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Home arrow Religion arrow Feeding, Sharing and Devouring: Ritual and Society in Highland Odisha, India

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Farewell

In the afternoon, the tsorubai are accompanied to their village, and the legs of meat they received are carried to their houses for them.[1] The moitr, mamu, and potentially other guests are bid farewell “halfway along the road” (oda ras- tare). The Dombo musicians accompany the groups to the other side of the village boundaries. Everyone then sits down again and consumes beer and an accompanying snack (chakana) together as a farewell.

After the Wedding: mosi Rice

A few days after the wedding ritual, the sponsors of the wedding bring rice to the house of the bride-givers. The food consists of cooked rice and meat (chicken, pig, or goat) and is known as mosi bat or isai’ lai*. The recipients of the mosi bat distribute it in their sai, within their kutum, but also give portions to internal affines, if they have them.

Women’s Status and Compensation Payments

The comparison of the bride-takers to herders and of the bride to a head of cattle, made by the bride-givers’ spokesman when the jola was handed over, sheds light on two aspects. First, it underlines the association between women and milk, already described. Second, the analogy to the herders illustrates the bride-takers’ responsibility to pay careful attention to the woman and treat her well. If they fail to do so, the threat is, the woman will run away.

In fact, close ties between a woman and the house and village where she was born persist even after marriage. This can be seen, among other places, in the fact that the duma of women (ji bouni) who have left the village are still remembered at sacrifices (duma balo’*) and with food offerings (on the occasion of a cremation), and a house also sacrifices for the gods of its affines. In addition, a woman is present with her family in her brothers’ houses on all important ritual occasions, and both daughters and sons-in-law help with major tasks such as harvesting, sowing, and building a house. If a woman feels that she is being ill-treated or neglected, she leaves her husband and goes to the houses of her brothers. As a rule, the man follows her to petition for her return only a few days later. If a husband is manifestly irresponsible in the eyes of the bride-givers, drinking too much and beating his wife or working too little, her brothers will call him to account - commonly with physical force as well.

Despite her brothers’ possibilities for intervention, a woman legally belongs to her husband’s house after marriage. If she leaves her husband and marries again, the entire village of her first husband will demand compensation (sorgota mangbar) from her new husband. The compensation (sorgota) is generally set higher than the bridewealth and the cost of the marriage negotiations. Conversely, if a man sends his wife away, her group demands damages (jouto pelani), although this sum is not set as high as sorgota.

Although a woman retains her clan status (bonso) all her life, she belongs fully to her husband’s house from a ritual perspective and bears his kuda title in her name. She cooks the tsoru for her house, and her husband’s group accepts cooked tsoru from her. Her brothers, on the other hand, do not let their married sisters enter the inner rooms of their houses, and the sisters receive nothing from the tsoru of their brothers’ houses. A woman’s bonso status becomes relatively unimportant after marriage in comparison to membership in the tsoru group to which she is gradually assimilated in the course of marriage. After marriage, it is her husband’s group that has ritual responsibility for her. This also applies to the performance of the mortuary rituals, the next definite life-cycle rituals after marriage. After marriage - as a consequence especially of the multiple feedings with tsoru that are part of the wedding rituals - the woman’s future duma belongs to her husband’s group.[2] [3]

  • [1] The distribution of the meat is the same as at bur.
  • [2] An informant described the postmortem status of his daughter-in-law as follows: “[She]came to our house, it’s not their [the bride-givers’] duma. To whom the [duma] of the manbelongs, it’s their duma. It’s not the duma of her parents’ house.” Amor gor aka utigola, tankoduma nai. Je munusro tar duma aka, takor ma-bapa duma nai.
  • [3] The word jati is used in many parts of India, is variously translated as “caste,” “tribe,”“genus,” or “race,” and literally means “birth” (cf. Biardeau 1995, 181).
 
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