Present text of Meitei wedding

A traditional Meitei wedding, deeply rooted in heritage and customs, is an elaborate affair that unites families and communities in joyous celebration.

BySanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Updated 27 Mar 2024, 6:34 am

Representational Image (PHOTO: Dabu Leichombam, Wikimedia Commons)
Representational Image (PHOTO: Dabu Leichombam, Wikimedia Commons)

A traditional Meitei wedding, deeply rooted in heritage and customs, is an elaborate affair that unites families and communities in joyous celebration. In every society, whether primitive or civilized, marriage in many aspects is the most important social institution. Marriage is a socio-religious institution. It is a social contract for the satisfaction of physical, biological, psychological and spiritual needs of Man and woman leading to the formation of a family. Thus the growth and development as well as the stability of human society depend upon this universal and primary institution.

On account of this vital importance, the sanctity and permanence of marriage has been emphasized in most societies and the Meitei Society is not an exception in this regard. The Meitei concept of marriage implies the sacred and ceremonial union of a man and a woman with due religious rites. The vernacular term for marriage is "Luhongba" which is a combination of two words, "Lu" which means "head" in archaic Manipuri and "Hongba" to solemnize. Hence Luhongba is the ceremonial union of the "Lu" of the man and the woman implying the oneness of their heart and soul rather than the state of their being double.

In the long journey of life the Meiteis believed that woman is called oigilamdang (left way) and man Yet Ki lamdang (rightway). Thus Meitei marriage is primarily conceived as lifelong physical and spiritual companionship between the wife and the husband. The Meiteis are generally exogamous but endogamy was found in the early times. Actually this endogamous system is prohibited in Meitei society but the practice is prevalent among the members of the hill tribes. In Meitei society both in early and present days there are certain taboos and rules connected with the institution of marriage. If anybody breaking the rules was expelled from the common society.

In Meitei society, the boys are given the right to make a free choice of their own mate. The parents of the groom go to the house of the bride and ask for her hand. It is called ‘Nupi Haiba’. After that a date is fixed for the marriage. Before one or two days of marriage, a ceremony called ‘Heijingpot’ is performed. Before one day of marriage, there is a small ceremony called ‘Bor Baton Touba’. It is a ceremony of inviting the groom for the marriage. On this day, a boy of tender age with the elderly person goes to the groom’s house and invites him for marriage. On the day of marriage, the groom wears a white turban, white shirt and dhoti.

Marriage ritual is performed by the bride’s family. In Meitei society, the above order follows strictly. After that the groom follows them with their friends. And the invites follow. At the gate of the bride, the groom is welcomed with the bonfire known as ‘Mei okpa’. This is done to dispel the evil spirit from the groom. Puffed rice is also sprayed along the fire. After entering the house the groom is again welcomed by three ladies led by the groom's mother.


The ‘Kujapot’ from the hands of the bride and groom is removed. Then the bride stands up from her seat and moves around the groom seven times. She also showered flowers on the groom. This is called ‘Lei Chaiba’. After that the bride put two garlands of ‘Kundo’ (a kind of flower) on the neck of the bride. Then the groom again takes out one garland from his neck and puts it on the neck of the bride. After this the ritual ends .The bride and groom become husband and wife. On the sixth day of marriage a great grand feast called ‘Chak Kouba’ is performed in the bride’s place.

Social change is a natural phenomenon. New conditions emerge and to meet new challenges a society adopts, adjusts and changes. After 70 years of independence, we cannot expect Indian society to remain static and completely traditional. Among the institutions that have shaped human civilization, marriage and family occupy a vital position. These together not only form the cradle of our future society, but also the hub of social life for the people.

Like other institutions of the society, marriage also has been undergoing a gradual transformation and adjustment in different situations and epochs of history. Later on the advent of Western education, the process of urbanisation, modernisation and industrialisation accelerated these changes. The rural and normative guidelines regulating marriage are also bound to change to meet new demands and expectations. Simultaneously many factors- legalistic, political, socio-economic and cultural also have cumulative impact upon the institution of marriage of urban families.

Since elders had a big say, money took preponderance over everything else. Property of the girl’s father, and gifts to be given to the extended family, mattered a lot. The size of the marriage procession became a matter of serious discussion, being related to the prestige of both sides. In Meitei society, now a days huge expenses are being made for unnecessary things like Phijang Khanba (decorating all around spending lakhs of rupees), cake cutting during heijingpot, which was not practiced traditionally, bhabok mamang sel thaba apart from pala sel thaba, huge number of vehicles during marriage day and a new dimension of Photo session gallery as well as Photo session on Chakouba day etc. Thus everything that hardly mattered to the young couple was so important.   In the end, the girl’s as well as boy’s families have to cough out a formidable amount, just to be wasted away on unnecessary expenses, which have no relevance for the actual marriage, per se. The lofty ideal of simple marriage has evaporated into thin air.

Indian society has been facing a crisis of family relations in recent times. The problems did exist earlier too. However, the changes in the rules and laws related to family affairs have now precipitated problems and exposed the dormant fissures. Slowly the situation has gone out of control and the girl’s father many times has to worry about payments of loans after his daughter’s marriage.  People try to give those gifts in their daughter’s marriage, which they might have never seen in their life.

Although the rules were framed to curb the menace, people soon learned to circumvent the same. When the girl’s father visits the would-be groom’s family for discussions, he is often treated with contempt. According to Hindu orthodox customs, he was not supposed to even take water from the groom’s house. The talks would sometimes go on to the extent of humiliation and proposals turned down for money.


Sometimes the bride’s father would play smart and approach the police to file an FIR about the rejection of the proposal due to the demand for money. Such episodes have cast a very bad impression on the psyche of the girls. A few rejections of the proposals tend to make girls become very negative and even parents subsequently hesitate even to talk of any fresh proposal. This scene is very often shown in Manipuri films.

Traditional marriage is now considered as a loss of individuality, loss of privacy, lack of freedom, lack of individual growth, lack of social and sexual variety, dissatisfaction with spouse, sexual frustration, problem with in-laws etc. All these factors have led to a change in the form and purposes of marriage. At present the new trend of live-in-relationship is emerging in urban Indian society.

Live-in-relationship or cohabitation is an arrangement where two people, who are not married, live together in an intimate relationship, particularly an emotionally or sexually intimate one, on a long term or permanent basis. Today individuals have become career oriented. Women are going out for work. This is preventing them from going into the bonds of married life that is full of responsibility. Economic independence of people in urban society also paves way to live-in relations as these people don’t want interference in their personal life. These days’ young men and women are getting the opportunity to know and spend time with each other. This enhances the chances of getting into a live-in relationship. Many people believe that a live-in relationship is a good way to test their relationship before marriage.

Besides there are many other alternative forms of marriages emerging as-35 the intrinsic marriage, utilitarian marriage, open marriage, two step marriage/multi step marriage, temporary marriage, group marriage, consensual marriage, covenant marriage, commuter marriage, swinging and sexually open marriage. If an analysis is made of the need of such a relationship, avoiding responsibility would emerge as the prime reason. The lack of commitment, the disrespect for social bonds and the zero tolerance power in relationships have given rise to finding these various alternatives to marriage. The processes of educational and urban development have, no doubt, created new situations and problems and have upset certain traditional mores and values. Yet the marriage institution continues to be the core of Indian society and has not experienced a general disintegration.

(The views expressed are personal)


First published:


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Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Assistant Professor, JCRE Global College, Babupara, Imphal. The writer can be reached at sjugeshwor7@gmail.com


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