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In many religions, a practice/custom or tradition starts with a noble intention, mainly due to prevalent social needs. But with time it is corrupted, or digresses or even becomes obsolete.

With that premise, my questions are:

  1. What is the origin of the dowry system in the Sanatana Dharma?

  2. Is there any official literature on this?

  • You should read the book "Dowry Murder: The Imperial Origins of a Cultural Crime"(amzn.com/0195150724). The author argues that dowry system can be traced to British rule in India and not to Hindu or Indian culture. – Bharat Jul 18 '14 at 0:16
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I'm trying to explain the most probable interpretation of the inception of the dowry system in ancient India particularly in Hinduism. These are solely my views and I may in fact be wrong.

  • The (voluntary) gifts given by the bride's parents were typically the items that were necessary to start off a new family life. Examples of such items include new bed, utensils etc.

  • Since the bride goes to a new home, she carries with her some of her family possessions such as ornaments (for her own personal use) etc. I don't see any plausible reason for the bride's father to keep these ornaments in his own house.

  • In cases where the groom's family is economically less stable than the bride's family, any monetary gift given as dowry could potentially give the necessary impetus to the groom to start off a new prospective career, e.g. initial investment for a new business, which eventually ensures nothing but a prosperous life for the new family and I don't see any wrong in it.

  • The dowry can be looked upon in a positive light in the sense that it can act as a shield to the new bride against the male dominated social system. If the bride's father pays a reasonable amount of money to the groom's family, their attitude towards the new bride could potentially be more of submissive (may be sub-consciously) rather than aggressive. This in turn also helps the bride to gradually become an important member of her new home.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • So actually when did it start? That was the question here brother. Not what is dowry. – Afzaal Ahmad Zeeshan Jul 18 '14 at 1:34
  • ...and further more. This is truly fake answer. I have seen tons of girls being tortured even after bringing huge amount of dowry! Male-dominancy is other name of being uneducated. Well I think its time for a new post! somehow, dowry is a curse which we people are having right now. -_- – Afzaal Ahmad Zeeshan Jul 18 '14 at 1:36
  • I think Stack Exchange moderator would have to come up and intervene to make me silent here. Dowry does not assure a better future for a girl. Education does. Because this answer starts a debate! over and out -_- – Afzaal Ahmad Zeeshan Jul 18 '14 at 1:39
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    +1 @AfzaalAhmadZeeshan, your points are well taken but I think Debasis is trying to point out the common sense origins for the practice. The fact that people have abused and continue to abuse the system shows that, once again, because people are power-hungry, greedy, close-minded, and corrupt, they are able to take something which was meant for the good of the newly formed family and turn it into something disgusting. – rishimaharaj Jul 18 '14 at 3:56
  • I never supported dowry system myself... i know it's become a social curse over the time due to its misuse... i wanted to find a plausible justification to its inception... sorry to hurt anybody's feelings... – Debasis Jul 18 '14 at 10:13

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