Mizoram Ziona is said to be the head of the world’s largest family. He has an incredible 39 wives, 94 children, 14 daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren. That’s a total of 180 people in the family.
Here Is Mizoram Ziona’s Story
He lives in the Baktawng Tlanguam village of the Sercchip District in India. It is close to the borders of Bangladesh and Myanmar. The whole family lives in the same place and essentially under the same roof, which must be quite trying at times. See what his wives have to say about their unusual lifestyle, from their sleeping arrangements to what it’s like for 39 women to share the same husband.
He Is the Head of a Religion
Ziona’s upbringing wasn’t exactly what we’d consider “normal.” He was born in Baktawng to a religious family. In fact, his father founded his own Christian sub-faith known locally as “Chana Pawl.” Originally the faith was called Khuangtuaha Pawl because Ziona’s father had named it after himself, but it appears to have been too much of a mouthful for his followers and the contraction “Chana” quickly became standard usage everywhere.
Khuangthuaha was from the Hmawangkawn village nearby, but he and his followers had been forcibly evicted by the village headman who felt his new faith was dangerous to others.
Chana Pawl Has Very Distinct Beliefs
According to its followers, the origin of Chana Pawl is rooted in the 1,000 years spent on earth by Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation, chapter 20. Its largest religious festival is the “Bawkte Kut,” which roughly translates as the “Festival of the Hut” and it takes place on June 12 each year to celebrate the founding of the movement.
One facet of the Chana Pawl religion should be abundantly clear from looking at Ziona’s family; polygamy is formally encouraged for its followers. It’s not a hugely popular religion though, and there are only 2,000 followers in total.
Ziona’s Marriages Are Not Planned
You might thank that a man with 38 wives would have some sort of plan as to when he gets married (and to whom he gets married), but Ziona is quite happy to disabuse people of that notion. He points out that he married 10 different women in a single year, and that rather than seeking out relationships with these women, they come to him.
He says that women are drawn to him from the poorer families in his village and they come in search of a better, richer life. Given the levels of poverty in that part of India, this is entirely possible.
You don’t have to take Ziona at face value for his benevolence. His wives, unlike in some more sinister religious groups, are completely free to talk about their experiences as part of the largest family on earth.
His wife Rinkmini says that she wasn’t forced to marry Ziona, but that he began pursuit of her when they were both out for a morning walk in the village one day. When he came to ask for her hand in marriage, she was happy to agree. She told the Daily Mail, “He is the most handsome person in the village.”
The Family Has a Good Reputation
You might be wondering if the state has any objections to Chana Pawl in the way that the American government has objected to polygamous cults in the past.
The truth is that the family is well-liked and well-established within their region of the world and rather than having concerns about their behavior, the local government appears to be quite in favor of it. The local rural development minister R. Lalzirilana said, “They’re very good craftsmen and very enterprising. They’re also reputed to be honest.” Which is a fairly ringing endorsement from a government official in India.
Ziona Says He Is Blessed
While there’s a good chance that most people would prefer to have fewer than 38 spouses, Ziona feels that he has been blessed and has said, “Today I feel like God’s special child. He’s given me so many people to look after.”
His followers are also happy with the arrangements. C. Lalringthanga, whose daughter is married to Ziona, says that the whole family is dedicated to “diligently practicing the values the gospel tells us — like honesty, hard work, helping the neighbors, simplicity, and equality.” Ziona’s family may be a cult due to their religious nature and the small number of followers, but they don’t appear to be a danger to themselves or anyone else.
Managing the Family Is Not Always Easy
Ziona says, “I consider myself to be a lucky man to be the husband of 39 women and the head of the world’s largest family,” but even he would have to admit that managing all these people makes for some fairly unusual arrangements in the home.
If you have 180 people under your roof, you can’t do what most families do and make things up as you go along, you need strict routines to ensure that everyone’s needs are met and that this happens in a timely fashion. So the day-to-day logistics of family life are more like a military operation than a traditional family home.
Everyone Gets a Daily Chore
The family’s two “managers” are Ziona himself and his first wife Zathiangi. Each morning they get up before dawn and their job is to determine what must be done in the family home that day.
Once they’ve agreed on the details between them, every wife in the family is then summoned and given her instructions for the day. They will all be involved in ensuring that the home runs smoothly and in a way that’s beneficial to the whole family. There’s no chance of any details slipping past Zathiangi who, despite being in her 70s, is still as smart as a whip according to the other wives.
It’s An Early Start To Home Life
The area of India which the family lives in is quite rural and thus along with rural families everywhere, they like to get an early start on the day as the sun comes up.
Most days the family will all be out of bed by 5:50 a.m. and they will have a few minutes to rub the sleep out of their eyes as they are assigned their chores. Then they will all get together for an act of prayer before beginning the day properly. They work together throughout the day, finally stopping for a rest in the early evening over a large communal meal.
