Many would consider it an achievement of Biblical proportions!
With 39 wives and more than 120 children and grandchildren, all
staying together, a tribal Christian cult leader in the northeastern state of Mizoram could perhaps claim to head the
world's biggest family.
Not only that, Zionnghaka Chana, 67, is still keen to expand his
family by marrying a few more women.
"I can travel beyond the borders of Mizoram or even India to marry
as that would help me to expand my family," a beaming Zionnghaka
From a playground to a school and a church, the village of
Baktawng resembles any other tribal village but for the fact that
the community members belong to one single family of 181 members
-- 39 wives, 94 children, 14 daughters-in-law and 33
"We are all happy and like any other church we believe in the
existence of god but the only distinctive difference is that our
denomination allows us to marry more than one wife," said
Nunparliana, one of Zionnghaka's sons.
The family is part of a Christian cult called Channa, named after
Zionnghaka's father Challianchana who died in 1997. The cult,
founded by Challianchana some time in the early 1930s, is now
spread over four generations and boasts of having some 1,700
Challianchana was believed to have had 50 wives, with Zionnghaka
being the eldest of his many children -- there is no count
available of the number of children Challianchana had.
Perched at a hilltop, the 100-room four-storeyed building they
live in is as unique as the family - the youngest wife sleeps near
to Zionnghaka's bedroom. There is a rotation system among the
wives to share his bedroom.
Most of the community members are today known across Mizoram for
their skills in carving out wooden furniture and pottery items.
The circumstances leading to the establishment of the cult are as
bizarre as the traditions and practices followed by the Channa
sect, whose ancestors worshipped a traditional drum called the 'Khuang',
until the arrival of the Welsh missionaries.
"The Welsh missionaries banned the worship of the Khuang. Upset
over this, my grandfather Challianchana and his brother severed
ties and founded this sect whom we call either Channa or the Lalpa
Kohhran," another community member said.
But church leaders, Presbyterian being the dominant denomination,
reject the cult's claims to be Christians.
"Christianity does not allow polygamy and hence accepting the cult
as Christian does not arise at all. Polygamy is very rare in
Mizoram," said a Presbyterian Synod leader in Mizoram capital
There are an estimated 95 Christian cults in Mizoram with diverse
practices -- some of them do not allow their children to mingle
with others and attend school, while some of the sect claim their
members to be gods.
A predominantly Christian tribal state of just over one million
people bordering Myanmar and Bangladesh, Mizoram is India's third
highest literate state, next only to Kerala and Lakshwadeep.
Christians account for about 88 percent of the population.
The Mizo tribal people were animists until two British Baptist
missionaries William Frederick Savidge and J.H. Lorrain first
landed in Mizoram some time in 1894.
Hussain can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)