Relooking on the Traditional forms of Meitei Marriage


Dr. Oinam Ranjit Singh

Associate Professor, Department of History, Bodoland University

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Marriage is one of the very important social institutions in human society. No society sanctioned a man and woman quietly to pair off, becoming husband and wife, having children by involving the right of sexual relation. Therefore, every society has developed a pattern for guiding marriage. Exogamy and endogamy play a vital role in the institution of marriage. Meitei Society permits man and woman to be husband and wife and to have children by involving the right of sexual relation through the institution of marriage. At diverse places and in different stages of human development marriage had been emerged in different forms with elaborate rule, regulation and custom.


KEYWORDS: Polyandry, polygamy, monogamy, marriage by capture, love marriage and arrange marriage.




The emergence of the institution of marriage is a landmark in the history of human society. Such institution did not exist among the primitive people. As civilization advanced, people started to lead settled life abandoning the habit of shifting from one place to another in search of food. In this phase, food gathering economy turned into food producing economy and man began to lead some regulated life. In the food gathering stage sex relationships was promiscuous as result of which only motherhood alone could be the ascertainable and fatherhood was not possible to determine. Identification of fatherhood could be possible if sex relationship became exclusive union of male and female. In men's aim to recognize with the paternity of children lie the seeds of the institution of marriage. From promiscuity to monogamy there was a long march from pre-agricultural to agricultural economy in which monogamy and monogamous marriage were institutionalized.



In sundry stages of human progress marriage had been materialized in varied forms with elaborate rule, regulation and custom. Thus marriage as an exclusive union of man and woman did not emerge a one stroke.


Various forms of marriage that have been in existence among the Manipuri may be discussed as follow:


1. Marriage by Capture:

The technique of which for acquiring a mate is growing rare with social progression. Though, it seldom practices now a day as one of the mode of among the Meitei. Historical evidences show the existence of marriage by capture. Recorded history furnished that Taothingmang (264-364 AD), the son of Khuyoi Tompok (154-264 AD) had subjugated Lokka-Haokha, the area of which has been identified with an area of the same name near present Sugunu of the southeast valley of the east bank of Imphal river. He wedded a girl called Hao-nu-khu who belonged to a Hao-khu tribe. According to B. Kullachandra Sharma the nuptials of Taothingmang with Hao-nu-khu was marriage by capture. The marriage of Chalamba with Khoiron Tharima also may be portrayed as marriage by capture. Kaokhamba’s (394-411 AD) son Naokhamba (411-428 AD) had routed out a Chenglei Chief whose name was Thangji Khongchonba and forcibly took the wife of Thangji Khongchonba called Yaorei Leiyathi Khuman Leinamung, who belonged to the descendents of the Yaoreiba family of Luwang clan. W.I. Singh advocated that Naokhomba forcibly married the wife Thangyi Khongiromba. The matrimony of Pakhangba (33-154 AD) with Lainaotabi also regarded as marriage by capture. Thawanthaba (1195- 1231AD) took into custody Kharoi Mende, the sister of Kaklen Thaniha, the chief of Thawa. W.I. Singh speaks that the girl, called Kharoi Mende was brought by Thawanthaba to be his wife by employing the means of capture.


