Courtship and Marriage
As in the Myanmar villages, the time for the young men of the Intha villages to go accourting is after dusk, around 7 p.m. or later, up to about 9:30 or 10 p.m. After an early dinner, the elder people retire to an inner room to rest after a hard day’s work, while the maiden daughter sits out to enjoy the cool breeze on the veranda or by the side of an open window overlooking the lake waters.
The young men of the village then go along in their small boats to the house on stilts where the young lady of their choice sits waiting. And like Romeo and Juliet, except that the young man is standing on a boat on placid lake waters, they talk of their love, their plans, and inclinations, and get to know each other. These poetic encounters have given rise to the taik-te poetic songs sung or recited by the young men come and play the pa-lwe flute to the maiden of their choice. The maidens often entertain their young men with plain tea (without milk or sugar), local cheroot, letphet (pickled tea) and other delicacies.
The Intha elders do not condone elopements, and their daughters are free to choose the young men that they are going to marry.
When the suitor is accepted by the young lady, he will usually give her a little present, a token of his love, in the form of a ring or a necklace.
The young man’s family usually also gives some silver or something which the couple can later use for their household as a kind of bride-price, though it is never high or exorbitant.
The marriage ceremony is a simple affair usually held in the bridegroom’s or the bride’s house or in a house where the couple is going to live. A village elder acts as the master of ceremonies.
Two couples with an unbroken marriage, and married for a long time, bring some gold, silver and other precious things which are put into a silver bowl. A special rice-cake ma-ywe called pauk-cho is eaten as well as rice and curries. Friends and relatives come to witness the ceremony but as it is held in a house, not many are invited.
Like Myanmar, they have the custom of barring the newlywed couple with gold or silver chains and the couple or a relative has to pay some money to go past these symbolic barriers. Sometimes the boat on which the newlyweds are going to leave is locked up until it is retrieved on payment of a small charge. If the bride is from another village, the bridegroom has to pay a fee to bring her to his village.
After the marriage ceremony, for seven days the couple has to go around by boat to their relatives, in different villages on the lake, to pay respects, especially to elderly relations.
The family is strong, as it is all over Myanmar. The women are free to go about, do business, weave or help with the cultivation, only they do not fish or plow, a job left to their menfolk. Actually, there is not much land to plow as it is only on the edges of the lake and on some islands that there is enough land available for rice planting.