Dowry-A Look into History
I still remember the day when my family decided to hunt for a groom for me. My father decided that the house that he built will be inherited by my brother and I will inherit from him jewels. He was very firm in his thoughts that he will not get me married into a family that is going to demand dowry and he did it also.
What do we mean by dowry or vardhatchani(in Tamil) or dahej? In ancient Babylonia in the ancient text of Code of Hammurabi you can find proof for dowry as an existing custom. The girls did not receive anything from the father’s property but got a dowry during their marriage which provided the girl financial security. Even in Rome, China and Greece Dowry was a wide spread practice where it was a form of the daughter’s inheritance. Even in Europe, Mexico and United States of America dowry has been practiced.
The dowry practice in ancient India has been controversial. In the book Invasion of India by Alexander the Great, 3rd BC, there is no mention of dowry. It is said that the girls are married for their beauty and other advantages. Even Al-Biruni’s memoirs, written during the eleventh century, states that dowry was not practiced in India and it was usually the man who usually gave a present to the woman he was going to marry. According the Dharmashastra when the parents made the kanayadhan they gave gifts to the groom’s family. The girl was considered to be the super gift. The dowry was the inheritance that the daughters got from the parents while the sons inherited the property.
How did this focus shift from the girl to the gifts that she brought? Researchers believe that the change took place when the British established their settlement in India. They introduced many laws including private landownership which created the Zamindari system which in turn made the poor peasants who had to pay taxes poorer and poorer. Another rule that was imposed by the British was that women could not own property. So whatever gift that the parents gave their daughters as her inheritance was owned by the husband and the wife began to depend on the husband. The inheritance, the gifts that she got from her family became the knife that is pointed at her neck. The safety net provided by her parents became the noose to her head.
Says my father , marriage my dear I turn around in fear. He gave me my inheritance. They thought it was a pittance. I will not accept the sacred thread to the one who thinks I am a way to his bread. Better to be single than to give dhakshina. Wait for the one who respects my mariyadha!!!!!!!!!!!!!