Christian sect leader’s 39 wives refuse to bury him in case ‘he’s resurrected’

A Christian sect leader's 39 wives refused to bury him in case he's "resurrected".

They claimed father-of-94 Ziona's body was still "warm" a day after his death aged 76 on Sunday.

Grandfather-of-33 Ziona was the head of a 2,500-member Christian sect and his family was often said to be the world’s largest.

Loud wailing could be heard in neighbouring villages as his funeral finally went ahead in northeast India on Tuesday.

Spokesman for his sect, C Lalringthanga, said his family didn't feel ready to send him off on Monday as his body was still “warm”.

Journalist HC Vanlalruata, who made the family famous after reporting on them in 2011, told Vice: "His wives couldn’t accept his death.

“There was perhaps a belief that he might be resurrected.”

He added that Ziona was a “God-like” figure who made all the rules for his big family and polygamous sect called Pu Chana Pawl.

The Mizoram state website says the sect is a breakaway group of the Presbyterian Church, the majority religion among its 1.3m inhabitants.

A Washington Post report called Ziona a “kingmaker” in the region.

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The death of Ziona, also known as Zionghaka and Pu Ziona, marked the end of an era for his home village of Baktawng.

Lurid speculation has long surrounded what went inside the room's of his secretive family multi-storey home in the hilly state of Mizoram.

“Rumours such as wives taking turns to sleep with Ziona made their way to the media,” Vanlalruata said.

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“I never managed to interview him because he wasn’t talkative. Even his birthday speeches, which were lavish affairs with parades and celebrations, would have someone else address the crowd.

“The truth is, we will never know what happens in that house.”

Tourism flourished in the village and state after news of Ziona's family broke in 2011.

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Their lilac-coloured house has also served as a museum and his death was announced by the state’s chief minister.

The sect was founded by Ziona’s grandfather in 1942. As the eldest grandson, Ziona took over the sect in 1997.

While no formal announcements have been made, Vanlalruata said two of Ziona’s sons are being considered as his successor.

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Lalringthanga, a member of Ziona’s sect since 2007, said Ziona’s health started deteriorating about a week before his death.

“He didn’t have Covid,” he said, “but he started vomiting and had severe diarrhoea. By the time we took him to the hospital he had passed.”

Very little is known about Ziona beyond his famed polyamory.

He is said to have encouraged encouraged education, cleanliness and volunteer work within his sect.

Despite polygamy being outlawed in India for all religions except Islam in 1956, the family was spared legal problems.

Local politicians even visited Ziona to court the 200 votes controlled by the family.

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