Everybody gasped in astonishment when Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar had 19 children and made a TV show about it. But the Duggars have nothing on Ziona Chana, an Indian man who works as a carpenter and who happens to have 39 wives and 94 children. (although – granted, not 94 children from the same mother, so Michelle can still feel proud).
Here is a picture of Ziona Chana’s family, the biggest family in the world.
In addition to his 94 children, Ziona Chana has 33 grandkids and 14 daughters-in-law. And everybody lives in a giant house in Baktwang village, located in the state of Mizoram, India. The house has 100 rooms, 4 stories, and Chana’s wives sleep in huge communal dorms in the house.
Polygamy is illegal in India for Hindus, but is legal for Muslims. Chana, however, has created his own sect, called, naturally, the Chana Pawl (a sect named after his father Challian Chana, formed in 1942). The sect is Christian in nature, and while we can’t find any information on the legality of multiple marriage in India for Christian-based sects, nobody seems to mind. (Ziona has been compared to Solomon, the king of ancient Israel who had 39 wives.) The history of the Chana Pawl goes back 70 years, where his older brother Khuanga began a Christian revival movement. Ziona took over after Khuanga’s death. Chana says that there is no difference between his sect and other Protestant demoninations (most Mizos are Christian Presbyterian). Lalrinthanga, a sect member, said:
“Where we differ is putting into practice what the Gospel tells us, like charity, hard work, honesty, helping thy neighbours, simplicity and equality. We also have a very strong Mizo influence in everything we do, unlike other churches where Mizo cultural practices have made way for Western-style rituals.”
Ziona Chana and the rest of his sect were banished from their old village and they eventually settled down in Baktawng village. Since cultivating the land in this area was difficult, they decided to go into furniture making and the manufacture of aluminium utensils, which has been successful for them.
The state of Mizoram is said to have at least 80 religious sects. The Chana sect now numbers at least 400 families, and thousands of followers. Ziona lives with his large, extended family in the giant mansion-like home called Chhuanthar Run (“House of the New Generation”). Chhuanthar Run has its own school, a playground, carpentry workshops, farms, and a massive garden. The women of the family spend many hours making dinner, which usually requires the work of plucking 30 chickens, peeling 132 pounds of spuds and boiling up 220 pounds of rice.
Ziona, who likes to have 8 of his wives waiting on him during the day, keeps his younger wives closer to his bedroom at night. So which wife sleeps with him? They all do – in turns. Ziona’s eldest wife Zathiangi, 69 years old, delegates all the daily duties to the other wives and their daughters. Strangely enough, everybody gets along. One of the wives, Huntharn-ghaki, said:
“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.”
Says Parlian, Ziona’s oldest son:
“There are no disputes or disagreements in this house or in our sect. That’s because everybody adheres to rules laid down by Pu Chana and has imbibed the values of charity, understanding and forgiveness that he wanted us to. There is strict discipline.”
On Mondays, the family performs community service in the village. On Sundays, the Baktawng villagers pray at Hnam Thlan Run Pui (“House of the Chosen Ones”). Around July 21st, a 3 day celebration begins to commemorate Ziona’s birthday.