Marriage has remained as a rich part of India’s civilisation which has given primacy to nobility and sanctity. The evil of dowry, however, has destroyed the purity of marriage and social cohesiveness.
Several types of marriage tradition were prevalent in ancient India where there was neither question of cast or demand of dowry. One such process was Swayambar marriage mainly conducted in royal households where the daughter of a royal family would choose her life partner in an assembly of royal youths.
Most of the religions had distinct marriage rituals which were considered as ordained by the divine. In Roman and Greek periods, marriage was celebrated as an agreement between two families where voluntary gifts were exchanged between two sides to celebrate the occasion. In India also the parents of the bride used to hand over gifts like household materials to honour groom’s family and his near and dear ones. In marriage, bride’s father hands over the care and custody of his daughter to the groom and his family which is a tradition described as ‘Kanyadan’.
Thus marriage is not a simple bond between a male and female but regarded as a pious and sacred event in one’s life. In modern times’ sanctity, charm and ethical values of marriage has gradually declined as some greedy families have commercialized marriage. The evil practice also encourages corruption in the society to some extent as some employees try to gather wealth by corrupt practice to have a good saving for organizing well and decorative marriages for their daughters and consequently face problem in course of life.
In recent times, the menace has emboldened deceptive practices by some greedy parents of the groom. To avoid shame and legal liability under anti-dowry law, new strategies are adopted by these parents. No more visible property of any kind is given or agreed to be given in marriage to erase any evidence. New techniques are adopted to extort money in an invisible form like seeking cash, gold ornaments, endorsement of entire marriage expenditure of groom’s family by the bride’s family, which thus has commercialised institution of marriage, which was considered a solemn responsibility of the families.
The price of dowry of a groom sometimes is rated on the basis of his family position and service status like IIT, Civil Service and medical profession for which some families of the groom’s exploit bride’s families to compensate them for expenses met by them to educate the groom. In several cases, once a marriage is fixed, the blackmail and bargaining often continues from groom’s side till completion of marriage.
To avoid collapse of marriage proposal or false notion of shame to the family, the bride’s side makes efforts to meet the demand. At times the bride's family sells properties or get indebted which financially destroys the family. Poor and middle class people are real sufferers. In some cases situation leads to souring of post marriage relations between the two families.
The Dowry Prevention Act enacted in 1961 and amended later has prevented the menace to some extent. However, there is a need to eradicate it completely for good of society. There is also clamor about misuse of dowry law and section 498 (A) of IPC which punishes cruelty to a married women. The judiciary time to time has laid down certain safeguards against indiscriminate arrest of in-laws on complaints of brides to prevent abuse of the law. Such abuse of law also needs to be punished.
The author has some vivid memories of some of ugly practices adopted by groom’s side. A few years back, a cousin of the author came and told that a friend of her who was a co-follower of religious programme at Purushottampur visited her house and after seeing her 3rd daughter, proposed to take her as her daughter -in -law. She said that the groom’s side had no demand except seeking a grand wedding reception in a good hotel at Brahmapur since they are families of high status towards which they proposed her to provide 2 AC buses to ferry ‘Barat’ from Sambalpur to Brahmapur where the marriage was proposed to be held in a good hotel for 2 days i.e. one day before marriage to the next day. Besides this they sought to provide Brahmapur Silk Saree (PATO) to honour every lady member of the groom’s party numbering about 20. The author explained her that, all these in addition to traditional household gifts would need at least Rs 8-10 lakh to meet the cost which she cannot afford to. She expressed surprise on author’s explanation and left. Later the author was told that the marriage proposal was cancelled.
A friend recently disclosed about another similar case where a girl working as a doctor in Uttarakhand, whose family had decided a groom by Sadi.com a few weeks ago, rejected the marriage proposal because groom’s father told bride’s mother about no demand but to make provision of 2 AC buses to ferry groom’s marriage party from Bhubaneswar to bride’s native district and back and to provide 15 gold rings for each lady member of the groom’s household. This is the way some greedy families use marriage occasion as an opportunity to exploit the bride’s family. The author recalls how he had faced a similar situation when he rejected marriage proposal of his 2nd daughter in 2003 where the groom’s mother who was a head mistress demanded a car. Of course the author had to pass through unbearable mental agony for this stand.
Now a days some marriage celebrations are also turning vulgar and violent day by day. In the second week of May, 2022, a media report said that two persons picked up a quarrel in one groom’s procession near Bhubaneswar who were identified by police as two dreaded criminals who had carried arms in the marriage procession. Another recent media reports said that some place near Baragada, some unruly and uncontrolled members of a Barat party killed the mother of the bride when she pleaded them not to burst crackers and disturb peace of the village in wee hours. The author recollects an incident where a dancing marriage party in a marriage procession suddenly dragged the groom from the car and put him on their shoulder and danced while another friend opened a beer bottle and sprayed all around in Brahmapur. The scene was so scaring that the author halted for a couple of minutes till the procession passed over in the next road crossing. Such incidents show marriage programmes in some cases have marred sanctity, discipline and dignity. It should not be forgotten that marriage of many deserving, beautiful and educated girls are delayed because of the poverty of their parents and when one such unfortunate girl comes across such luxurious marriage processions, tears would normally roll down from her eyes for thinking about poverty of her parents, which may turn as a curse on the society. Those who have means and capacity, well they can organise grand marriage processions and parties but if some of such people can try to use the occasion to facilitate marriage of another poor girl simultaneously, it would be very pious and exemplary for others.
Similarly in spite of spending huge amount on crackers and other things in a marriage programmes, parties with financial capacity can facilitate staging of any Lok Kala on the occasion to promote age old art and inspire youths