Marriage ceremonies form an integral part of rituals and customs of any cultural community. Like any other,Maithil culture has its pecularities too. I can talk about only the customs of “Maithil Brahmins”. First peculiarity is that the marriage is not a “marriage on day-1 and vidai on day-2, period” kind of occasion. It is a four day affair. Yes, and without “chaturthi” (the fourth day of marriage), the marriage is not valid. There have been cases where the bride-groom managed to run away before “chaturthi” (must be marrying under some compulsion) and marriage was broken (or never took place rather!). So, while it is a long affair at bride’s place, after the “barat” leaves, at bridegroom’s place, there isn’t much charm in marriage. Traditionally, girls/women do not go in barat. Therefore, women relatives not attending a “son’s marriage” is not considered too bad, if she has reasonable excuses that is. Not that it is a custom though. There are enough rituals even without the bride coming in to engage the women of the house. Traditionally, bride does not go to her in-law’s house even after chaturthi. That happens only in “dwiragaman”, which taken place in some odd year of marriage (first, third, fifth or seventh year of marriage, say). This practice was more prevalent in the times when marriages used to take place at a rather early age. So, it was ensured that the girl leaves her parents only after she is little mature. Since that is not the case any more, increasingly the practice is to get “dwiragaman” done soon after “chaturthi”, usually within 15 days, since within 15 days one need not look for a particular “muhurta” – any day is fine.
In very few cases even the tradition of four day’s of ceremony is changing. Mostly, it has been the case where the bride-groom (in rare cases bride) can not afford to stay for a long time for marriage because of his(her) job or some other commitment. In cases where the bride-groom stays away from his native place (and in many a cases in-laws themselves stay away from the native place), even without “dwiragaman”, the bride usually joins him (them) whereever he (they) stays/stay. For such a situation, “dwiragaman” is becoming more a formality, in which the bride goes to the native village (many a times never to go again!). Girls going to “barat” is also becoming more acceptable.
But these deviations are mainly for urban families. In rural areas, most of these norms are still devotedly observed.
“Badagachhi”, now maddeningly prevalent dowry system, gotra-system, checking of family tree etc. form some other interesting (?) aspects of the marriage.
Badagachhi (Near Banyan Tree): Since don’t know when, there used to be a fair at some village, which is now in Madhubani district. This was a fair of bride-grooms held in the marriage seasons. All the “eligible” grooms would come to this fair, male members of eligible brides' families would also reach, marriages would be fixed in this fair, and almost immediately carried out. I have heard some stories of what the scene would be like. Some 5-6 people from groom’s family would reach the bride’s village with those relatives of bride who had gone to the fair, may be around mid-night. Other family members would be woken up. There would be some chaos for a while, where you could hear people shouting, “Dulha aayeb gail!” (Bride-groom has come!). The neighbourhood would come in, things would be arranged and marriage ceremony of four days would start. Barat of those 4-5 people would be entertained too!
Who said that India did not have efficient markets?
Even now the fair is there, but it seems to have become a “poor people’s fair”, where only poor bride-grooms come and the family members of very poor brides go!
For a marriage to take place, the first thing to be looked at is “Gotra”. This system should be familiar to the people of many other Indian communities too. Each “gotra” is named after some great “rishi”(monk?). People belonging to a particular “gotra” are supposedly descendents of the “rishi” after whom the “gotra” is named. Hence, people from the same “gotra” are considered brothers and sisters and can not be married to each other. There almost can not be a greater sin than marrying to a “sam-gotri” (person from the same Gotra), it seems.
But that’s not enough. There are things like mool, paanti (Remember “Jaati-Paanti” – yeah, that “paanti” is a real word!) etc. which determine how high your “kul” (lineage) is. One would normally not like to marry in a lower “kul”. But slight differences are okay. Also, the fame of some ancestors, a very learned and respected person in the family etc. would offset the effect of lower “kul”. No, we are not done. Now consider this. If it were just the “gotra”, your maternal cousins would be of a different “gotra” (that’s how your mother and father could marry, after all). But that does not mean that cousins can marry. For how many generations would you not do that (soon you may run out of families in which you can marry)? Answer is “seven generations”. So, after gotra is sorted out, family tree of past seven generations is matched to see that the intended bride and bride-groom are not there in a relation, where marriage should be prohibtied! This process is called Siddhanta. No family maintains its family tree. It is done by some people who are into this profession of maintaining family trees. They are called “panjiyaar”.
When, I explained all this to Eakta once, she rightly quipped, “That’s why they say there is only one person made for you!” Not many people can possibly pass all these tests.
Now, let me give you some relief, many of these things are ignored in marriages now a days.I do not regret that. Gotra remains as important though. But unfortunately what they have been replaced with is not some reformative idea, but dowry! So, the change hasn’t been a result of any progress, but increasing greed. If you look at the above description, the money never came into picture, neither on bride’s side nor on groom’s. But now, after gotra (or probably even before that), the first thing that needs to be fixed is the demand of dowry (on groom’s side) vs. the capability of giving dowry (on bride’s side)! And it could well be a subject of sociological research as to how the transformation has taken place within one generation. Most of the parents demanding or giving dowry would not have seen it to such monstrous extent in their days. How fast does evil spread!