“Dowry! Really?” I clearly remember Alia Bhatt’s reaction in the movie 2 States when she gets to know about the fact that a big fat North Indian wedding comes with an added Dowry ritual. Well, she was right, demanding a dowry is wrong and especially in a situation where the bride’s family is already in financial crisis.
It wasn’t a rigid ritual as it turned out in the later centuries. In earlier times the bride was given gifts in the form of clothes, food items, and gold. Since there was no provision for fast transport, the food items were necessary for the long journey and the clothes were also needed for change. Gold and jewelry have always been a part of women’s attire so those were giving solely as gift items and as a sign of good fortune.
Now there used to be an elaborated version for the royals. The Kings used to gift lands, slaves, and palaces for their daughters. This used to reflect their stature and power. Now the problem began when the common people also started pulling threads to collate gifts and riches for their daughters. Till this time, it was alright but with each passing era this gift-giving ritual turned into demand by the groom’s family, and now we know what shape it has taken.
According to official data, there were about 8331 cases of dowry deaths in 2011. Incidents of dowry deaths during the year 2008 (8,172) have increased by 14.4 percent over 1998 level (7,146). And these deaths are not limited to any specific religion, but are common in Hindu and Sikh communities in Northern India, particularly around Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
Donna Fernandes of Bangalore-based NGO Vimochana, one of the oldest women’s organizations of the country, informed that dowry crimes in the city have doubled in the past few years. The scene is not very different from Punjab. One in 13 families from the upper-middle class in the state has reported a dowry case. In Haryana, there has been an unbelievable 871% increase in dowry-related crimes in the past 20 years.
Police records of Andhra Pradesh reflect similar numbers. “Cases of dowry torture are the highest, accounting for 32.4% of crimes against women in the country,” says Hyderabad-based Inspector-General of Police Tejdeep Kaur Menon.
Dowry creates a very huge pressure on the bride’s family and sometimes they remain in debt for years. And now that it is evident that Dowry is wrong, there is another face to this coin that is wrong as well. And that is scrutinizing the groom’s salary and package. It has become a serious issue nowadays. Youngsters getting depressed about getting a job is nowadays rising and then comes this additional pressure of not being able to marry because the bride’s family disapproves his payscale.
This has become a serious issue. Are the bride’s parents trying to find a good person and life partner for their daughter or are they trying to hit a jackpot? This is very disturbing at times. A guy, who is a good person and is very compatible with a girl is sidelined just because he is not earning as per the family’s demand. Since when did riches gain more importance than emotions?
I understand the bride’s family is concerned about the security and healthy living for their beloved daughter, but the guy is not bankrupt. He is not a beggar. He earns and may get promoted in the future, who knows. Also, nowadays most (not all) girls are working. Even if its a small work from home job. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is whether the guy is compatible with the girl and will keep her happy.
These days weddings have turned into a money-making business more than just finding a suitable family for son/daughter. While the low salaried grooms are sidelined, the rich and high salaried grooms are happily accepted. Also, there is some data which reflects the ‘Market price’ of grooms across India.
Opulent receptions, gold above 50 tolas, plus all dowry items. Factory or office space and/or flat. Groom prices zoom up to Rs 1 crore.
Nadars Well-educated, affluent grooms ask for as much as Rs 1 crore. Gold: over 70 tolas.
“Maruti marriages” are passe. Luxury cars, receptions in marriage palaces, cash and preferably a job for the groom. Gold over 50 tolas.
Syrian Christians From Rs 30 lakh to over Rs 1 crore. Some families give the bride gold by the kilos.
Kammas and Reddys Grooms from civil services: Rs 1-3 crore. Postgraduate doctor or engineer: at least Rs 75 lakh. Yadavs and Gouds, from among the OBCs, are in a similar competition.
IAS grooms: Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 crore, plus a flat or property, car, political favours, gold. Doctors: Rs 20-30 lakh, engineers Rs 20 lakh. College lecturers: less than Rs 2 lakh. Bhoomihar Brahmin grooms are the most expensive.
Besides a huge dowry and gold when children are born, the bride’s parents have to pay for her funeral rites.
The girl’s father washes the groom’s feet and worships them in a ritual called saptapadi. Then gifts, cash or jewelry are handed over.
Cash (from Rs 35 lakh onwards for affluent grooms), diamond jewelry for the bride and mother-in-law, rings for men in the groom’s family, flat and/or car and over 50 kg of dry fruits and papads.
Doctors, engineers: Rs 5-10 lakh as jode ki raqam(price for bridal attire) plus gifts for the drivers: Rs 5,000 plus household items.
Milni ke sikke – symbolizes giving of four rupees. Now it is four silver or gold coins given to every person in the groom’s family. Minimum 11 people, maximum of 51 people.
Each ceremony – roka, tilak, jaymala, pheras and vidaai – involves gifts of cash, clothes, jewelry and watches for the groom’s family. Dowry is displayed during tilak.
While the richer grooms are getting richer, the low salaried ones are finding it difficult to find life partners. It is increasing as a pest grows on a host.
Instead of spending so much money on dowry, families should spend money on their daughter’s education and ensuring that she earns enough money. So that even if the groom has a low salary, she can help and contribute to the household economy.
Instead of looking for monetary richness, parents much look for personality richness. The way that person percieves this pious relation of marriage, his attitude towards women. This a humble and very serious request to all the parents who are looking for a groom for their daughter. Please don’t let the money blind you. Don’t let the cars, and luxury apartment and 7 digit salary numb your senses. Think beyond those. Think if your daughter will be compatible with him. Give a thought to the fact that will he give the same love and respect to your daughter like you did all these years.
Money comes and goes. Daughters once burnt on this viscious pyre, won’t come back even for the riches of Kuber.