Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
This is a much maligned concept in the context of India.
It need not be.
A few facts: A large part of India has a bride price – where the groom’s family pays large gifts to the family of the bride. And some parts have neither dowry nor bride price. So this concept is not to be associated with all of India.
A dowry is that which is given by the bride’s family as a gift to the bride and the groom out of free will and with extraordinary enthusiasm and passion and love. The concept of the trousseau is a familiar one and the dowry is similar but extends beyond clothes and jewelry.
The dowry is not always given under coercion and it does not always result in the negative scenarios.
It is often used as seed capital to start-up the new family. It is similar to the model adopted by angel investors with start-up firms.
In a context where the elders and extended families are heavily involved in the lives of youngsters and the young generation remains filial and fulfills their duty of care-giving to aging parents, this involvement of one generation in the life of the other is not out-of-place. Children living in their parental home forever is not an anomaly. Several generations eating and living under one roof is not uncommon.
And so this gift of love is not uncommon.
The ugliness associated with the concept of ‘dowry’ is on account of the episodes when the dowry is used as a tool for negotiating the marriage and is born out of greed. This article does not defend any of the horrific acts. Not all acts of greed have such devastating influences on the lives of others, but dowry crimes do. And there is no doubt that the perpetrators of these greed crimes should be dealt with viciously.
It is not the dowry that is at fault. it is the greed that is at fault.
Dowry began as a beautiful concept and resulted in astoundingly beautiful objects. Objects that would not have had half as much effort & creativity invested into them had they not destined for some young bride’s dowry. The dowry bags of Kutch, the dowry rugs of the Qashqai, the dowry jewelry of the Chettiars are all proof of that … the world of textile art and jewelry art would have been far more barren without the concept of dowry!