Ukhundi- A Unique Khambu Tradition

Written by Pradip Khambu Rai
December 13, 2019

Unlike many traditions of the Indian sub continent (especially those of Aryan communities) not much is specified regarding daughters when they are married off. Kirati Khambu Mundhum however specifically ensures the comfort, safety and well being of our daughters even after they get married.

During the marriage of Kirati Khambus, the girl has to be officially given to the groom by a”dialogue” called Bagdatta which translates to “given by word of mouth”. By the means of this Bagdatta the bridegroom is accorded certain rights with respect to the bride, such as legitimacy of their offspring. Consequently she is separated (taken out) from her family Suptulung (Hearth Stones/Chula Dhunga).During this ceremony the ancestors and the protecting deities are requested not to follow the daughter henceforth.

When a Kirati Khambu Rai girl is married off, she has to be cared for by her husband. If he does not fulfill his responsibilities which lead to tensions in their married life, the family of the wife intervenes. They provide advice, suggestions or counseling to the married couple. If the couple still opts for separation, the man owing full responsibility of not abiding by his duties and obligations, has to pay a fine consisting of alcohol, victuals and money to the girl. This fine is considered to be helpful to purify the separation and the unbinding of the marriage and is called “Chokhauni” (Nepali ?).

The separated daughter has to be brought back to the family lineage or “Kul” with the help of Nakchhongs or Mangpas. The daughter is then reentered into the Suptulung and purified.This tradition is called Ukundi and is unuique only to the Kirati Rai society.Once Ukhundi is complete, the daughter is given a “unmarried” status in the family. .The offspring of the daughter can decide whether they want to be a part of their mother’s lineage of their father’s lineage.

Ukhundi ensures that a Kirati Khambu Rai daughter is never neglected by her family and birth parents. This system creates strong family bonds and therefore strengthens a tribe. In a world where Kirati customs today (ironically by Kirati youth) are viewed as barbaric, Ukhundi system is a testament to the beauty and morality of a culture.

Pradip Khambu Rai

Pradip Rai is a writer and researcher studying the ethnic culture and history of the Himalayan Tribes.

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