Can Dowry be compared to Inheritance?

My father’s sister describes wistfully, a silver Lemon Set her mother gave her when she got married. She  resents  that her mother in law passed the Lemon Set (along with other things) to her husband’s sister in her dowry. This silver Lemon Set had originally been a part of my mother’s dowry.

I ask my mother if she didn’t mind her things being taken away like this, but she says this was very common. A girl’s dowry traditionally belongs to her husband’s family.

There is a custom in some places where the trousseau is critically examined by the in laws and the girls in the new family pick whatever they like from the new bride’s possessions.

This sort of thing does not happen with inheritance. The inheritance belongs to the inheritors, legally and socially.

One hears of comparisons between Inheritance and Dowry.

I feel the biggest difference is one empowers while the other puts the lives of 50% of the population at risk. Right from the moment they are found to be females.

Unlike a Will, the dowry is wealth given away while the parents are still alive, whether or not they can afford it. This makes girl children unwelcome.

Inheritance on the other hand, can be used by the parents to ensure a comfortable old age. It gives them something to bargain with. They have a choice in when, how and to whom they part with it. This empowers them.

A friend once argued that since the girls get their husband’s property, it is balanced. What happens when a girl doesn’t marry? What if she is divorced or widowed? An unmarried, divorced or widowed woman maybe seen as an outsider in her parental home.

Girls who inherit are in a much better position socially. They are not considered a liability. They have the same rights and responsibilities as the male children. (Legally it is mandatory for all children to take care of their parents even now.)

Do you think dowry, jewellery and other gifts on festivals are a fair compensation for disinheriting or disowning a family member?


118 thoughts on “Can Dowry be compared to Inheritance?

  1. Dowry – I am dead against it. Neither it was given for me and my sister, nor did my parents expect it for my brother. Even my mil didnt accept dowry for her 3 sons. Its all in the mindset.

    Actually, my mil was questioned so much by other relatives – why are you not taking dowry ???? She just answered them with a smile – a daughter is coming home, there is no money involved.

    And whatever we d-i-ls have got from our parents’ home, she doesnt even know the entire list.

    Its the ppl’s mindset for giving materialistic things in compensation or for disowning a family member – there are ppl who think otherwise.

    Won’t the relation survive, if there is no materialism involved ?????

    Me – We Indians are very materialistic 😦 Do you think in Patriarchal societies girls and boys should take have equal rights and responsibilities?


    • Absolutely, I think rights and responsibilities are equal for boys and girls – but its not so in reality, I believe. 😦

      Its a stand the parents of marriagable sons shld jointly take and say no to dowry.

      And the in-laws shld respect what the dil has got from her parents’ house is her own and not for giving away to their daughter.

      The mindsets shld change.

      Out of context, I am first here, Yippeee !!!!


  2. Sheesh! That really happens? I dint know the things r passed on that way IHM .. its sad 😦 Girls wud hv got things which their Mother would hv carefully selected acc. to their taste and its so bad to see it being given off 😦

    I totally agree when u say that dowry makes a girl child unwelcome. But then, I feel people should welcome a girl child happily and see that she would not enter a home which would want to take dowry! I just can’t take it that people would accept a girl on the basis of what she brings .. how the hell do we believe they care for the girl then? Girls better be accepted for what they are and not for what and how much they bring along?

    I want to have a girl child … and I will never never give a single pie to anybody to marry her off! I would probably go for a 50-50 sharing in the wedding costs too 😛 😛 At the same time, I would not luv a son any less and will definitely tell the girl’s family that we will share all the expenses. Well, thatz what we hv decided now and we hope we will definitely show it in action when the time comes 😉

    Me – Of course you will Swaram 🙂 We have told my son and daughter they have equal inheritance rights and equal responsibilities too 🙂 And I totally agree, I would be very worried getting a girl married into a greedy family, they might hurt her for more money … I feel these are good indications of who NOT to marry! Non-negotiable number one is this one.


    • u know swaram people like that exist even now and the so called educated people and not just elders the young blood too

      On the other hand My hubby’s great grand father inspite of being a Reddy telugu (which are known for dowries running in crores) took a pledge against and there has been no dowrt exchange in the family since then… We are all mighty proud of the fact 🙂

      So its all about the attitude and I am very sad some people still carry it……

      and u know we did that on our wedding… all the wedding expenses were 50-50, people still taunt my mom and me but we dont care… we have taken a step towards better India…..


