Even Today, Why Is A Bride Expected To Offer Dowry To Her New Family?

In a marriage, the husband and the wife are interdependent upon each other. Then why does the bride have to bring dowry for the groom and his family?


In a marriage, the husband and the wife are interdependent upon each other. Then why does the bride have to bring dowry for the groom and his family?

Growing up in India, the word ‘dowry’ is one we are all aware of, right from our childhood. Though illegal by the law since 1961, this custom is still widely practiced in our country.

Even for some of the legislators and the executives, this practice has become a matter of pride. Dowry is introduced as a social evil in our school books and then, is practiced commonly having been introduced to the young minds like any other marriage ritual or custom.

Why is it still a part of our customs?

People tend to boast and feel proud for having given and received dowry. The bride’s parents boast saying they gave so much to their son-in-law for their daughter’s wedding. Meanwhile, the groom’s side will take pride in having received so much dowry, as if it shows that his ‘market value’ is great in the market.

The recipients of the dowry, the groom’s family, some times, for the comfort of both the families, let the bride’s side tactfully decide the dowry by saying, ‘You can give whatever you want for your daughter.’ Or if the groom has a sister, the family might leave a list of things they gave their daughter with the bride’s family without a conclusion.

On a positive note, the groom’s family seems to understand the difficulty of giving dowry. So they indirectly hint to the bride’s parent’s that they want either money or gifts (investments) in the form of dowry for their son.

Education is also the key to more dowry!

People often say, education is the key to awareness and enlightenment of our mind. However, a man’s education is the deciding factor to the amount of dowry he receives. Factors like caste, religion, and physical appearance, and both the families’ bargaining capacity, play an important role in deciding the dowry amount. The more educated the boy, the more prestigious institute he’s studied in, the kind of job he has, decides his value – in the form of the dowry he gets.

On the contrary, though the girl may have studied in the same premier institution and does the same kind of job, only the man gets the dowry. It is more common especially if the man works in the government or a PSU.

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The couple may be in the same cadre with the same educational qualifications and the same salary, only the men are worthy of getting dowry. They are the ones boasting that they were offered X lakh rupees in dowry or Y grams of gold due to their job. Despite working in the same organisation with the same salary and credentials, the girl holds no value in the eyes of the society simply due to her gender.

Not asking for dowry is really not a favour

The cases where the groom’s family doesn’t ask for dowry, the man proudly tells that his parents are really nice since they didn’t demand any dowry. If the parents are so nice, why do they have the need to remind people that they demanded no dowry? Do they feel they are doing a favour by not asking for dowry?

Is marriage only a compromise for the woman and not the man? When we say, marriage is the union between a man and a woman, then why does the family feel like they did the girl a favour by not asking for dowry? It’s not like the parents couldn’t keep their daughter with them and needed someone to provide her with food and shelter for the rest of her life!

Dowry also includes the amount or gold to be given to the groom’s sister. If it is as a gift, voluntarily offered by the bride’s family, it’s not an issue. But why is it that people bargain even for that? What does the groom’s sister do in her brother’s marriage. She usually only takes part in the marriage ceremony just like the bride’s siblings. How is she special? Why does she also have to be offered dowry?

Why does only one side pay for all the expenses?

Even during the pre-marriage meetings, often the groom’s family asks the bride’s family what their son would be getting for the marriage. Why don’t the bride’s parents just say they are marrying their daughter from their side?

It is often a common practice for the bride’s parents to list out what they can afford and would to offer to their to-be son-in-law. They don’t even bother asking what their daughter would be getting! But I think people should start asking that too. If the groom’s family can ask what jewellery and clothes the bride is bringing why can’t the bride’s family do the same?

In certain communities, it is often taken for granted that the bride’s side will be the one bearing all expenses of the wedding along with offering dowry too! The bride’s family happily obliges to this, believing that their daughter is getting married into a good family. But why does it have to be like that? When a marriage takes place between a man and a woman from two different families, why does only one side have to deal with the financial burden? Why does the groom’s side feel like it’s the bride’s family’s obligation to do so?

The bride’s family isn’t trying to get rid of her!

Marriage is not a ritual where the woman’s family is getting rid of their daughter forever. Neither is the man’s family willing to accept her as a burden that they are ready to upon themselves out of kindness.

Why does the groom and his family often feel like they are kind in not demanding any dowry? And why does the bride have to bring any dowry at all?

If this is because their son was pampered a lot while growing up, wasn’t the bride too raised like a princess by her parents? Or if it was because the groom is well educated, the bride too had same education and facilities.

If it is because if his job and salary, isn’t she earning and working in accordance to her education? Even if she isn’t working, it’s not like the only reason the man earns is for her! He does that for himself and his family, which includes not just his parents but his wife too, after marriage.

Really, why does a woman need to bring any dowry?

Do the groom’s parents feel like they can’t afford to give her the life her parents gave her if she doesn’t get dowry with her? If someone asks a question like this, the ego tamasha begins and sometimes even leads to breaking off of the relationship. The people who ask these are labelled radical thinkers or aliens who don’t respect or follow traditions and customs. (As if dowry is a respectable custom everyone needs to follow!)

I still haven’t found a suitable explanation to justify the custom of dowry. Is it because they feel they need to provide her with food and shelter all her life if she isn’t employed? Then, isn’t she the one taking care of his parents and all the household work? The work that is actually payable if you outsource it. But no one pays for the wife’s work at home, whether she does it alone or has some help.

Isn’t she already given you the happiness of being a parent and a grandparent by adopting to the various changes her body undergoes during pregnancies? She also takes care of the kids when her husband goes to work, peacefully. Both, the husband and the wife are interdependent in a marriage. Then why does the bride have to bring dowry for the groom and his family?

Picture credits: Still from Bollywood movie Hum Saath Saath Hain

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