2. Marriage by mutual consent and elopement or love marriage:

It is equivalent to Gandharva in ancient Hindu scriptures. in the case of marriage by mutual consent and elopement or love marriage the consent of the boy and the girl is very indispensable. Neither the parents nor the kinsmen need have a hand in bringing about the marriage. The existence of marriage by mutual consent and elopement or love marriage in ancient Manipur is proved with many historical evidences. Naothingkhong Phambal Kaba makes reference to put into practice of marriage by mutual consent and elopement.  Naothingkhong had gone to Nongmaijing Hill leaving Kangla at the age of about 10 or 12 years48 and live along with the Shelloi Langmeis. He had love relation with Pitang-nga, a Langmai girl and became husband and wife. They lived in her parent's house which is a first reference to the matrilocal residence in the history of Manipur. Nungbal Pombee Luwaoba mentioned about the love marriage which indicated that the marriage of Nungbal Pombee Luwaoba with Koubrol Namoinu was love marriage as well as arranged marriage. The nuptials of Thangbi Lanthaba (1302-1324 AD) with Yoiren Tompokpi, daughter of Moirang king Laijing Khu Telheiba may be looked upon as marriage by mutual consent and elopement or love marriage. Thangbi Lanthaba requested for the hand of Yoiren Tompokpi however her father rejected the request of Meitei king Thangbi Lanthaba. Yoiren Tompokpi had sent a message to Yoiren Tompokpa in secret through the messengers about her acceptance to the proposal for wedding. Accordingly, Thangbi Lanthaba attacked Moirang on the prearranged day and got married to Yoiren Tonipokpi. Khongjomnubi Nogarol provided information that six Luwang girls went to a lake for purchasing fish where they met six boys who used to catch fish in the lake and sell them to fishwives. The six boys spoke to them that we did not catch any fish and let us reside this night here together. The girls responded that "we cannot because our fathers and brothers will beat us if we do that. Still the boys insisted. The girls yielded at last and spent the night with their lovers in the hut which was located on the shore of the lake" The co-habitation of them was the system of marriage by mutual consent or love marriage. "Their lovers said in the morning that if your fathers and brothers chastise you, let us ascend the heaven together to the feet of Soraren, the King of gods. As anticipated, the girls' fathers and brothers turned them out of their homes for their improper conduct and for having love affairs with a class of people regarded as untouchable in those days…….". King Paikhomba (1666-1697 AD) matrimony with Maram Chanu Ingalei (girl of Maram) was love marriage.


3. Arranged marriage or marriage by engagement:

Marriage by engagement is primed through parents of the expected bride and groom with or without the consent of the concerned boy and the girl. In this form the assent of both the parents is extremely essential. Panthoibi Khongul narrated that Khaba Shokchrongba, the chief of Chenglei and his wife preferred to get Panthoibi as daughter-in-law for their son Tarang Khoinuch. They requested the hand of Panthoibi to her parents for their son, by sending traditional marriage gift for arrange marriage like sweetmeats, fruits etc. This was a classic example of arranged marriage. The wedding of Khuyoi Tompok (154-264 AD) with Langmainu Ahongbi who belonged to Selloy-Langmai tribe was through arranged marriage or marriage by engagement. The marriage Nungpan Pompi Luwapa with Koubrol Namoinu was carried out in accordance with the tradition of arranged marriage or marriage by engagement. These are the some typical historical account of marriage by engagement or arranged marriage. This is the most time-honored and approved form of marriage in Manipur right from ancient days to present day.


One interesting method for acquiring a bride was known as Nambothaba (Persuasion). A boy along with a huge bundle containing various articles used to go to the girl's house and persuaded for the hands of the girl whom he wanted to be his wife. He took a seat in the Sangoi of the family and started working for the family of the bride until and unless the girl get ready to be the wife of him. But the system is not in continuation in present Meitei society.


Traditional eight forms of marriage in ancient India were:

(i)     Brahma: Marriage to a person of same class by father's choice with full ceremony. According to Yagyendra Bahadur Singh “ It signified giving away of a girl……………………to a person well-versed in Vedas and having a good moral character”

(ii)   Daiva: In this form of marriage the father gives daughter to the sacrificial priest as part of his fee. “This forms of marriage involved giving away of a daughter after making her presentable with costumes………to a priest…………………”

(iii)  Arsha: In this marriage the father gives his daughter in marriage to the bridegroom, after receiving a cow or a bull “……………………..........a bull and a cow or even more, were received by the parents of the bride from the groom’s side………………”

(iv)  Prajapatya: A marriage without dowry or bride price. “……..neither party received gifts of any kind”

(v)    Gandharva: It is a marriage by the consent of the two parties or a love marriage. It has sexual intercourse for its purpose. “………………….marriage was solemnized between a couple who were of age and there was mutual consent between the two”.

(vi)  Asura: Marriage by purchase.

(vii)          Raksasa: Marriage by capture. “……………………..forcibly carried away girls and married them……………………………………..”.

(viii)        Paisacha: When a man stealthily seduces a girl who is sleeping, intoxicated, or is made disordered in intellect, or abduction of girl when she is asleep or unconscious. Nonetheless they have all been considered as different forms of marriage, clearly defining and describing the way each was performed. Besides these eight forms of marriage, there existed Anuloma and Pratiloma marriages in ancient Indian society. Marriage of a male in his own Varna or below his Varna is known as Anuloma. And when a girl of higher Varna marries a boy of lower Varna it is called Pratiloma.


