Sunday, May 13, 2007

GAUNA - What is it?

I was shocked the other day when a good friend of many years was explaining 'the Gauna practice of bhayyas' (as he called it) to all other friends on mail (since its difficult in Mumbai to personally meet friends) who were ignorant of the same.

According to him : It means when the husband is in Mumbai (or away) he still get's a good news from him wife in native place...... The frequency of such kind of practices has increased now. (exact words). Later he went on to explain how a boy of 17 yrs in his previous organisation was married in April 2006 and granted a leave of 7 days only. After that in November he went back to his village for a 'ceremony' since his wife was 2 months pregnant !

I did not comment on this issue cause we were already having a parallel debate on the influx of 'bhayyas' and 'biharis' in Mumbai and had our own strong opinions (will write something on the same soon- keep watching this space!). And this was a sensitive topic requiring detailed explanation without hurting anyone.

I had heard of Gauna when I was in school. I was born and brought up in a Cosmo colony. We had people from various regions residing there. There were many transferees too. There was a traditional Hindu bhayya family -the Sharmas, who had gone to the village to get their daughter married, but came back with their daughter, who continued to stay with her parents. My Mom asked her mother and was told that her Gauna had not taken place. Thats why she was still with them. The girl's Gauna was to be held a year later. She was in college then. We had earlier also heard of the same practice from another Northern family (not bhayyas).

If you have still not understood what Gauna means, let me explain. In many parts of the Northern states like UP, Bihar and interiors of Rajasthan, there has been the tradition of 'child marriages' since olden days. Once upon a time it was quite widespread. There might have been various reasons why girls and boys were married off even before reaching puberty. Maybe the people that time thought that it was better to tie them up before they grow up and divert their mind towards other females or run away or marry someone other than their (parents') choice. Or maybe, it was their way of acknowledging and carrying forward friendship/ relationship between two families which knew each other well. Whatever was the reason, we all know that child marriages have not been uncommon to the Northern states. But though child marriages took place, the elders very well knew that the newly weds were not mature enough to take on the responsibility of a family nor enter into parenthood, with both even not having reached puberty in many cases. That is why they started the practice of 'Gauna'. So even though the marriage takes place, the girl continues to stay at her parents house for some years till she is sensible enough. The actual 'bidaai' / 'vida' (farewell ceremony from parents house) takes place only after some years. And this ceremony is called 'Gauna' in the North. That is the time the 'actual marriage' takes place and girl goes to her husband's house. It's not what my dear friend thought !

Let us understand the various cultures around us before we come to conclusions about other cultures and end up misunderstanding communities. Often we form biases about people and such differences leads to hatred to small fights to terrorism and later Wars! Its like calling all Muslims- terrorists. Thinking that all Goans are 'bewdas'. It's like saying all Mumbai girls are 'bindaas'. That all Europeans are 'free-for-all'. Something like that.

As for 'Gauna', the practice is slowly fading away as marriage age is increasing. But still some people practice it as formality where there is a gap of at least one year between marriage and Gauna. In modern educated families, trying to keep with the tradition, they have the 'Gauna' on the same day of marriage.

The research on population trends is available in JSTOR (, an online journal archive made available to researchers through participating libraries and institutions. There is an article on The Age at Marriage in India (S. N. Agarwala) Population Index, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Apr., 1957), pp. 96-107doi:10.2307/2731762 ( This article consists of 12 page(s). According to the research done by them, it shows that though the marriage age in North is lower than South, the age of motherhood is approximately the same. And that's because of the practice of Gauna.

Now the mystery of 2 months pregnancy still remains in my friend's office staff case. That, dear friend/s, many simpleton men fail to understand the difference betweeen 2 months or 7 months. And this one was a village bumpkin. I have seen even men in cities who are ignorant of such things. And people from villages, who are kept away from information of menstruation etc would not know much. Many people (who are not very educated or illiterate) have half baked knowledge from hearsay and flaunt it. But the facts remain unchanged. They're ignorant. Even in this case, the boy from my friend's ex -company went to attend a ceremony in November (which is exactly 7 months) from April. And we all know that in India, a ceremony is held in the 7th month of pregrancy called 'Godh Bharai' (baby shower) or also known by other names. Maybe the same was in this fellow's case also. But exceptions are also possible :) But then we can't talk about that because everyone's respect and dignity is his/her own. We can't get into yellow journalism here!
Pic courtesy :


noma said...

this is a real shame for all indians....i mean education has reached its peak in the world today but still these meaningless things are being practiced...i recently saw a documentary and came to know that such shamefull acts are still being performed in areas of rajasthan...this was shocking for me..not nly child marriage but sati too is a matter of concern for the indian government...

Country Mouse said...

Thanks for your post which I found on google. I am editing some stories written by an elderly Indian gentleman - and it is helpful to understand the terms used. I blog also - a gardening blog though. Best regards on your thoughtful entry!

kotus123 said...
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kotus123 said...
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kotus123 said...
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kotus123 said...

@Norma what so shameful in this? Why is that a shame for all Indians???
A 'Gauna' apparently prevents actual physical child marriage act or marriage consummation or the sexual act.
That is a sexual protection while securing a young persons need for personal love and a romantic connection with the other gender. I think it's wonderful practice.
Would you prefer children of 13/14 to get babies and have to leave school the way it is happening in Europe?
Or that kids of 13/14 start taking family planning / birth control pills?
Which is more shameful????
I am not IndIan and I found the explanations really informative and interesting - and no more and no less strange than European practices of all kinds.
For one thing in North Germany if a man is not married till the age of 30 he gets dressed in feminine colours) and goes to town centre with friends and family. There he carries a tray with feminine articles (bangles, hair clips, lipstick etc) and tries to sell them till the tray is empty. He is also dressed a bit like a girl so it's kind of a challenge a penenace a Vratam you might say. They believe that if this is done with humility and with belief the curse or barrier against him getting married will be lifted and he will be able to get married.
The first time I saw this was in L├╝beck and they said if a virgin kissed him then he would be relieved of doing the task and they would then marry - the man has to marry this saviour girl of his. The problem nowadays of course is that there are very very few virgins :-D
One student of mine said that he did this 'challenge' but no girl kissed and relieved him and at about 5.45 in the evening when the time for this ritual was almost over, some relatives had got their 12/13 year old daughter to kiss him so that the curse would be over. He said that some years later before he got married he did go back to the relatives and formally offered marriage to that young girl as per the custom through her father and got that family's permission to marry someone else.
I have seeen in Hannover a young man sweeping the church steps on which friends and family had out a lot of straw etc. This was also on his 30 birthday.
So other cultures follow their own customers and sometimes laugh about them but still believe enough to do them nevertheless.
Why should we be ashamed to be ourselves???
You suffer from lack of self confidence if you do.
Be strong and be yourself - an Indian proud to be Indian!