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The Notion of Dhuku

A tradition that might be shunned by the urban masses, is probably something that is a great space for anthropological and sociological study.


The burden of looking for a romantic partner has been delineated through the catalysing force of technology, the present generation often uses applications such as Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge to fulfil the desire of a loved one. The Western part of the world has often portrayed itself as a flagbearer of liberalism by introducing concepts as living relationships, although globalization of the world has escalated the process of acculturation, especially amongst the current generation. Often this process of acculturation creates a sense of inferiority in society, especially the tribal community, which had been often culturally attacked by the colonial masters for being backwardness in the sphere of socio-economic activities. Highlighting the societal framework of the tribal culture one must be aware of the idea of Dhuku, which caters for the idea of liberalism and allows Individuals to indulge in a tie which is as common as a live-in relationship.

Hence, one must be exposed to the historical significance of live-in relationships, which was not something alien to the Indian subcontinent. It is mostly deemed as a Western notion and not as something which has been present in India, the traces could be extracted from ancient times, it was known as Maitri-Karar which refers to an agreement between the two opposite sexes, in which consent has been taken by the two to live as a friend to share the burden among themselves.

Similarly, the Gandharva marriage (one of the eight Hindu marriages) also throws light on the concept of living relations, in which it mentions a man and a woman meet according to their accord and their relationship is consummated in copulation born of passion. Staying in a relationship does not provide social acceptance of their offspring in any ritual practices, it does not allow women to claim any legal right with their in-laws. It is a traditional practice in Jharkhand known as ‘Dhuku marriage’. It is a cohabitation of two opposite sexes which generally gets accepted by the village community and is also considered valid after the birth of a child.

Courtesy: The Hindu

The primary practice of this mode of live-in is very much prevalent in the tribal communities of Oraon, Munda, and Ho. Although passive exclusion can be visibly which gets created by a social barrier, such as the inaccessibility of traditional practices on children as well as on women, techniques such as getting a child’s nose and ear piercing which is one of the prominent rituals of the tribal tradition, but children born out of Dhuku are not allowed to do so. Women who enter into such ties are referred to as Dhukni and are not supposed to wear vermilion, Lack of financial accessibility also creates a mechanism of exploitation over women which gets incremented by social exclusion.

Although the status of a live-in relationship has been protected by the constitution of India, it comes under the ambit of the right of life enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian constitution, still, no legal protections are delivered to couples since they are constitutionally accepted but socially discarded by the society. The core reason for the perpetuation of the Dhuku practice is blamed on the socio-economic deprivation that has burdened a family for centuries, as mass majority of the tribal youths are employed in unorganized sectors such as daily wagers or in agriculture. Therefore, Dhuku seems a much more feasible option to get into a tie, rather than feeding the entire village.

Arpit Tirkey, having completed his Bachelor's in History from St. Stephen's College, is currently studying Development Studies at IIT-Guwahati. He is a scholar of the Indian historical landscape, economic history and structures, and tribal society. He plans to help and work for the tribal cause in the future, in sociological and economic aspects.

Sources: -

  • The Hindu





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