N. Birchandra Singh opines that probably polyandry was in practice in ancient days in Manipur before the introduction of the present system. There was a heritage of matrilineal form of society in Manipur, in which polyandry was a prevailing form of marriage. The system patrilineal has succeeded a matrilineal society. In the early stage of civilization women were totally free in their married life. According to tradition, some of the ancestors (Lairembis) left their husbands without any information or at will and cohabited with another one. Sooner or later they came back to their former husbands either by inducement or by some other means. It is said that Nongthang Leima was the wife of both Sanamahi and Pakhnagba. Laikhurembi was the chief queen of Thongaren but she was handed over to Nongda Lairen Pakhangba by changing her name as Laishna. Lainaotabi also had three husbands. Thongarel, Poireiton and Nongbal Pombi Luwaoba. Although the Meitei kings had established 'Pacha-Loishang' (Women Court) to protect the rights and privileges of the women and immoral traffic right from the time of Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (1st Century AD) in whose time, this Court i.e. Pacha-Loishang was presided over by queen Laisna, wife of Pakhangba. The system of Polyandry was prevalent among the ancient Hindus. Hindu mythology refers to the existence of polyandry.



Khagemba Yumbi furnished that "Leinung Yaibirok a Yakkha girl who was polyandrous became the wife of three individuals and in turn gave birth to Nongta Lairen Pakhangba". "Leinung girl, Yakkha girl polyandrous Chakkha—a house wife—became wife of three different kings—in turn-Lei-nung Yabiroka begets Nongta, 'chief of Lai' Pakhangba”. Ningthourol Lambuba reported that, "The Grand-mother or Madam Meitei Queen Lei-nung Chakkha Yabirok, is known as polyandrous, handsome and beautiful, the cream of the Leihou and Leimu, the Chakkha who is polyandrous and who becomes wife of three kings successively, by thy name”. However, in-depth and critical research in regard to polyandry in ancient Manipur is very much wanted to make out whether it was actually prevalence in ancient Manipur or not.


Regarding polygamy T.C. Hodson advocated that "The Meiteis are polygamous, and the Raja may have three principal wives, with as many as one hundred and eight subsidiary partners”. Polygamy became a regular feature among the kings, nobles and rich people. Ordinary people also practiced polygamy because of certain condition or other reasons including satisfaction of their sex appetite but polygamous person was treated with hatred and abhorrence in general.


Malinowsky expressed that "monogamy is, has been, and will remain the only true type of marriage.”26 This system of monogamy was commonly observed or performed by the common people as well as kings, nobles or rich in ancient Manipur. It is an ideal form of marriage in Manipur since ancient days.


Payment and non-payment of bride price were followed in Manipur. It is evident that chief of Chenglei and his wife offered bride price in nice untarnished coins and a pair of nice bullocks for the marriage their son Tarang Khoinucha with Panthoibi. The bride price of the Manipuri princess who married to a Shan ruler of Kabaw valley was seven elephants. She was acknowledged as Kabaw Leima Sana Hekpi.


For becoming husband and wife, a man and woman has to act upon any one of the following ritual in the Meitei society:

a) Luhongba

b) Keinya Katpa and

c) Loukhatpa


It is the custom in the marriage of the Meitei that betrothal and nuptials is not acceptable within the same Yek (clan) or same Sagei (clan). Yek is considered as social exogamous group within which matrimony is unacceptable and taboo. The remark of Gangmumei Kabui is placed here that Yek and Salai are being used more or less in the same sense. Consequently Yek-Salai is within the degree of proscribed relation in the marriage institution of the Meitei. It is alleged that the marriage rules namely Yek-Salai, Mungnaba, Shairuk Tinnaba, Pee. Tinnaba and Pendinnaba were put into operation during the reign of Pakhangba (33-154 AD). Yek being the binding force of the wedding in Meitei society, the rules of Yek become the mandatory in the marriage of the Meitei.



Thus, marriage by Capture, marriage by mutual consent and elopement or love marriage and arranged marriage or marriage by engagement are important forms of marriage in Meitei society. In all forms of these, marriage rules of the Meitei are made mandatory and to be followed. Punishment for violation of marriage rules has been referred to in Royal Chronicle of Manipur.



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17.   Manusmrti of Manu.

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24.   Panthoibi Khongul MS.

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Received on 01.02.2019       Modified on 19.02.2019

Accepted on 02.03.2019      ©AandV Publications All right reserved

Res.  J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 2019; 10(1): 227-230.

DOI: 10.5958/2321-5828.2019.00041.X