a while ago, a few old classmates of mine were playing a guessing game and trying to guess how much dowry i would be getting when i get married. well, being a brahmin, i’m not entitled to any dowry… that aside, i started getting a few thoughts on how dowry might have come about…
let us assume that women don’t work at all, so they don’t bring in any money by themselves (in certain areas of India, while ‘fixed deposit’ refers to a non-working wife bringing in a huge amount of dowry, ‘recurring deposit’ refers to a working wife with a much smaller dowry; more about that sometime else). now the debate is whether she belongs to her father or to her husband (let’s assume she marries exactly once) or both.
if she belongs solely to her father, dowry is justified as it is a lumpsum given by her father so that her husband can take good care of her. if she belongs to her husband, then ‘bride fees’ is justified. the husband pays his father in law at the time of marriage for having taken such good care of his wife. in case she belongs to both, however, it is the father taking care of her for the first part of her life and her husband for the second part.
marriage age was fixed long ago as half of average life expectancy. however, life expectancy has moved but marriage age hasn’t so the woman ends up spending more time with her husband. if people still believes that the woman is split exactly half-half between her father and her husband, her father should pay a small sum of money to her husband to take care of her for the first few years of her marriage when she actually belongs to the father! in this regard, the younger a woman gets married, more the dowry. the more a woman is expected to live, more the dowry!
In the Punjab, i heard it’s commonplace for a man (typically NRI) to get married, take the dowry and then quickly desert his wife, get married again, take dowry again, etc… i was wondering why this doesn’t happen in Gultland (according to me the heartland of dowry in India).
then a friend told me that in Gultland dowry is mostly in kind (land, gold, etc) and they’re all in the bride’s name. so if her husband ditches her, he won’t have any of the dowry money, so he won’t ditch her arbitly! gults are smarter than i thought they are (good performance in entrance exams (which gults are extremely adept at) doesn’t necessarily mean one is smart).
anyways, conclusion is that a large part of indian society believes that a girl belongs to her father, so he has to pay a large amount to her husband at the time of marriage so that he takes good care of her for the rest of her life.