The concept of exchanging money, land or other assets in exchange for a joining in marriage of two individuals is called a dowry. Dowry, one of the oldest known customs in the world, is practiced in India. In Indian culture the practice is similar to that of many other cultures, the origins of which go so far back that we cannot even tell when it began.
The actual details and specifics of the dowry often reflect the communities of the participants. Factors such as caste, region, religious conviction, etc. could all lead to similar yet specific agreements, much like the modern day contract system of the Western hemisphere. Ultimately, the dowry represents prosperity and security for the bride in case of a divorce. The giving of a dowry was the antecedent to the pre-nuptial agreement.
The Brahman and the other upper castes usually promote the practice to ensure family lineage and intra-caste continuity. Lower caste members are more prone to the practice of bride price, since it is a means to ensure more income for the groom’s family.
It is important to remember that the caste system is an inequitable system. In such a system, a bride becomes a commodity for families to gain greater influence and/or to maintain status.
In recent times the government has actively enacted laws and established codes to monitor and control this practice. They contend that the practice has become a burden and a disadvantage to the families of the prospective brides.
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