Tribals break away from ‘common marriages’

  • Archana Phull | Shimla

    March 15, 2017 | 12:08 PM
Tribals, common marriages, polyandry, Sangla, Kinnaur

Tribals of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh

"Polyandry? No way. We have our own dreams to chase." The answer by a Language teacher, Yashoda Negi, 27, from the Sangla valley in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh echoes the feeling of youngsters in the tribal belt.
"We do respect our tradition and believe in preserving the culture in certain ways. But aspirations apart, individual choices matter a lot for the generation today," said Ram, 29, a graduate from Kalpa (Kinnaur), who runs a shop.
Irrespective of gender, the younger lot in Kinnaur, at once rejects the tradition of polyandry in this tribal district. 
Most of them feel shy to talk about it or even admit that their parents followed this common marriage system, as they refer it.
Polyandry was a traditional system of marriage in Kinnaur and some other remote areas of HP, wherein all brothers in a family tied nuptial knot with one woman. The logic was that people in this tough area in the past were generally poor and illiterate and lived on the little income they had from farming on small land holdings. The common marriage saved their family assets from division and strengthened the family bonding.
"It's uncomfortable and embarassing to have one wife in progressive lifestyle," said Prakash Negi, a student of the BA final year in a college in Shimla. He said there was no guarantee that in common marriage, there would be no quarrel among brothers over property in this materialistic touch that has touched even the tribal society.
Negi's two elder brothers are settled in Delhi and are married.
The reasons for change are visible. In old times, the tribal district did not have much to offer in terms of education and employment and people were not connected with the outside world for lack of roads. Over the decades, however, Kinnaur saw developments that changed the profile, aspirations and economy. Now people are leaving the tribal area for education and career and get married outside. The literacy rate in Kinnaur is above 80 per cent with 71.34 per cent female literacy. While the conservative elderly tribals show much resistance to changing traditions, there is no conflict to do away with polyandry. The families who are living in polyandry system are not interested to push their children into it. They divide the property among their sons on their own at the appropriate time. 
"Our times were different. When my parents fixed my marriage with two brothers while I was just 15, I had to obey," said Shanti Devi, 74, of Sangla. "But life has definitely not been easy on that system, although I have five children and we are united,"she hastened to add. Two of her illiterate daughters have gone for common marriage, but sons have not.