Reasons for Dowry

· Social Custom and Tradition

The word ‘Custom’ can be loosely defined in anthropology and sociology as a way of thinking or acting that is characteristic of a group of people. Customs influence the way people dress, eat, and in general, behave; and may take on the force of moral or statute laws. The prevalent social customs and traditions are the major reasons for the continuation of the practice of Dowry. There is a feeling that practicing customs generates and strengthens solidarity and cohesiveness among people. “Many people give and take dowry only because their parents and ancestors had been practicing it.”( Ram Ahuja, Indian Social System (Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1993) p. 204.)




· Surety
“Dowry is a gift of love given to a daughter by her parents to ensure that she is provided for financially when she leaves her parental home.”(C.B Mamoria, Social Problems and Social Disorganization In India (Allahabad: Kitabmahal, 1981) p. 686.) In a materialistic society, there are constant pressures on individuals and families for having more and more money not only to provide more comfort to themselves and family members, but also to have some future security. (Ram Ahuja, Crime Against Women (Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1987) p. 113.)


· Gifts
A gift is a voluntary transfer of property from one person to another. During the time of marriage, the friends and the family members will provide some valuable things as tokens and remembrance of their relationship.

“The prevalence of dowry system is mentioned by Jayasi, Tulsidas and Surdas and some foreign travelers make mention of it also. In rich and royal families’ gifts used to be given to sons-in-law at the time of marriage. Sita, Draupadi Subhadra and Uttara brought valuable presents including horses, elephants, cows, jewellery, chariots, servants, maids when they proceeded to their husband’s home after marriage.”(S. K. Ghosh, Indian Women Through The Ages (Delhi: Ashish Publishing House 1989) p. 70.)


· Aspiration to Marry in High and Rich Families
One of the causes of dowry is the desire and aspiration of every parent to marry off his/her daughter into a high class and rich family to keep up or to add to his/her prestige. “The high marriage – market value of the boys belonging to rich and high social status families has raised the amount of dowry.” (Ram Ahuja, Indian Social
System (Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 1993) p. 204)


· Pressures of the Caste System
Caste is largely static, exclusive social class membership which is determined by birth and involves particular customary restrictions and privileges. Among Hindus, marriage, in the same caste and sub-caste has been prescribed by the social and religious practices with the result that the choice of selecting a mate is always restricted. “This results in the paucity of young boys who have high-salaried jobs or promising careers in the professions. They become ‘scarce commodities’ and their parents demand high amounts of money from the girl’s parents to accept her
as their daughter-in–law as if girls are chattel for which the bargain has to be made.” (Ram Ahuja, Indian Social System, p. 205.)
The Dowry system is related to the caste system, as it is paid in order to marry off a girl to a boy of the same caste. It is manly practiced among the higher castes. In order to prevent a marriage with a boy of another caste, the bride’s family will offer as much dowry as they can so that the bridegroom of the same caste will marry the bride. (Vijay Sharma, Protection to Married Women In Matrimonial Home (Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications, 1994) p. 51)

Mayank Rai

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