For many people, getting married and having children is a logical next step on the road to growing up. It’s not an easy path to go down, but the rewards of starting a family of your own can be infinite.
Around the world, marriages can happen in very different ways. In some countries, the couples do not meet until the day of their wedding itself, in some cultures men take more than just one wife. It all depends on what you believe. For one man in India, his faith has led him to make some pretty surprising choices when it comes to starting a family. His name is Ziona, and at 67 he is thought to have the largest family in the world…
For most people, marriage is a lot of hard work, and those people typically only are married to one other person! For a man in a tiny village in India, marriage is so easy that he can’t stop doing it. He has 39 wives, 94 children, and 33 grandchildren!
His name is Ziona, and he and his enormous family all live under just one roof! Ziona was born in 1945 in the village of Baktawng. As you can imagine, Ziona’s upbringing was far from ordinary. His father was the founder of the Christian sect “Chana Pawl.”
Chana Pawl was first established by Ziona’s father in 1942. Today the unique sect has more than 2,000 followers, who all live in the village of Baktawng Tlangnuam. The Chana Pawl are famous for their skills at woodworking, but more famous for their practice of polygamy.
The sect takes polygamy very seriously, and Ziona and his brides lead by example. In the past year alone Ziona married 10 more women! None of the women are forced into the unions; in fact, many are happy to accept his proposals because the brides-to-be often come from destitute families.
While their relationships might be unconventional, Ziona and his wives each dated and courted in a traditional fashion. His wife Rinkmini says that he pursued her after spotting her in the village one day. She was flattered. “He is the most handsome person in the village,” she said.
At 67, Ziona has developed a reputation for having the largest family living together under one roof on planet Earth. Looking at this picture, it’s an easy claim to believe! Imagine the family reunions?
For many people, the idea of raising all of these children and taking care of all of these wives might seem totally overwhelming, but Ziona takes to it like he was born to mind them all. “Today I feel like God’s special child. He’s given me so many people to look after,” he said.
“I consider myself a lucky man to be the husband of 39 women and head of the world’s largest family,” said Ziona. However, running a family of this size is no small feat. In fact, in order to keep everything in order Ziona relies on military tactics.
Ziona relies on his first wife, Zathiangi, to help him. Every day she assigns each wife one chore to do around the house. Zathiangi may be in her 70s but she is spry and dedicated, and she always make sure everyone has something to do.
Because so many people make up the family, they get up early, say their morning prayers and start working by no later than 5:50 a.m. every single day. They work all day long, breaking in the early evening for a meal enjoyed together as a family.
As you can imagine, cooking dinner up for this giant group is no small feat. In just one meal the family can eat 100 pounds of rice, 44 pounds of legumes, and 77 pounds of meat. Here you thought your family went through a lot of groceries!
When your family is this large, the average home just won’t do. Ziona built this home on the side of a mountain with space for everyone. The house contains more than 100 rooms, including giant communal bedrooms for all his wives.
Though the women sleep together in shared dorm-like spaces, Ziona himself has a private room with a large bed. Each one of his wives gets to spend one week sharing Ziona’s room and bed with him. It sounds tricky, but the wives claim there is no jealousy.
“Every wife, save for the post-menopause lot, gets to spend a week in Pu Ziona’s room,” Lalruatkimi, wife number 18 said. “During this period, she takes care of all his needs.” Aw, don’t post-menopausal wives need love too?
To make things easier for himself, Ziona places the younger wives in dormitories that are closer to his own bedroom, while his older wives have rooms that are further away. It sounds like a situation designed to breed hostility but Ziona insists that his wives all love and respect each other.
The older women who can no longer produce children tend to act as midwives and nursemaids for the children the younger wives produce. With a family like Ziona’s that is constantly growing, it is nice to see how much they look out for each other.
“We don’t need any nurses or doctors at childbirth,” Ziona’s son Parliana proudly shared. “Our womenfolk have enough experience and no woman in this house has suffered from any sort of complications during or after delivery.”
The family prides itself on being self-sufficient. They grow their own food, working the farmland themselves. They also have a school on their property where all of the children receive a quality education. They are a village unto themselves!
With a family this size, you might think that Ziona is all set for new brides, but although he is now 67 he has not ruled out the possibility of adding more wives and children to his happy family. “To expand my sect, I am willing to go even to the U.S. to marry,” he said.
As of now, Ziona has not announced an heir who will lead the family after he passes on. Hopefully this family’s unity can survive losing their patriarch and continue on practicing their faith and harmonious way of living even after he has left this earth.
While the life Ziona has chosen for himself and for his family might be unconventional, it is one that makes both him and his family very happy. Isn’t it fascinating to learn how other people live?