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About Mizoram -> Custom

     Although Christianity brought about a near - total transformation in the Mizo lifestyle and outlook some customary laws have stayed on. The efforts of the Missionaries, so it seems, were not directed at changing the basic customs of the Mizo society presumably because they saw nothing much wrong with them. The customs and traditions which they found meaningless and harmful were abolished by persistent preaching. Thus tea replaced ZU as a popular drink among the Mizos. Zawlbuk had been replaced by modern education. Animal sacrifices on ceremonial occasions, which were once an integral part of mizo religious system, are now considered anathema. But such traditions as the payment of bride price are still continued and encouragement so are some other customs and community traditions.

Bride Price:
The Mizos are not alone in putting a price on a bride. This custom is a prevalent in a few other Indian Communities as well. When a Mizo boy approaches his fiancee's parents for permission to get married, the first thing he has to do is to settle the bride price. If the price among other things, demanded by him, is acceptable to the parents, the boy and the girl are allowed to get married. Thus the settlement of the bride price to be paid by the bridegroom is an essential pre-requisite to a Mizo marriage.

It so generally happens that part of the bride price which may be paid on the eve of the wedding, while the part of bride price called 'Thutphah' is held back over the years as a sort of security of paying off the debts fall on the next generation. In case of the death of a husband, his son is obliged to pay the bride price.

The principal bride price is known as Manpui the rate which is (mentioned in terms of mithun or sial) Rs 80/- per unit. Besides, there are subsidiary bride prices like sumhmahruai (rate Rs 20/-) and sumfang (Rate Rs 8/-) These prices are to be paid to the bride's father or brother. Pusum, the rate of which varies from rs 4/- to Rs 10/- is payable to the nearest relation on the side of the bride's mother who most often than not turns out to be the maternal uncle of the bride. An equivalent amount, known as Ni-ar, is paid to the bride's paternal aunt as well.

The elder sister or sisters of the bride are entitled to Naupuakpuan, which is the price received by them for having given the bride their clothes to wear or taken of the bride in her childhood. In the event of the bride being the eldest daughter take or an only child, this price is received by other female relations. A sum also goes to the Palal who acts as the bride's foster father and takes on the responsibility of safeguarding her interests throughout her married life. The bride's maid also get a price known as thianman. There are some optional payments as well. Taken together, the bride price adds up to a considerable figure which is often impossible for the bridegroom to pay at one time.

However, it would be a mistake to continue bride price with sale or dowry. For all those who get a share of it come under a special obligation to look after the welfare and interest of the bride.

Wedding:
A mizo marriage is proceeded by courtship and engagement. The boy and girl are allowed to mix freely during the engagement period. But an engagement may be broken off midway through if the couple fails who get on with each other.

As the majority of the Mizos are now Christians, marriages are solemnized in Church. Both bride and the bridegroom wear wedding dresses in the latest Western Style But sometimes the bride is also decked in puanchei, a traditional Mizo costume, and white blouse.

The bride bring along to her husband a traditional rug called Puandum in which his body is to be wrapped during burial. This is an integral part of the Mizo marriage and failure to bring the cloth entails punishment leading to a reduction in the bride price.

There are other types of marriage as well. In the Makpa chhungkhung type of wedding the bridegroom does not pay bride price but goes to his wife's house to live her. This type of marriage happens in families where there are no male heirs. Consequently, it becomes the duty of the son-in-law to care for his wife's parents.

Another type of Mizo marriage, as Luhkhung, is performed without a social ceremony. If a girl becomes pregnant, she start living quietly with the boy responsible for her condition in his house. However, the marriage of a pregnant girl is sometimes performed in the Vestry instead of the main Hall of a Church. Tlandun is yet another kind of marriage in which a couple runs away from home to get married.

Inheritance:
The mizos being patriarchal, property is inherited by men rather than women. The family property usually goes to the youngest son although the father may leave shares to other sons, if he desires. If a man has no sons, his property is inherited by the next kin on the male side.

If a man dies leaving a widow and minor children, a male relation (who usually happens to be a brother of the deceased) takes charge of the family and looks after the property until one of the sons comes of age. If no such male relative is around, then the widow acts as a trustee of her husband's property until such times as his son or sons are old enough to inherit it.

However, although the youngest son of the family is the natural or formal heir to his father under the Mizo customary laws, in actuality the paternal property is generally divided among all sons. The youngest of them gets a preferential treatment in that he would get the first choice of the articles, and he would get two share of the cash in case of one each for the other brothers.

A daughter or a wife can inherit property only if the deceased has no heir on the male side. Women, however, are entitled to their own property. The drowry, called thuam, she gets during the marriage from her parents is exclusively her own property. However, a written 'will' formally executed may now confer woman the right to inherit the family property. This is a happy amendment to the traditional customary laws.
 

Ministry of Communication & Information Technology
National Informatics Centre, Mizoram State Centre
Annex-II, Civil Secretariat, Aizawl - 796001