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ANCIENT MARRIAGE LAW. 33
friends, agree upon a union for life. Such a covenant would be held sacred. Unfaithfulness in the case of such partners was a thing unheard of. But the connection had to be treated as a secret, known only to the wife's mother perhaps. The husband was never seen in the company of his wife. When the day's work was finished, supper over, and the people of the house asleep, the young husband would steal away and hasten through field and forests, over hill and dale, to the home of his wife. In the early morning, before his parents, brothers, or servants stirred from sleep, he had to appear at his post again. Except on these visits, he would for years never see, never speak to his wife. Only after such a union had been blessed with two or three children, the husband would one day appear in a festive manner, and claim his wife and children from their family, and carry them away to his own home with the full honors of a Coorg-wedding. Such unions were exempt from the influence of the common marriage-law.
This is perhaps a fit place for introducing an Alma.nda, house-tradition, calculated to give some idea of Coorglife two centuries ago.
Six generations ago, there was a woman called Doddi Auwa—the great lady—who lived at A.lmanda house, in the village of Armeri, which belongs to Beppunarfu. She was the mistress of the A/manrfa property, being the only child of rich parents. She was a woman of extraordinary size and strength of body. N or was she less distinguished by qualities of mind and character. Throughout the country, she was known as the wisest, the richest, the strongest of Coorg-women. Independent owner of a Coorg-estate, she was at liberty to choose a husband for herself. Her choice fell upon a man of the same clan, Uttacha, a son of the Mananrfa house. He was a good sort of a husband, but much inferior every way to his great wife. Perhaps she had chosen him for this very reason. His place in the house was rather that of Head-servant, than of Husband and Master. Every year the people of Arrneri used to send a Caravan to Irkur, in the low country near Cannanore, to fetch salt. At other times Caravans, carrying rice to the coast, would start from Armeri during the dry season. On such occasions Doddi Auwa would herself attend to every thing, put the cattle in readiness, prepare provisions, and at last accompany her husband and his oxen to the place of meeting, appointed for the whole train from the village. On parting, she would recommend her husband and his beasts to the kind offices of the best men in the Caravan, and return home to her great house and her large business. Often, when husband or servants appeared too slow in loading the oxen, she would bid them step aside, and taking the double sacks quietly with both hands, lay them softly and evenly upon the backs of the cattle. She was famed equally for wisdom and honesty.
Also Mudduraya, who ruled Coorg in her time, respected and reverenced her, and often, on coming to Beppunarfu, he stopped to have a talk with Doddi Auwa of Almanda house. In the course of time Doddi Auwa became mother of four daughters. But to her great grief no son was granted her, to succeed to the Almanda property. When the daughters came of age, she gave them in marriage to sons of neighbouring landholders. The eldest became the wife of a member of the Palekanefa family, the second married into the P&la.nda. house, the third was given to the Amnichanda family. The youngest, by a general agreement of the Chiefs, was also given to the Palekaw/a house, but, as heiress of the Almanda property, she had to give her sons, if she bore any, to her mother. This daughter, the DODDI AUWA. CUSTOMS. 35
youngest, bore four sons in succession. Of these, the two eldest were brought up by their grand-mother Doddi Auwa at Almanda. The name of one was Timmaya, that of the other Machu. Machu had a son Ayappa, whose son was Bollu, the father of Stephanas, the first Coorg Christian.
DOMESTIC CUSTOMS OF THE COORGS.
The long and unrestricted peaceful intercourse with the inhabitants of the low-countries, by which the Coorgs are surrounded, has had great influence upon their character and even their family-life. In some respects this influence has been for good, in others for evil. The unfortunate marriage-system, explained above, bids fair to give way before the nobler principles established among the majority of Hindu Communities concerning matrimony, while on the other hand drunkenness, no more repressed, but rather encouraged by the ruling powers, is acknowledged to be on the increase, the more so, as there is a kind of free-trade in intoxicating beverages, carried on most thrivingly in addition to the Government-licensed shops.
The marriage-customs of the present day present a curious mixture of old and new rites, fashions, and notions.
In ancient times, it would seem, the marriage festirities had a peculiarly communal character. On some great day a family would call together the whole grama (village), that is all the families of one of the ricevalleys, girt with farmhouses, to a feast. The youths would have their ears pierced by the carpenters for earrings, and the maidens had rice strewn upon their heads. This was in those days called the marriagefeast. The whole community feasted together, and the young people were now at liberty to go in search of husbands and wives.
In the low-country the piercing of the ear is generally performed by the gold-smith, except in out-ofthe-way-places, where a goldsmith is not to be found. In such a case another branch of the trade-fraternity, smith or carpenter, may act for the brother-goldsmith. In Coorg the carpenter has the exclusive privilege of piercing the ears for ornaments.
The girls have their ears pierced in early childhood. When they come of age, the ceremony of putting on their heads some corns of rice is a token of their being free to marry.
The present marriage rites of Coorg, especially in Kigghttrikdu, where bride and bridegroom are welcomed together by the relatives and fellow-villagers of both parties, and sit together on the wedding-chair, resemble the common fashion of the Hindus much more, though they have not yet conformed altogether.
Young persons under sixteen years of age are, I am told, not married in Coorg. Exceptions from this wholesome rule are very rare. May the Coorgs ever be preserved from the misery of children's marriages.
A young Coorg, when about to marry, has first to obtain the consent of his father or of the head of the family. This affair being settled, the Aruva of the house is taken into the marriage-council. He has to speak to the Aruva of the family, to whom the desired bride belongs. These Aruvas hold an important office among the Coorgs. They act as representatives, counsels, guardians of families and individuals on the great occasions of life. On a certain day the Aruva of the bridegroom in spe, accompanied by his father or elder brother, goes to the house of the young woman, who is to be asked in marriage. They speak to the Aruva and to the Head of the house. A favorable answer being returned, the whole house is carefully swept and a lamp is lit. Some families, affecting new
COORG WEDDING. 37
fashions, at this time call in the Astrologers to see, whether the stars of the new couple will agree together or no. Where no horoscope has been taken, the Astrologers, never at a loss, find the stars by the names of the parties! It is to be supposed, that the wise men will generally return acceptable answers. However, this part of the marriage-proceedings is evidently an innovation. The old way is, to light a lamp in the newly swept house; when the two Aruvas, with the Heads of the respective families, sit down before it, (the bridegroom's Aruva and father, or elder brother, on one side, the bride's representatives on the other,1) and shake hands together, in token of an inviolable contract having been concluded, in the presence of the Divinity of the house, for as such the light appears to be considered. Such engagements, I am informed, are never broken. After the above ceremony the season for the wedding is agreed upon. It is often put off for half a year, sometimes for a twelve-month. When the time approaches, the Astrologers' counsel is Asked for the choice of a propitious day. The rela tives of the bride and the bridegroom are invited to the respective houses ten days before the wedding. Under the superintendence of the Aruvas they engage in the necessary preparations. The members of the respective families themselves are not expected to join in these labors. On the last day before the marriage all the families of the villages of the bride and bridegroom are summoned. Each house must send at least one male and one female representative. Now the wedding-sheds are finished; pigs are slaughtered and dressed; rice and vegetables are prepared against the wedding-day. The whole company thus working together, join also in a good dinner provided for their guests by the principal parties of the festive occasion. The Aruva of each house acts throughout as Master