Young Nirupama, in Rabindranath Tagore’s, short story “Dena paona”, dies because her in-law’s negligence and torture. They tortured her because her father could not give her in-laws family the promised dowry in time. Very few people know that this short story of Tagore is in a way autobiographical. It is so, because Rabindranath Tagore himself has given dowry in his daughter’s marriage, and she too died very early. It is an irony that such an intellectual and great man like Rabindranath Tagore too could not escape from this evil of dowry. In some states the girls are asked to sit on a weighing scale and gold is measured and given to the groom’s family. Some takes gifts, as well as cash. Gifts, include, scooter, car, or four wheelers; washing machine, air conditioner; and sometimes a new house or a flat. In villages in India, lands and goats and cows are given. It is custom which is not only present in the Hindu religion, but in all kind of religion, class, state, and countries at different point of time. Jane Austen’s novel tells us that the 18th century European society was also not free from this custom. The author, herself did not get married, because her family was unable to provide enough dowries for her marriage. Well, at least some critics believe in this theory. Today, also not all of the Indian population is free from this custom. They take gifts from their in laws which are an indirect way to have dowry. Sometimes dowry is also given in installments, a few amounts before the marriage or during the engagement, and the rest on the time of marriage, or rather on the day of marriage. People still follow this custom because they believe that it is a ritual made by their ancestor, and they have to follow that, or else they will be cursed by their ancestor. But what these different customs actually implies?

The Vedas and the custom of giving dowry to the groom’s family

The custom of giving the gifts to the groom’s family by the bride’s father is regarded as dowry in the Vedas. The dowry in the common Hindi language is known as “dahej”. Different Vedas have different views, all supporting, the custom of dowry.  They also have stories which describe the custom of dowry.

  • If you give the groom’s family gifts and cows, or rather, the bride’s father gives the groom’s family, cows and gifts, then according to the Rig Veda, this system of giving cows and gifts can be termed as giving dowry to the groom’s family.
  • According to a person in the Vedas, Kakshivat, behind his success and behind his being a rich person is his father-in-law. His fatherly law, he accepted that, gave him, almost 1060 cows, maids, and almost 10 chariots. No wonder, that he would accept the truth, he too fears that telling lies will curse him.
  • In the Vedic period, the dowry is termed as “Streedhana”. It is given to the groom by the bride’s father. It in a way implies that the bride was an economical burden to her father, and with her marriage, she released her father from that burden and became a liability to her husband. This in a way disrespects a woman, who is not only a sexual object in the eyes of the patriarchal society, but also a human being who is not economically independent, and is a disrespectful object in the eyes of the society.
  • There is a ritual in Hindu marriage, which is known as the Kanyadan. In this ritual the bride’s father has to give her daughter’s hand to the groom’s hand.  The ritual is not complete until and unless the bride’s father gives a “Vardakshina” to the groom. This Vardakshina is nothing but cash or gold from the bride’s father. It is also a way of taking dowry from the bride’s family.
  • Hindu Lord Rama got married, but what price Sita’s father had to pay so that he gets a son-in-law like Rama: We all know that the king of Ayodha, is Lord Rama. We call him “Lord” because according to the epic poem “Ramayana” he was an avatar or rather was another self of Vishnu, but did we know that this so called “Lord” took dowry from his in laws. He was given 100 crores of “mohur” or gold coins, almost 10000 carriages, maids, who were male were around, 100000; 10 lakhs horses, and almost 60000 elephants, female slaves of around 60000, and cows of around 2 crores,. Jewelry includes pearls which were around 100000, and there were many other items. That was the marriage of a Lord. Well, a Lord also supported something like dowry, at least that’s what the epic says.  What your conscious say? Is it good to take things from a girl’s family and then marry her? Will you being, a man, with high self respect can use it, in spite of knowing that it is not bought from your hard earned money? Any person who has a little self respect, will avoid listening from his wife that, the television in which you are watching your football match, is given by her father, so she should had the right to watch her daily soap.

Is it just a ritual that we are still following?

Raja Rammohan Roy, who abolishes or was the main pioneer to abolish Sati, or burning of the widow with her husband; once said to a student that one, should not follow, a ritual just because it is a ritual. One should find the truth behind it, or rather the logic behind, any ritual which is without logic, or with a wrong logic, should not be followed. In the same way even though we know that it is a ritual followed by our ancestor, we should not encourage it.

How to stop it?

To stop this evil practice one should arrange a very simple, wedding which does not include any grandeur. The more glamorous a wedding, the more dowries is exchanged. One more thing is required, awareness of the both groom’s and the bride’s family. Taking and giving dowry, both is a criminal offence, and is not a ritual nowadays.

Raja Kumar

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