at gennas (magicoreligious rites and ceremonies). Mothers are responsible for the upbringing of children and a nuclear family structure obtains. The Angami morung (young men's house), which functions as a guardhouse, clubhouse, and center of several communal activities in most Naga tribes (with the exception of the Sema), is of ceremonial importance only; it does not serve as an actual residence for young unmarried men (as it does among the Ao, for example). Girls' houses (found among the Ao, Memi, and other tribes) are also located in some Angami villages. Naga children generally share in all responsibilities assumed by their parents. The socialization of Naga girls includes instruction by their mothers in weaving, an industrial art belonging exclusively to women. Boys and girls are allowed a considerable amount of premarital sexual freedom in most Naga tribes.

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