Man with 39 wives

The Sun, UK/February 19, 2011

Talk about one BIG happy family.

The "Chanas" at No9 comprises 181 members - and none of them is on benefits.

Dad Ziona has 39 wives, 94 children, 14 daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren -- all living together under one roof.

Believed to be the biggest family in the world, home is a huge, 100-room, four-storey house where they sleep in dormitories.

And even then they have to go top-to-tail to fit.

Handily, head of the family, Ziona, 67, also runs his own sect - which allows multiple marriage.

He says he feels blessed to have so many of his brood living with him, adding: "Today I feel like God's special child.

"He's given me so many people to look after.

"I consider myself a lucky man to be the husband of 39 women and head of the largest family."

All the men of the family work as carpenters and Ziona says proudly: "We don't want any help from the government."

The super-dad once married ten women in a year.

The family's home is called Chhuanthar Run - which translates as "the house of the new generation" - in the hills of Baktawng village, in the Indian state of Mizoram.

It has its own school, a playground, carpentry workshops, piggery and poultry farms, paddy fields - and a vegetable garden big enough to feed the entire extended family.

Meal times are like feeding an army, with the women of the family spending hours making dinner.

A typical meal can see them plucking 30 chickens, peeling 132lb of spuds and boiling up 220lb of rice.

All the cooking is done over an open fire kept burning throughout the day.

Ziona's eldest wife Zathiangi, 69, delegates all the daily duties around the house to his other wives, their daughters and the daughters-in-law.

Every day there is a mountain of washing to get through - all done by hand.

Ziona, who is called "Ka pa" or simply Father by his family, married Zathiangi when he was just 17.

He is the hereditary leader of the Chana sect, who believe they will one day rule the world with Christ.

Named after Challian Chana, Ziona's grandfather, the sect allows the men to take as many wives as they want.

But when he was growing up, Ziona believed he would never marry, saying: "My father had seven wives and looking after them was a difficult task.

"When I saw him surrounded by women all the time it put me off. But my wish was not God's wish."

Now he shares his time between all 39 wives - having acquired his latest one as recently as last year.

He has the luxury of his own bedroom in the house - to which the wives are summoned in turn. The other 99 rooms are occupied by the rest of the family.

Although Ziona has his own large double bed, his wives have to make do sharing beds in dormitories.

Ziona likes to keep his younger wives nearest to him on the same floor as his bedroom - while his older wives sleep on the first floor of the house.

During the day he likes to have seven or eight wives with him all the time to wait on him hand and foot.

Rinkimi, 35, married to Ziona for 11 years, says: "We stay around him as he is the most important person in the house. Serving him is like serving God. He's the most handsome person in this village.

"I feel blessed to have him as my husband."

Wife Ngaihzuali, 37, adds: "He often calls out for me to apply oil to his hair as he only likes me to do the job. It makes me feel special."

She married Ziona 18 years ago and claims to be his favourite.

Mum to a 16-year-old son, she says Ziona fell in love with her at first sight. She explains: "He was out on his morning walk when he first saw me.

"He fell in love with me and wrote me a letter saying he wanted to marry me.

"He then came to my house to ask my parents' permission."

One of her co-wives, Huntharn-ghaki, insists all of Ziona's brides get along.

She says: "If a family system is laid on the founding stone of mutual and genuine love and respect for each and every member, then the system is guaranteed to be a success."

The younger wives are kept in order by Zathiangi.

She says: "Being the eldest in the family, I have to look after the management. I have been married to Ziona the longest, everyone in the family respects me. I take pride in looking after my husband and the family."

Ziona's eldest son Parliana, 50, says his father married so many wives so that he could look after them.

He insists: "Most of the women whom my father married were poor and orphan women of this village.

"By marrying them he has set an example in the history of mankind.

"He is not just the head of this house, but also the leader of about 4,000 people of the Chana sect.

"My grandfather moved to this village and established our community. Since then, my father has been carrying forward the legacy.

"A head count of all my brothers and sisters is a tough job. But all of us are happy and are having a secure life.

"By supporting him in his work, I feel closest to God."

Parliana himself is following in his father's footsteps, though he has a long way to go to catch up.

At present he has just two wives and 13 children.

Meanwhile, dad Ziona says that despite his advancing years, his marrying days are not over.

He explains: "To expand my sect, I am willing to go even to the US to marry."

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