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Posted by Ramesh Khati on April 16, 2009

Pinky Pradhan

Pinky Pradhan

Written By: Pinky Pradhan

The Indian Idol 2008 and the subsequent win of ‘Prashant Tamang’, not only catapulted Indian Nepali / ‘Gorkhali’ community to the mainstream; it also brought it closer to my life. I was brought up in a multi-cultural set-up and environment of Guwahati city, Assam, India. During my childhood, I was influenced by the language and culture of my friends who belonged to Assamese, and other tribal communities of Assam. My interaction with my own community was limited since there were only a few of us in my neighborhood (most of them were my cousins) and school. I saw no difference between my friends and me, except for the fact that they didn’t understand the language I spoke at home or the specific customs we followed and celebrated. It didn’t strike me at that point that it was so because I belonged to a minority and scattered population. It was during my growing years that this reality grew more real and certain questions started bothering me about the identity of my community.

As a teenager, I remember being ridiculed and called by names such as ‘kanchee’ and the song ‘kancha re, kanchee re’. I would fight back saying that I am not a kanchee. Such was my anger and frustration that one day after being subjected to countless such teasing and derogatory remarks; I hurt two rowdy neighborhood boys (of my age) by throwing stones at them. It’s a separate story that their wailing mothers created quite a scene at my house.

I was so antagonized with numerous such incidents, that I sub-consciously started distancing myself from my community. In public places, I would try to speak in Assamese , rather than my own language , with my parents and relatives. It all seems so ridiculous now.

Except for the language and the festivals (dassain and Bhanu Jayanti particularly) we celebrated, I kept myself away from further association and exposure to it. However, the fact of the matter is, one cannot run away from his or her identity / roots, culture and family. Ironically, during the year 1999, I was adjudged Miss Personality of Cotton College for presenting my community – dressed in chaubandi cholo- a traditional Gorkhali wear. The occasion even made me popular than before and was instrumental in my historic win as the ‘Debating and Symposium Secretary’.

I have to admit, that it was only recently that I started developing a desire to know about my community, its history, personalities and its angst. Off course I shouldn’t forget my brother Kamal, who with his passionate zeal influences me over and again. I started reading, interacting, understanding and even attempted at penning down my interpretation of it. Soon, the desire changed into a thirst to know more and more. This took me to the meeting held on December 21 2008 at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi organized by Bharatiya Gorkha Parishangh. A huge melee of people: young and old alike, women and men from different states and background, had assembled to discuss issues pertaining to Gorkhaland. I felt a surge of emotion, as I heard passionate speeches and met with people who had only one dream ‘Unity and oneness of Gorkahilis’.

I understood the importance that Darjeeling has in our lives. Its status as a Gorkhaland will not only give us our due rights but most importantly bind us as one. It doesn’t matter that we were not born in that pristine hill, what really matters is that it will give us our long deserving status.

I came away from that meeting with a promise to myself. I promised to be with my brethren in this movement. I promised to make my voice loudest while demanding our rights. I promised to take pride in the fact that I am part of a community which is known for its fearless valor and integrity.

About the writer:-

A native of Guwahati, Pinky is a development communication practitioner and is actively engaged with issues relating to drug abuse, human trafficking, environment conservation and poverty alleviation. She is currently engaged as a communication and advocacy practitioner with a bi-lateral agency called United Nations. She is also a writer and regularly contributes for gorkhatimes,beacon online; merinews.com, the Northeast Today, assamtimes.org, thesouthasian.org among others.


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Gorkhali Bihe

Posted by Ramesh Khati on April 8, 2009

Basically there are two kinds of marriage system found in the Gorkhali society- magi-bihe (arranged marriage) and chori-bihe (marriage by elopement).
Magi-bihe i.e. arranged marriage in Gorkhali community unlike in other communities is finalized by the girl’s family when the boy’s family puts forward the proposal of marriage.
Generally, a relative acts as the middleman (lami) in marriage negotiations until the transaction is completed. Mostly village exogamy is observed. The practice of comparing names by an astrologer, to see whether the proposed couple would make a good match, persists but it is done only in a perfunctory manner. Once the astrologer finds that the two people are good match, it is the job of the priests of the boy’s family to discover as auspicious date, based on the Lunar Calendar, and it remains for one to be chosen. Marriage is not done in all months of the year. In Chait (mid March to Mid April) and Katik (Mid October to Mid November) marriage is totally avoided. Once, the groom’s party fixes the date, the bride’s parents are informed on the prescribed date, the groom goes with friends. The number of people invited to take part in the procession varies according to the economic and social status of the groom’s father. The wedding party, the janti, consists of males and scarcely females also. The whole janti party is preceded by a musical band, and is received with great respect and enthusiasm by the bride’s people at her home. They are entertained with a feast before the actual wedding ceremony takes place.
There is one ceremonial rite to be completed preceding the final wedding rite. This is called “Swayamvara” literally meaning “Choosing one’s own husband” and the bride and groom exchange garlands of flower and gold engagement rings.,
The most important part of the entire wedding ceremony is kanyadan, when the parents of the bride make a gift of her to the groom.
Just before the Kanyadan (giving away of daughter) , the bride and groom are seated on a bed, which is provided by the girl’s parents as a gift to the new couple. While sitting there, the bride and groom hang their legs into a copper vessel or a silver vessel. The parents of the girl wash the feet of both bride and groom. Nearest relatives of the girl are expected to wash her feet.
The groom receives his bride as a gift and whatever dowry the parents are giving for the purpose of prestige and love is accepted at this time. The groom also hands over his presents mainly clothing and ornaments, to the bride.
When the Kanyadan and foot washing are completed, the bride is taken into her room dressed up by the clothes brought as present from the groom, and she is beautified with cosmetic and decorated with ornaments and tika which are also brought by the groom.
When she is thus dressed, she is carried outside the house into the courtyard where sacrificial fire is burning and all sorts of offerings of food for sacrifices and other articles for various rituals are in readiness. The bride and groom sit on one side of the quadrangle that is built for them to sit. They spend several hours in the courtyard performing rituals of various descriptions, sometimes going around quadrangle, sometimes worshipping and making offering to various deities like Ganesh, God of Fire, Sky, Earth, Wind and Water.
Another ritual is putting the Vermillion powder on the forehead of the bride’s hair by the groom. Vermillion in a woman’s forehead is a sign of marriage; she is theoretically required to re-apply it daily with powder mixed in with the original powder presented at the wedding for as long as her husband lives.
After completing all the rites, the bride is taken to her new home with dancing musical band. Once a new bride is taken home, she is more under the command of her mother in-law than of her husband.
The bride is taken back to her parent’s house after 16 days along with delicious food. This is known as Sindure sait. After returning from their family, the marriage ceremony comes to an end. But in the first year of marriage, they must go to the bride’s house in the month of Shravan (mid July) to observe a ritual known as “Saone Pani Chhalnu”.
The Newars also observe the Vedic rites and rituals except the bel bibah or ehi bibah within seven to eleven years. After marriage the bel (wood apple) is kept carefully. The bel being broken broken is supposed to be the death of her husband. If the girl dies, the bel is thrown into the river.
Other Kirati groups celebrate marriage according to their own tradition. But it should be noted that in all festivals and ceremonies of the Kirati group the rice beer is compulsory for them.


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