Making Suit for a Bride

A man whose daughter has reached marriageable age (about fifteen years old) will sooner or later be asked about his daughter by his affines who regularly visit his house. If he has only one daughter and has not yet brought a daughter-in-law into the house, he will delay assenting to such inquiries, since the house will otherwise be without a major part of its labor force. If his attitude toward the informal inquiry is basically positive, an official visit by the affines (somdi) to the girl’s house is planned. This begins the phase of making suit for the bride (raibadi, oibo*), which can last several years.

A visit by the suitors (raibadia) to the woman’s house is a formal affair. On the bride-takers’ side, as a rule, the youth’s father and other senior men of the group (kuda), that is, his brothers, are present. They bring beer (raibadi pendom) and possibly liquor (mod) to the girl’s house. On her side, most of the senior men of the kuda are present, along with some younger men and the bride-givers’ internal affines. They act as witnesses (sakibai) for the bride-givers, unless they belong to the same village clan as the suitors’ group, in which case they join in representing them.[1] [2] At the visits by the raibadia and in the conversations, women remain in the background, and the bride’s father also holds back and lets his more senior brothers speak. If the bride’s group accepts the suitors’ beer at the first visit, the suit is considered accepted, although this does not determine when the bride will move to her future husband’s village or set the conditions for the transfer (bridewealth). The relationship can still be broken off - as it also can at any other time - but there should be no more suitors for the girl at the same time.

After several visits, the question of bridewealth (jola) is broached, or the bride-takers ask whether the girl’s group is demanding bridewealth. If the answer is yes, the amount of and deadline for the bridewealth must be discussed and argued over.59 The time at which the bridewealth is paid is variable and is often only after the girl has been brought to her husband’s village. However, the bride-givers also have the option of answering the question in the negative and giving the bride out of affection (kusire), that is, without demanding anything.

Once this issue has been clarified, the date when the girl can be brought to the bride-takers’ house is negotiated. The girl’s group generally tries to delay the date, while the bride-takers press for a date in the near future. Once the date has been set, however, it can nevertheless happen that the bride-takers appear unannounced to take the girl home with them earlier than was agreed. The period in February and March when many men are away for wage labor and little resistance is to be expected in the bride’s village is especially suitable for such “raids.”

By such surprises, the bride-takers avoid lengthy negotiations and complications on the agreed day, which are extremely common. On one occasion, I accompanied four young, married men from Gudapada (Sisa and Kirsani) to a neighboring village to fetch a girl on the agreed day. The future bridegroom and his father did not come along. The raibadia argued with the girl’s father, who initially acted as if he knew nothing about the agreement and was only prepared to give up his daughter in the following year. The girl herself first shut herself up in a house and later ran away and was caught by the raibadia. The suitors then convinced her family to let her go that evening. There were no new clothes for the girl, it was initially argued, but she was finally made ready in her father’s house. She then refused to leave the house, however, so that the raibadia wanted to drag her out. In the small house, she struggled, placed herself crosswise across the door, and defended herself with all her might, and women from her group finally came to her aid. Some men from the bride-givers’ side also commented that the girl should be left there. Someone openly insulted the most important of the raibadia, so that, enraged, he wanted to leave the village without the girl. He was calmed down, beer was drunk together, and the girl was also persuaded to give in. Finally, those who would accompany the girl assembled in the house. Her mother sat on the threshold of the inner room, her daughter in front of her; she was already no longer permitted to enter this room. Around the two of them stood a circle of girls from the village who were to accompany their sister to her new village, with the raibadia behind. The daughter’s feet were washed, and she was then the first to be blessed with tika, followed by the other girls and the raibadia. A white cloth draped over her, she was brought out by the village’s women and girls to the edge of the village, where she again received tika and was bid farewell. No men from the village accompanied her, only some of her sisters.

On the road as well, a bride is hidden under a white cloth most of the time. If the group accompanying her passes other villages in this way, she is stopped by the women of each village. The women spread a cloth in front of the bride and give her tika. The raibadia are then required to toss a coin into the women’s cloth in order to continue on their way.

  • [1] A case of this kind occurred among the Sisa in Gudapada. The Ruda’i from the village ofRuda’el had already been seeking the hand of a Sisa girl for several years. On each visit, theRuda’i living in Gudapada appeared as suitors together with their brothers from their homevillage.
  • [2] The discussions about the bridewealth are continued on a variety of occasions, including, forexample, at the rituals of pani chinchini and handi baurani described below.
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