Dowry is derived from the ancient Hindu customs of ‘kanyadan’ and ‘stridhan’. In ‘kanyadan’, the father of the bride offers the father of the groom money or property, etc whereas for ‘stridhan’, the bride herself gets jewelry and clothes at the time of her marriage, usually from her relatives or friends. In Varadakshina’, the father of the bride presents the groom cash or kind. All of these could be done voluntarily and out of affection and love.
The Hindu marriage system is sacramental. According to this system, a marriage is forever and there is no scope for a separation. Among the various ceremonies previously practiced, the ceremony in front of a ‘godly’ fire (‘Yajna’ in Sanskrit) has taken over, the old-fashioned system of marrying a wife by capture.
This form of marriage began the practice of dowry, where originally, the family of the bride would accept gifts and money from the groom’s family as an alternative to bloodshed during the capture of the bride. A later modification of this system has paved way for the present dowry system primarily practiced by the society.
The dowry custom continues to rule our society. In majority of Indian families, the boy has legacy rights, while the girl is given a large sum at the time of her marriage in lieu of the government regulated equal rights for girls in parental property. Thus, dowry system has spread in almost all parts of the country and sections of society.
There are several reasons for the occurrence of the dowry system, but the main one is that it is a necessary precondition for marriage. ‘No dowry, no marriage’ is a widespread fear. There has also been an appearance of a feudal mindset with a materialistic attitude in a new globalised economy.
The price tag for the groom is now bigger and bolder. The emergence of an affluent middle class, the torchbearer of social change in modern India, is the main factor for the continuation of the dowry system.
Families arrange most marriages, and a...
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