Piya Bose introduces you primitive courting practices will give modern day couples a serious complex in the dating department
The Free Spirited Valentine
In a world where pre-marital sex is considered taboo, a practice by Cambodia's Kreung tribe, is an anti thesis. Parents encourage teenage daughters to have physical relationships with multiple partners in special bamboo ‘love huts’ usually built on stilts, in the hope that they find true love. They believe this empowers women and the negligible cases of domestic violence bear witness to it. Earlier, a cocktail of crushed centipede mixed with alcohol served as a contraceptive, but now modern methods are used. Unfortunately, the invasion of modernity in the form of mobile phones and internet pornography has begun threatening this custom.
More reasons to visit Ranakiri: It is home to the Krueng tribe and other Khmer Lou minorities who follow traditional practices like sharing smoked meat and rice wine around a fire and apparently, still practice animism. It is is noted for the sacred 700,000-year-old, beautiful Yeak Laom, a volcanic crater lake in amidst a jungle setting with waterfalls, rivers and the Lumphat and Virachey National parks. You can shop for baskets with backstraps, gourd vessels like cups, bowls etc. and semi precious stones that are cut using primitive techniques.
The Gourmet Valentine
At the ‘Sister’s Meal Festival’ in China's Guizhou province, women of the Miao tribe cook sticky rice in different colours to denote various seasons of the year. They then roll up the rice in kerchiefs and hand them over to the suitors who wooed them. If the man finds two red chopsticks in his rice, the girl fancies him. If he finds one, the girl has politely turned him down. If he finds garlic or chilly, she has rejected him! If he finds a pine needle, she is still undecided and wants more gifts from him.
More reasons to visit Guizhou: Noted for beautiful karst landscape, cave networks, stilt houses, batik fabric and Mao Tai liquor, Guizhou is also known for the intricate stonework at its UNESCO heritage site ‘The Danxia Landform’. To know more about the Miao community and its unique marriage traditions you should visit the Guizhou Museum of Marriage Customs and Ethnic Minorities, during your trip there.
The Hunting Valentine
At Trashigang in eastern Bhutan, young men sneak into the room of an unmarried girl and spend the night with her in a practice called ‘Bomena’ or ‘Night Hunting’. If caught by the father, he would either have to marry the girl or work for free in the family’s fields or face arrest. While earlier, women had the ultimate say in accepting or rejecting an interested suitor, unfortunately it was misused later and became a breeding ground for molestation and increased the number of unwed mothers.
More reasons to visit Trashigang: It's worth checking out the imposing Trashigang Dzong or Fortress of the Auspicious Hill, which was built for protection against Tibetan invasions. Also worth visiting is the much-worshipped Gomphu Kora, said to have been reclaimed from demons by Guru Rinpoche. Adventure seekers can also trek in the neighbouring villages.
The Thorny Valentine
Every rose comes with thorns. No one knows this better than the young men of the Balinese village Tenganan, who fight and draw blood from each other with the bristly leaves of the ‘Pandanus plant’, to woo women during the Usaba Sambah festival. Meanwhile, unmarried girls choose their favourite man, sitting on a foot-powered ferris wheel that only stops once the men finish fighting. In another game, men also prove their stamina by balancing heavily laden coconuts (sometimes as many as 40) on a shoulder pole, while dodging a hail of flying bananas!
More reasons to visit Tenganan: Near the beaches of Candidasa, Tenganan is separated from the world by a stone wall and is home to the Bali Aga (original Balinese) community. They have retained the pre-Majaphit Balinese culture of animism and the tradition of worshipping the ancestor's soul. Worth buying here is the the local craft-work of double ikat cloths.
The Whistling Valentine
Each young couple of the Kickapoo tribe in Coahuila, Mexico, develops a secret whistling code and uses it to plan their evening date. First men build a fire at a popular spot after dusk and whistle to their lover to invite them to join. The girls whistle back their confirmation. The predecessor of this practice, about half a century ago, was the ‘Lover’s Flute’–each man had his own flute, creating unique tones, and played distinct melodies to serenade his lover, till she joined him. This custom has given way to coded whistling.
More reasons to visit Coahuila: It's a lush wine country with orchards, underground rivers, deserts and museums to ensure a great holiday for eco-tourists as well as adventure seekers.