Descriptive Articles · Imported from Old Blog

The Maithils – II

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!

(More later.)


30 thoughts on “The Maithils – II

  1. Hi, this is a great description of what a gotra means. I was googling this word and am glad that I found what I was looking for. But I am still wondering, what is the difference between a Mool and a Gotra again? Is it the gotra or the mool that should not match between the partners for marriage? Thanks. []

  2. It is the Gotra that should not match. Gotra are fewer in number and are traced to the Rishish. Moola is more about the particular place your family hails from and some other such descriptors. Some Moola also derive their names from some anecdotes associated with the families. Although I am not sure, but I have feeling that if Gotras do not match, moolas won’t match either…

  3. Gotras should not match so that one doesn’t marry one’s blood relations, however distant (coz all ppl in the gotra trace themselves to a single rishi ancestor)…ensures strength of race. Mool may/may not match, no bar.

    This is what the Bengla marriage rule-book prescribes :-), don’t know if it’s the same for the Maithils.

  4. Good effort, the process description is quite right. I strongly believe that is one reason why there are so few divorces you hear of amongst poor maithil brahmins. The very thought of going through this painful process again is sufficient to drive away any thoughts at parting ways or any temptations in flesh pots of infidelity.

    Amazingly well designed process, serves its purpose of keeping two souls together really well.

    I wonder if even we could get married and divorced on the same day, would darbhanga become Las Vegas?

  5. Hi,

    The whole process/rituals are same across all the castes in Mithila with some variants.

    good jobs.


  6. Couldn’t refrain from writting on “Badagachhi (Near Banyan Tree)”.

    In Darbhanga-Madhubani region we call it “Sabha-gachhi” … the “fair” of groom is ideally a “Sabha” , didnt even listen word Badagachhi (No offense inetnded though !) . Also , it’s called as “Souraath-Sabha” ,as the “Souraath” is the village where the gachhci is arranged every year.You can still see the gachhci (Mango orhid basically !).

    “Moolas” are completely different from “Gotras” .As rightly mentioned “Gotras” are traced to the Rishis. “Moolas” are basically the name of “village” from where the “family” originated. For example , if some one from Bhagalpur has “shyam-sidhhav” mool , it means that his/her family roots from village “shyam-sidhhav”.Though ,majority of “Mollas” are very difficult beacuse of change in name of the villages.

    Nice article Jaya ! May be you can write some thing on “Painj” ,if it’s not included in next series.

  7. Gotra is more important in determining marriage.. It is intended to prevent inbreeding amongst people which tends to mutate our DNA and cause children to be born with semi developed brains. This reasoning for maintaininmg distance in marriage amongst gotra is validated by modern research and medically proven. There are also other terminal diseases like leprosy, diabities etc which are said to arise, this part has however not been proven

  8. Hi,
    Although we all live everyday in our Mathil culture. But the precision with which you have elobarated the things minutely is definitely praiseworthy.

  9. I am no qualified expert on marriage matters, but in general, people from same gotra are considered brothers and sisters and hence marriage is forbidden. But people do go against the rules. Its up to you.

  10. same gotra marriage can have gentic disorder and bad effect on health. do you know this seven generation theory has been studied in USA now? And they say that reason for deasease like Thelssimia, lucomia etc.. are prevelant in those ethinic group who dont care for these thories. please study on Internet babu..
    maithils ancestors were very learned fellows man…

  11. I think gotra and all hold true only for upper caste. I am not sure but I don’t think the lower caste ( lower caste is just a reference , not the literal meaning) have the concept of Gotra and mool .I can be wrong though.

    Dowry is not a new thing. It has always been there.

  12. Here I want to ask one thing to all of u……….

    Can anyone tell me that the Rishis (from whom the Gotra have originated) were there on earth many thousands of years ago.
    Then, how can the SAME GOTRA Marriage (if more than seven & even ten generations diffence is there) can have gentic disorders and bad effect on health????????

    Here I wish to give some information about Brahmin Gotras-

    I want to inform u all here that Bhardwaj Rishi (Origin of Bhardwaj Gotra) & Gautam rishi (origin of Gautam Gotra) were desendents of Angira Rishi (origin of Angira Gotra).
    (Refer the link )

    In this way nobody from above Gotras should marry each other. Moreover no guy should marry to any girl because we all are originated from some rishi….. & in this way we all are brothers ans sisters……..

    Cummon guys, I am not in against of the Gotra system. What I am trying to say is we should just see the Seven Generations Gap to avoid any genetic diseases.

    Even our Rishis have also made this Gotra system to avoid this (but genetic disorders cant go more than six to seven generations)(Refer Mandel Law).

    So please remove the cloth from ur eyes, use some common sense & knowledge as you all are well educated.

    At least try to understand what our rishis said and WHY???? There was always some logic & science behind that. But that was SATYUG & this is KALYUG for God sake. & tab ke samaj ke liye jo rules banaye the thousands of years have been passed after that.

    Plzzzz guys use ur brain & knowledge & think logically. We are Indians & living in 21st century. We have all knowledge in Internet. Please try to take our Vedas & Science together.

    Take Care.

  13. I am proud of being a maithil brhamin. I appreciate Jaya’s article on maithil brhamin culture & tradition. Our culture is very rich;what is needed that we should support it. Gotra system is good to some extent because scientifically it is meaningful.
    We should keep it alive…not orthodoxy but tradition….

  14. thanks jaya for all the information .i just have one qurry that as it is said every problem has a solution .i agree its not a problem but still for people who wants to marry within the gotra cant have some solution or suggesion by let making gotra parivartan or by some else……….if there is even a percent of solution plese mention in your article or do reply .
    thanks again for to making the history live.


  15. Shalini – the concept of Gotra is like that of blood relations. You can not ‘change’ it. Nobody can stop you from ignoring it though and that might be the only solution, if someone is in a tricky situation of considering marriage with someone in the same gotra.

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  17. your efforts is praiseworthy.i hope you will write regularly sothat maithilscould know their culture andtradition.If iam right you are realy from Dakhin that is BHRAMARPUR under Bhagalpurdistrict.

  18. Most of the Gotras are on the name of a famous Rishi & teh lineage is identified by their name.
    But these famous rishis are also descendants of teh sapt rishi’s.
    example : rishi Sandalya was the youngest & the famous son of Rishi Bhardwaj(who is on of the sapt rishi).

    So in this case sandalya Gotri & bhardwaj gotri will be assumed as blood related ???

  19. Ohhh such a god write up, I was trying t find out the things very curiously, Jaya ….. will request you if add up some more research on paanti (jati- panti ) from where it derived. Love to get some more knowledge on our rituals, The whole one year marriage ceremony, Batsavitri, panchmi, “”phool lodhnai”” etc

  20. when bride-groom can make physical relationship either the next day of marry or after forth day ? Please !

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