Indian man believed to have headed ‘world’s largest family’ dies

Ziona Chana, 76, headed a Christian sect that allowed polygamy for men in the northeastern state of Mizoram.

A photograph of the Chana family on January 30, 2011, in Baktawang, Mizoram, India [File: Richard Grange/Barcroft India/Getty Images]

An Indian man from the northeastern state of Mizoram, who is believed to have headed the “world’s largest family”, has died, officials said.

Ziona Chana, 76, who headed a Christian sect that allowed polygamy for men, has left behind 38 wives and 89 children.

The sect, called Chana Pawl, was founded by his father in 1942. It has about 2,000 members, most of them living in Mizoram’s Baktawang village.

Chana’s family members pose for a group photograph outside their residence in Mizoram state in this October 7, 2011, photo [File: Adnan Abidi/Reuters]

On Sunday, Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga announced Chana’s death on Twitter.

“With heavy heart, #Mizoram bid farewell to Mr. Zion-a (76), believed to head the world’s largest family, with 38 wives and 89 children,” he said.

Mizoram and Baktawng Tlangnuam have become major tourist attractions because of the family, the chief minister added.

A general view of Chana’s 100-room house in Mizoram [File: Richard Grange/Barcroft India/Getty Images]

According to officials, Chana, who also had 33 grandchildren, died on Sunday afternoon due to complications related to diabetes and high blood pressure, Indian media reports said.

“He was taken to a private hospital in another district and as per the reports received, he passed away today (Sunday),” Kumar Abhishek, the deputy commissioner of Serchhip district, told Anadolu Agency.

Chana’s wives and children taking part in a ceremonial evening prayer [File: EPA]

Lal Thanhawla, former chief minister of Mizoram and a senior politician from the Congress party, told Anadolu news agency Chana’s demise is a “very big loss to everyone”.

“The family is very disciplined and there are a lot of things to learn from them,” he said.

Chana married his first wife in 1959 when he was 17, reports said, and claimed he once married ten wives in a single year. His last marriage came in 2004 to a 25-year-old.

They shared a dormitory near his private bedroom, and locals said he liked to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times.

Polygamy is illegal under the Indian law. However, a few tribes in India’s northeast allow polygamy under their customary laws, which state authorities permit.

Chana’s wives and children during a ceremonial evening prayer [File: EPA]

According to reports, the large family lives in a pink four-storey house, called the “New Generation Home”. It has 100 rooms, with the wives sharing a dormitory near Chana’s private room.

The family was featured twice on the popular TV show Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, BBC news reported.

In 2014, the family also appeared in the advertisement of a leading dishwashing brand, according to India’s Hindustan Times newspaper.

Despite his family’s huge size, Chana told Reuters news agency in a 2011 interview he wanted to grow it even further.

“I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry,” he said.

“I have so many people to care for and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies