Contrary to popular belief, dowry system in India doesn’t have indigenous roots


Recently I received multiple Instagram DMs from Verified Accounts mocking Hinduism and Indic History. These accounts blamed Hindus for seeking dowry and destroying the bride’s family. However, contrary to popular belief, dowry is neither related to Hinduism nor practiced by Hindus in antiquity.

According to Wikipedia, The dowry system refers to the durable goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride’s family gives to the groom, his parents, and his relatives as a condition of the marriage.

Dowry was born in Babylon (present-day Iraq). In the oldest available records, such as the Code of Hammurabi in ancient Babylon, the dowry is described as an already-existing custom.

The practice of dowry in the Indian subcontinent doesn’t have any historical roots. In the Vedic era, Indian women had property rights, and their properties were not automatically given to their husbands after marriage. Encroaching even on a small part of a woman’s property was charged as a crime. Let’s explore two available eyewitness observations from ancient India to rest the case.

Arrian of Nicomedia was a Greek historian, public servant, military commander, and philosopher of the Roman period. The Anabasis of Alexander by Arrian is considered the best source on the campaigns of Alexander the Great.

Here are of these are the eyewitness records of India from Alexander the Great conquest (ca. 300 BCE) as recorded by Arrian in relation to marriage and dowry.

They (Indians) marry without either giving or taking dowries, but the women, as soon as they are marriageable, are brought forward by their fathers in public, to be selected by the victor in wrestling or boxing or running or someone who excels in any other manly exercise.

About 1200 years after Arrian’s visit, another eyewitness scholar visited India named Abu Ray?an al-Biruni, also known as Al-Biruni. Al-Biruni was an Islamic-era Persian scholar who went and lived in India for 16 years from 1017 CE. He translated many Indian texts into Arabic and wrote a memoir on Indian culture and the life he observed. Al-Biruni claimed.

The implements of the wedding rejoicings are brought forward. No gift (dower or dowry) is settled between them. The man gives only a present to the wife, as he thinks fit, and a marriage gift in advance, which he has no right to claim back, but the (proposed) wife may give it back to him of her own will (if she does not want to marry).

Wife gifted husband and not vice versa in Ancient Hindu India, according to an Islamic Scholar from the 10th Century, CE.

So, next time wants to blame Ancient Hindus, Hinduism & Indic History for dowry, remember that in Olden Golden Days, Hindu society was a progressive community where women had property rights and never had to ‘pay’ the groom’ to get married.



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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