Indian Marriages & Anti- Dowry Movement In India

Indian marriages are deemed almost necessary in the Indian society. Arranging a marriage is the responsibility of Indian parents and other relatives of both bride and groom.

Indian Marriage alliances entail some redistribution of wealth as well as building and restructuring social realignments, and, of course, result in the biological reproduction of families. In India there is no greater event in a family than a wedding. In arranging and conducting of marriages, the complex permutations of Indian social systems best display themselves. Some parents begin marriage arrangements on the birth of a child, but most wait until later.

Essentially, India is divided into two large regions with regard to Hindu kinship and marriage practices, the north and the south. Additionally, various ethnic and tribal groups of the central, mountainous north, and eastern regions follow a variety of other practices.

Re-Marriages in India. Rules for the remarriage of widows differ from one group to another. Generally, lower-ranking groups allow widow remarriage, particularly if the woman is relatively young, but the highest-ranking castes discourage or forbid such remarriage. The most strict adherents to the nonremarriage of widows are Brahmans. Almost all groups allow widowers to remarry. Many groups encourage a widower to marry his deceased wife’s younger sister (but never her older sister).

Finding the perfect partner for one’s child can be a difficult task. People use their social networks to locate potential brides and grooms of appropriate social and economic status. Increasingly, urban dwellers use classified matrimonial advertisements in newspapers & searching online matrimonial sites. The advertisements usually announce religion, caste, and educational qualifications, stress female beauty and male (and in the contemporary era, sometimes female) earning capacity, and may hint at dowry size.

The most dramatic aspect of this asymmetrical relationship is the giving of dowry in India.

In many communities throughout India, a dowry has traditionally been given by a bride’s kin at the time of her marriage. In ancient times, the dowry was considered a woman’s wealth–property due a beloved daughter who had no claim on her natal family’s real estate–and typically included portable valuables such as jewelry and household goods that a bride could control throughout her life. However, over time, the larger proportion of the dowry has come to consist of goods and cash payments that go straight into the hands of the groom’s family.

In the late twentieth century, throughout much of India, dowry payments have escalated, and a groom’s parents sometimes insist on compensation for their son’s higher education and even for his future earnings, to which the bride will presumably have access.

Some of the dowries demanded are quite oppressive, amounting to several years’ salary in cash as well as items such as motorcycles, air conditioners, and fancy cars. Among some lower-status groups, large dowries are currently replacing traditional bride-price payments.  The dowry is becoming an increasingly onerous burden for the bride’s family. India Anti-dowry laws exist but are largely ignored, and a bride’s treatment in her marital home is often affected by the value of her dowry. Increasingly frequent are horrible incidents, particularly in urban areas, where a groom’s family makes excessive demands on the bride’s family–even after marriage–and when the demands are not met, murder the bride, typically by setting her clothes on fire in a cooking “accident.” The groom is then free to remarry and collect another sumptuous dowry. The male and female in-laws implicated in these murders have seldom been punished.Dowry deaths resulting from marriages have been the subject of numerous media reports in India and other countries and have mobilized feminist groups to action. Some analysts have related the growth of this phenomenon to the growth of consumerism in Indian society.

After marriage arrangements are completed, a rich panoply of wedding rituals begins. Each religious group, region, and caste has a slightly different set of rites. Generally, all Indian marriages involve as many kin and associates of the bride and groom as possible. The bride’s family usually hosts most of the ceremonies and pays for all the arrangements for large numbers of guests for several days, including accommodation, feasting, decorations, and gifts for the groom’s party. These arrangements are often extremely elaborate and expensive and are intended to enhance the status of the bride’s family. The groom’s party usually hires a band and brings fine gifts for the bride, such as jewelry and clothing, but these are typically far outweighed in value by the presents received from the bride’s side. After the Indian bride and groom are united in sacred rites attended by colorful ceremony, the new bride may be carried away to her in-laws’ home, or, if she is very young, she may remain with her parents until they deem her old enough to depart. A prepubescent bride usually stays in her natal home until puberty, after which a separate consummation ceremony is held to mark her departure for her conjugal home and married life. Indian marriages page