While the fortified city structures whisper in ashamed voices about sexuality, the deep forests of Chhattisgarh have passionately echoed these conversations since time immemorial. Premarital sex, a topic that raises brows of question and silences many, is a purely cultural practice amongst the Muria tribe. This tribe finds its home in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. This deeply recognised and rooted practice began with the phallic deity, Lingo Pen who provided the teens of Muria with a home of their own, called the Ghotul. Ghotul is a hut or group of huts made of bamboo or mud welcoming unmarried men and women of the tribe, celebrating intimacy. Word has it that Ghotuls are still protected by the invisible presence of Lingo Pen. While this culture is very transparent in its practice, the sanctioning of sexual attitudes by God almost sounds like an irony to those living beyond these woods.
Every evening, the genders delight and cherish each other’s presence by singing, dancing and teasing intimately. The sensual ambience of the Muria commune is kept alive with pleasing drum accents, food and wine as the youth sway to the music lusciously. As the evening transitions into night, the couples begin pairing and descending into the rooms. Under the pure light of the moon, nights are spent in indulgent conversations or with the sexually satisfying touch of two bodies.
These practices are a strange reality to the non-tribals for a youth’s movements are closely measured in India and providing them with such freedom almost seems unbelievable. Teen relationships are still not normalised, respecting them is a far dream. The utmost urban areas, their pride held high with their skyscrapers and modern infrastructure are seemingly open-minded in their approach but only a teen knows what happens behind those cemented high walls. Heavy expectations of a successful career surround the youth while any kind of private time or even a close friendship with the opposite gender is not accepted. However, for the Muria Tribe, Ghotuls are educational institutions for kids who acquire the age of 10, while the practice of sexual activity commences at the age of 18 for girls and 21 for boys.
Today’s youth is highly conscious of their feelings and relationships. Categorising sexualities has granted more space to every individual but identifying them comes with a lot of concern. Body and beauty standards to maintain the ‘hourglass figure’ and fair, spotless skin pressurise the youth. To change oneself for others’ liking and chase such unreal standards has become a part of teenage life these days.
Over a period, once the couple decides to marry, the man places a flower in the woman’s hair with her consent. With mutual consent, if the couple decides to tie the knot, the boy pays a sum of money to the girl’s family and it is ensured that neither of the families suffers financial loss. Such customs are always taken good care of, and so are issues like unwanted pregnancies where the woman isn’t left alone with the child but social norms are made to support her.
This works differently elsewhere in India, if a woman bears a child before marriage, it is immoral. She is blamed endlessly till she either gives her life or must kill her child. She is seen differently by her own loved ones and acceptance never finds her way.
Within the same country or rather some distance away from the woods, there exists such a difference of thought. Be it about how we perceive pre-marital sex or freedom in the youth age. There shall always be norms with such practices but what we can grant the youth of our country is a little more time and liberty to make the right choices by themselves. The customs of the Muria Tribe and the institution of Ghotuls cannot become a part of the larger Indian society but what we can learn from them is to help the teens to celebrate their age fully for it never comes again.