Meal Times Are Extraordinary
180 people need a lot of food to sustain themselves. If you think your weekly grocery bill is excessive, then you might want to think of Chana Pawl next time you go shopping and breathe a sigh of relief.
A single meal at Ziona’s house can require more than 100 pounds of rice. They also consume over 44 pounds of pulses. The family is not vegetarian either, and they’ll usually get through 77lbs of meat or so with each meal, too. As you can imagine, cooking takes a lot of effort and preparation and the washing up isn’t a quick task either.
They Really Do Share a Single Roof
The entire family really does live under a single roof which is something outsiders find hard to believe. They have built their own home on the mountainside near the village. It has four stories and over a hundred rooms inside its enormous walls. However, we’re not entirely certain that the building would pass a building code inspection elsewhere and it doesn’t appear to be entirely safe.
Ziona’s wives do not have their own rooms, but rather they all share a group of communal bedrooms. Presumably, this encourages them to bond with each other and reduces rivalry between them.
There’s No Jealousy, but There Is a Schedule
Ziona’s wives’ communal bedrooms are essentially dormitories with rows of beds. Ziona himself, however, is not to be found sleeping alongside them in their dorm rooms. As you might expect, as head of the family, Ziona has his own private bedroom and it contains a single double bed. Ziona does not expect his wives to all come to his marital bed at once.
In fact, they all work on a rotation system where each wife is given a week of bedroom time with Ziona before the next wife moves into the bedroom and the other returns to the dormitory. The wives insist that none of them feels jealousy in this arrangement.
Each wife is given a number so that she knows her order of arrival within the family. However, apart from the first wife Zathiangi who assists her husband in chore allocation, no wife has any level of position above any other; they are all considered equals.
Lalruatkimi is wife number 18. She says, “Every wife, save for the post-menopause lot, gets to spend a week in Pu Ziona’s room. During this period, she takes care of all his needs.” Fortunately, she has left the concept of “all his needs” to our imaginations. The strange arrangements seem to work for everyone involved.
Wives Are Arranged in Age Order
While everything, so far, has seemed quite egalitarian with wives expressing their contentment with the arrangements and Ziona appearing to treat everyone equally, there is one aspect of their living arrangements which suggests that this might not be entirely true.
The youngest wives live closest to Ziona’s sleeping quarters. The older the wife, the further away from his room she is kept. Which suggests that Ziona has a pecking order of sorts even if it isn’t an official thing. The women, however, insist that these arrangements engender mutual love and respect for each other. So maybe, we’re overthinking this.
Child Care Goes with Experience
The oldest women in the family are assigned to childcare duties most days and no matter who is the mother of which child, the young ones will spend most of the day with their oldest step mothers. This is quite a common practice in rural India where grandparents will often take the greatest part of raising a child so that the younger parents can work.
The family also has a high demand for the services of midwives as new arrivals are constantly taking place and again the role of midwife will be played by one of the oldest wives. They’re pretty good at it too.
Parliana Speaks Up
If you think that amateur midwifery sounds kind of dangerous, the family would beg to differ and in fact, it’s a point of pride for them that they can handle jobs like these within the family.
One of Ziana’s sons, Parliana, went on record with The Times of India about this: “We don’t need any nurses or doctors at childbirth. Our womenfolk have enough experience and no woman in this house has suffered from any sort of complications during or after delivery.” A 100% successful record of complication-free births is not to be sneezed at; most hospitals wish they could say the same.
The Family Takes Care of All Its Own Needs
One of the key things that keeps the Chana Pawl respectable in the eyes of all those around them is their dedication to taking care of all of their own needs. The family prides itself of self-sufficiency, and while the household chores are a big part of everyone’s day, that’s not the only work that they have to attend to.
They own and manage several local farms and they grow and harvest all their own food crops. The children are also educated in a purpose-built school by other family members. They are a family which believes in the value of education.
There May Be More Wives Coming
Ziona is now in his 70s, and you might think that he’d be ready for a quieter life, but he says that’s not really in his plans. What he’d really like are a few more wives to join his clan.
He’s quite interested in adding someone more exotic to the family next time and says he’s ready to travel to meet the 39th special lady in his life, “To expand my sect, I am willing to go even to the U.S. to marry.” Who knows? Maybe he’ll get lucky and an American woman will invite him over?
They Made It into Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
The world’s largest family isn’t quite as strange as you might expect when looking from the outside in, but they’re not exactly a commonplace occurrence either. That’s what got the family featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! In fact, they’ve been on the lists twice. The first time they appeared was in 2011 when they made the “Top 11 strangest stories for the year.”
Then in 2013, they appeared in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Book Number 9. What comes next for Ziona and his family? Only time will tell. We wish them luck and happiness and hope that you will too.