Succession: family of man who died leaving 39 wives and 94 children seeks new head

Ziona Chana, leader of a sect founded in 1942, was said to have had the world's largest family

FILE PHOTO: ATTN EDITORS: IMAGE 17 OF 51 OF PICTURE PACKAGE '7 BILLION, 7 STORIES - THE WORLD'S LARGEST FAMILY'. SEARCH 'BAKTAWNG' TO SEE ALL IMAGES  Family members of Ziona (R) poses for group photograph outside their residence in Baktawng village in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, October 7, 2011. Ziona is the head of a religious sect called "Chana," which allows polygamy and was founded by his father Chana in 1942. Ziona has 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren. He lives in his 4 storey 100-room house with 181 members of his family. The world's population will reach seven billion on 31 October 2011, according to projections by the United Nations.   Picture taken October 7, 2011.  REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA  - Tags: SOCIETY)   FOR BEST QUALITY IMAGE: ALSO SEE  GF2E7BI0OV501/File Photo
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A man who had 39 wives, 94 children, and was said to be the head of the world's largest family died in north-east India, the chief minister of his home state said.

Members of his family, whom one local journalist has likened to millenarian organisation, are now deciding who will lead the massive cohabiting family.

Ziona Chana, 76, the head of a polygamist Christian sect, died on Sunday, Zoramthanga, chief minister of Mizoram, said in a tweet.

Ziona had a family of 167, including 33 grandchildren, which local media claimed was the world's largest.

However, Winston Blackmore, the leader of a polygamous Mormon sect in Canada, has about 150 children with 27 wives, or 178 people in total.

Ziona lived with his family in a vast, four-storey pink structure with about 100 rooms in Baktawng, a remote village in Mizoram.

The home became a tourist attraction, Zoramthanga said.

The sect, named Chana, was founded by Ziona's father in 1942 and has a membership of hundreds of families.

Ziona married his first wife when he was 17, and claimed he once married 10 women in a year.

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.

Despite his family's great size, Ziona told Reuters in 2011 that he wanted more.

"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."

Succession 

Ziona's passing has left the sect with the question of who will take over the day to day running of the family. Contrary to some reports, that role won't necessarily fall to his eldest son, Para Baktawng.

Following in his father's footsteps, Mr Baktawng has two wives and 11 children.

"The Church committee will decide if I will be the head of the sect. I can't decide that myself. That decision will be made in a few days. Our God permits us to marry more than one time because we are the disciples of God and he gives us the permission," he told The National.

Ziona's followers adhere to a distinct set of religious beliefs.

"They believe that they are going to be the ones who will be living in this world. They believe that this world will end and a new generation will come and that new generation will be their progeny," said J. Malsawmzuala, the news editor of Zonet, a local news channel.

"Chana Pâwl means the New Generation. The sect is restricted to the village and is gaining more and more members. They are all concentrated on one side of the village and have their own administration," he said.

"Ziona practiced polygamy and his eldest son has two wives but it is not known if other members too have multiple wives as well," he said.

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