  3. “since the girls get their husband’s property, it is balanced. What happens when a girl doesn’t marry? What if she is divorced or widowed?” What if her husband doesn’t have property?

    Unfortunately, many people think like this even today…My sister’s FIL asked my father once if he was going to leave his immovable property to his nephews since he had no sons…But to my sister’s FIL’s credit, he did not want any dowry…He just believes that immovable property should remain within the ‘family’…


  4. Gah! Dowry!!
    Don’t even get me started on this topic!!!

    I know folks who have flaunted the dowry they have received!!

    I just say one thing – “you have sold yourself to your wife’s family”
    I agree with what Ums has written. It’s all in the mindset.
    No Dowry is taken or given. Whatever the parents gave to the daughters is not considered as Dowry and is NOT given up to the boy’s family

    Me – I agree whatever is given to the daughter by the parents as gift is not dowry. And this can neither be scrutinised nor rightfully taken away or demanded…


  5. Dowry is something I don’t approve of, again the gifts given by parents are okay as long as they are given by their own wishes.

    I think the option/right to give them away should like with the girl or at most with the couple with mutual agreement.


  6. Dowry was given in lieu of the share in parental wealth. Historically it made little sense to divide and subdivide fields into little bits – besides the girl went to another village, another farming set up ~~~ hence dowry. This is the anthropological explanation. Now both son and daughter have equal rights on parental wealth, besides there are no fields to be divided in the city set-up. Both of them have equally expensive education. So why dowry??? It is just become a pain in the ass. I never got any (eloped you see) and avoided any from DIL’s side, though that required some concerted effort I must say! They were hell bent on doing “the right thing”. Hate the darn thing! Makes females feel as though their in-laws need to be bribed to accept them

    Me – I agree!!


    • See, when I got married, I fought over my trousseau, every step of the way (except over the clothes, I’m not entirely stupid). I kept saying I felt like Vicky’s family needed bribing to accept me.

      But in the end I was glad of the dinner set, the linens, the white goods because they came in useful when I set up my own household as had been the plan from the start.

      My family and I have the unspoken understanding that since my brother inherits our share of the family home, I got my huge trousseau. Everything else to be split down the middle as we go along.


      • I must add, Vicky’s family didn’t ask for a thing, not a single thing. And all that went was earmarked for me and accordingly, went as my trousseau, not dowry. I complained because it felt like dowry then but it’s been used as trousseau since!


  7. IHM – So much to say on this.

    ‘Unlike a Will, the dowry is wealth given away while the parents are still alive, whether or not they can afford it. This makes girl children unwelcome.’ – I think this is the crux. ‘whether or not they can afford it’ – this is the saddest part.

    Will be back to comment properly.


  8. I have heard a lot of comparisons of this sort too IHM… and I cant disagree more

    u say i sadly but beautifully here
    “I feel the biggest difference is one empowers while the other puts the lives of 50% of the population at risk. Right from the moment they are found to be females.”

    and if they say that women get the husband’s property then lets be fair and let the husbands get wife’s property too

    IHM its nothing but a way to make the guilt vanish

    Me – I agree Monika! And I remember reading your post, let me read it again…


  9. This dowry thing is just so painful! Luckily we do not have it in our family, and it is the men that give Mahr- , as is the proper way! But my hometown is not unafflicted by the dowry malaise and I have heard of stupid demands on poor girls and rich ones too! it seems sad that the dowry that is taken is considered the haq of the groom, and that he deserves it for looking after her! And that the girls parents think that giving a good dowry actually will give her daughter leverage and respect in her hubby’s home!

    So sad that ur Aunt’s goods were passed o to others in the family and was considered family property atleast it shd remain the girls to keep and use! Sad!

    Me – it was taken was normal to pass these dowry gifts… so nobody seriously minded. And I feel one should stay away from greedy, dowry seeking families to ensure the child is safe!


  10. A very thought -provoking post!
    Dowry in today’s age!!! It’s pathetic!
    Daughters are denied inheritance because they inherit from their new homes. But actually it’s never their own. May be they get the property et al as widows or divorced or in case they never married!

