October 24th, 2008
02:42 PM ET

Is two a marriage and three a crowd?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/23/art.sara.india.jpg caption="Kundar Singh Pundir, left, and his brother Amar, right, share Indira Devi, centre, as their wife."]
Sara Sidner
CNN Correspondent

I’m not sure we’ll make it. The one-lane, winding mountain road is riddled with landslides every few hundred feet. I am not afraid of heights but being smothered by mud and rocks is another matter.

It is rainy season and driving up 6,000 feet to a remote village in north India’s Himachal Pradesh state isn’t a well-timed idea. We do it, anyway; news deadlines and type-A personalities have a way of driving you forward even when the situation is a bit precarious.

We are not alone. We are sharing the pot-holed roads with huge trucks filled with rocks from a nearby mine, buses filled with people and herds of goats that wander across the road.

After two hours of sickeningly bumpy, slippery terrain we stop. We are almost there. Yes!

We have to walk the rest of the way. We grab about 40 pounds worth of gear and drag it through the streets.

There is a member of a non-governmental organization with us who insists on carrying some of it; we accept. Usually my photographer insists on shouldering the load, but today his back is saved the 20-minute walk into the village.

The village of Dugana is located in a remote spot. It is precariously positioned on the side of a very steep hill range. There is no room for bicycles and even less for cars to carry people and things. These are two-person, not two-car lanes.

We finally make it. The view from here is stunningly beautiful. You can almost touch the clouds drifting by. The hills stretch out in front of you like something out of a travel guide.

As an outsider the homes seem peculiar and quaint at the same time; I have to get in one. They look like doll houses on stilts and are built with tiny windows just big enough for a human head.

The villagers pop their heads out as we walk by. We are strangers and an unusual sight. I can’t help but stare back. I’m as interested in them as they are with me.

Now to why we made the eight-hour drive from Delhi: this village is still practising a very old tradition and we wanted do a story on it.

It won’t be easy. No matter where we travel in India we draw crowds. It is not us, it is the camera. There is no such thing as a private interview in a village setting. In this case the subject matter is of a very private nature. Still we can’t catch a break. People peer through the windows or circle around the camera to hear and see what is going on.

We begin while the crowd stares and listens.

Our subject? Polyandry: the practice of one woman marrying several husbands. It is custom here to marry several brothers (fraternal polyandry).


Filed under: 360° Radar • Sarah Sidner
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Melissa, Los Angeles

    It makes sense why it's done there for economic reasons as well as survival.

    It's funny to read Cindy's comment since she's only thinking through her Republican Christian Western mind. Yes there are other civilizations much different then ours which we cannot judge. The west has romanticized marriage and love when parts of the world use marriage more as a business deal for survival.

    October 24, 2008 at 4:15 pm |
  2. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    How very interesting! I am not familiar with fraternal polyandry but it could possibly be every woman's fantasy. No that I would ever do that!
    I can't wait to see the report and how they all get along!
    I am fasinated!
    Thanks for doing the hard work to bring us this report.

    October 24, 2008 at 4:08 pm |
  3. Cindy

    HMM...I've heard of a man having more than one wife but a woman being made to have more than one husband is a first! I can't see how they think this is so great. And that poor woman has to do all of those chores plus take care of kids and her husbands. Good God I don't see where she can have time or even want anything sexually to do with the men!

    I'll try to check this out for sure when it airs.


    October 24, 2008 at 3:16 pm |
  4. MPalalay (California)

    I first learned about polyandry, a form of polygamy, in my high school sociology class. What is "weird" or "incestuous" in some cultures are simply a matter of survival, economics, and tradition for some.

    Lesson: There is a world out there that does not revolve around western, Puritan values. Not a whole new world, just a completely different world. We have to respect that. If not, simply acknowledge it–as citizens of the world...like we would our neighbors whether we like them or not.

    October 24, 2008 at 3:06 pm |
  5. Roweena D'Souza, Seattle

    Polyandry as I've heard is usually common only in Nepal and Tibet, but then where you are is not too far from those places.

    Of course polygamy is more popular! even among common folk with no cultist or religious affiliations... however a woman having more than one husband is almost rare, as it is I believe one man is a handful!, not talking from experience.

    October 24, 2008 at 2:52 pm |

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