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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Kinship System


“Kinship is more than a network of biological relationships; it is also a network of social relationships. It establishes social ties, patterns of behavior, obligations and responsibilities and patterns of authority. In short, it is a road map or structure of interpersonal relationships (Grunlan and Mayers 1988:162). The Zomis pratice the following kinship systems : consanguine, affine, fictive and phyle ties.
Consanguineal Relationship
Relationship by blood or by birth is called “Beh” (consanguineal tie) and consanguineal relationship maintains genealogical tree. F.K. Lehman termed this as “patrilineal clan” (Lehman 1963: 88). A father is tied to his son and daughter, and the son and daughter by birth. The origin of “Beh” is taken from the first ancestor of a particular group. “Beh” relationship has been maintained through sons not through daughters. The lineage is counted from the first son who is also the inheritor of the property of the parents. Inheritance is not simply inheriting the property of parents but the responsibility to care, to support parents and maintain the family. He is also head of other sons in the kinship tie. In apportionment of meat they are termed as “sanggamte” meaning “brothers.”  Many sons in a family have many “sanggams” and highly respected.  Sanggam relationship cannot be broken as it is created by birth or blood (Grunlan and Mayers 1988:162).
Affinial Relationship
When a son is married to a girl the relationship with the parent-in-laws is called affinial tie, which means a relationship is established through marriage.  The relationship to his parent-in-laws has been termed as “Sung leh Pu” and to his parent-in-laws he and his family is “makte” or son-in-laws. They carry both opportunity and responsibility towards the parent-in-laws. Their responsibility is to lend service to the parents in times of joy and grieve known as “Tanute.” Its literal meaning is daughters. They are expected to do all household works in case of celebration or funeral. It is opportunity because they eat, drink and enjoy with the parents of the wife as daughters. They work most of the work to be done and also eat the best of meal available.  When distribution of meat takes place half of a front leg goes to the “Tanute” (daughters) even though there are various practices of apportion of meat according to clanship. Melford E. Spiro points out that the relationship of a daughter with the parents is stronger than the son with the parents. “Daughters often cook for them, care for them when they are ill, do their washing, and so on” (Spiro 1977:81).
Wife’s parents are called “Pute” in affinial tie. The “Pute” must be given respect, obedience and service in times of need. A saying “Pute leh lamphung kidem zo lo” is a famous proverb among the Zomis. The meaning of the saying is “one cannot compete father-in-laws as one cannot climb over the high fence.” As a sign of respect, a liver, heart and stomach of animal killed or hunt must be shared with the “Pute.”  In case of distribution of meat the neck or back thigh goes to the “Pute.” Having many daughters means many working force in times of joy and grieve and highly regarded. A daughter ceases to be part of a “Beh” or clan of her parents when she is married, but joins the “Beh” of her husband. Therefore affinial tie is achieved and breakable (Grunlan and Mayers 1988:164). A saying “Numei khua leh Sakhi khua” is reflective of the position of woman which means deer and woman has no permanent settlement.
Fictive Relationship
A fictive relationship through legal ceremonial tie into kinship is rare though not unknown. The Zomis establish relationship with an outside of one’s clan by admitting a person as speaker of the family called “Thusa.” A family can choose any person of high standing whom he feels trustworthy and able speaker in negotiations. “Thusa” will speak on behalf of the party he represents as best as possible. In case of marriage a “Thusa” of the boy side will start the negotiation process and then the “Thusa” of the girl’s side will respond. Final decision is taken in consultation with the parents of each party and the decision will be presented by the “Thusa.”  A good portion of meat goes to the “Thusa.” “Thusa” is selected from other clan and he acts and speaks as if he belongs to the same clan he represents. There is no ceremonial initiation or rite in such a case.
Phyle Relationship
Phyle relationship among the Zomis is highly regarded as belonging to one social group. The Zomis identify themselves as a social group by language called Tedim dialect. Tedim dialect was a self creation of Tedim town, the capital of the northern Chin Hills (Vum Lian Thang 1998:305-308). The British named it Kam Hau dialect from the name of the Chief of the tribe. Gin Za Tuang recorded at least 9 minor dialects spoken by sub-groups such as Sihzang, Thado, Zo, Teizang, Saizang, Dim, Guite, Phaileng and Hualngo (Gin Za Tuang 1973:8). These sub-groups though having minor differences in dialect, the Tedim language (trade language) serves as a common dialect among the Zomis that binds them together.
Do Sian Thang, Principal of Zomi Theological College has a kinship system as below.
A         = Household father.               B         = Household Mother
1          = Thalloh:       Arrow compensator, eldest brother of “A” (consanguine tie)
2          = Sung-pi:       Brother-in-law –eldest brother of “B” (affine tie)
3          = Tanu-u-zaw: Elder daughter- eldest sister of “A” (consanguine tie)
4          = Tanu-nau-zaw: Younger daughter–second eldest sister of “A” (consanguine tie)
5          = Zin-khak:      Door Shutter- second eldest brother (consanguine tie)
6          = Pu:                Father-in-law – Father of “B” (affine tie)
7          = Beh-sa-bawl: Meat preparer of the clan – anyone from A’s clan chosen by “A” (consanguine tie)
8          = Sung-sa-bawl: Meat preparer of in-laws – anyone from 2’s clan, chosen by 2 (affine tie)
9          = Beh-thu-sa:   controller from A’s clan, anyone from “A” (consanguine tie)
10        = Veng thusa:   Controller from A’s clan – anyone from “A” (consanguine tie)
11        = Nuphal:        Husband of sister-in-law – anyone form the husbands of “B”s                      sisters,   chosen by “A” (affine tie)
12        = Zawl :           Friend – anyone from any clan chosen by “A” (fictive tie)
(Do Sian Thang 1989: 54).
With the introduction of Christianity the closeness of kinship tie has been diminishing in the society.  Christians discontinued the celebration of “Tonh,” “kawsah,” “sa-aih and gal-aih,” as they have some connections with traditional religious rituals (Gin Za Go 1995: 10). This prohibition has resulted in discontinuation of meat distribution among the kinship. When there is no apportionment of meat, the tie between consanguineal and affinial relationship becomes loosely treated. Regard for one’s kinship seems to disappear slowly. The missionaries discarded social and cultural elements as opposed to Christian faith and there was no consideration of cultural and social values at the introduction of Christianity. Some of the cultural and social values have been buried along with unacceptable cultural elements in Christianity. For example, Christians maintain the system of “Zuthawl” and bride price which still hold important part of Christian marriage. It is a combination of traditional and Christian marriage system. Some people still practice the killing of animals when their parents die as a kind of “kawsah” even though they do not term it. This shows that there are some social values in traditional system which needs to be carefully looked into it.

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