    Me – I agree Shilpa. Every child should inherit equally, whether they marry or not or are widowed or divorced or not should not matter. But at the same time the parents should have a right to disinherit a child if they choose to – I feel it’s theirs to give or withhold…


  11. Dowry – Is a strict no-no in any form. All that a daughter gets in marriage is rightfully hers irrespective what others may name it and she better fight for it
    And no it is not a compensation for her inheritance. If the inheritance is from the parents then all children have a right to it equally.
    But I also believe that no sister should seek inheritance in the wealth created solely by her brother and his wife. That then belongs to the wife and the brother’s children. Cause if one demands rights into such inheritance then you are eating into the inheritance of another woman and that was never yours to begin with

    Me – I agree with you Minal, , ‘If the inheritance is from the parents then all children have a right to it equally.’… anything a brother or even a sister or their spouses earn on their own, belongs to them, that can’t be demanded.


  12. my parents had a mixed marriage, and i think my dad and grandad (mum’s dad) came to an agreement that if grandad wouldn’t ask for the 10 mithuns that was the traditional bride price, dad wouldn’t ask for dowry either, lol. while the custom of bride-price still exists in my tribe, it is now a nominal (rs 300 last i checked) amount, that is then divided among friends and family (girls) thus sealing the promise that they will take care of her if needed. sadly, though, inheritance is still only (mostly) to the boys. i sure hope things change soon!

    Me – Feddabonn I feel if everybody, all men and women, got their equal share of inheritance, al these bride-price and dowry problems will gradually evaporate…


  13. However awful my in-laws have been in other ways, they never took dowry. But they did set up comparisons between us 3 d-i-ls as to how much (gold n trousseau) our parents gave us.

    And they’re disinherited my husband, because their strange attitude is that since I’m an only child, my husband will get to ‘enjoy’ my wealth, whereas their other 2 sons have married daughters having many siblings. WTF. Somebody needs to explain this to me… a son being denied his inheritance because he chose to side with his wife on so many choices?

    Me – I am not surprised!! Men who support their wives are often not the parents’ favourites 😦

    Regardless, I feel so much anguish that so many people educate and empower their daughters and then have them burn in hell (literal and figurative) by going on giving into dowry demands.

    Me – This really upsets me starsinmeyes 😦 Why do parents let their own female children go through hell???


  14. I am against Dowry, in whatever form. I too hate the idea of putting a price on a girl-child. In the Arab countries, the men have to show that they earn enough to support and have a family and I love that custom. Makes the women feel so much more important and accepted! Imagine our husbands having to prove that they earn enough to support us!

    Me – Sindhu, best is when each one can support oneself 🙂 When we are supported we might become powerless dependants 😦


    • i must admit i would find that very difficult! especially now, when my wife is the one who is supporting us financially.

      i have seen friends ruin great relationships that could end in marriage because the girl was earning more than the boy, and so the boy couldn’t ‘support’ her. honestly, i think the arab custom in a modern context is just as unpleasant as the system of dowry!

      Me – I agree, both are equally wrong. Every individual should have inheritance, and the couple should be free to choose who works or both work.


  15. How can they be the same thing?! Inheritance is something that is dictated by a will – a legal document. Last time I checked dowry was illegal and there were laws against it.

    Women can own property now but it’s still largely assumed that there will be some male or other standing by looking over its management etc. There isn’t ever a guarantee that they do inherit any property though, either from the husband or from their own parents. And I see no logic in this ‘She gets her husband’s property so she doesn’t need inheritance?’ I’m willing to bet the people supporting this statement are the sort who will take dowry and also lay claim to inheritance. Where’s fairness then?

    It’s a right shame, dowry. It’s about respect isn’t it? Money won’t buy you respect. No amount of dowry is going to make some bunch of people like the new DIL if they’ve made their mind up against it anyway.

    Me – Absolutely Dewdropdream! The people supporting this statement are the sort who will take a girl’s dowry and also lay claim to her inheritance… and don’t they know one is legal and one is a crime?


  16. I think dowry had initially started as an alternative to inheritance.. however we cannot consider it the same now!

    For we have forgotten that dowry that a girl brings is her right and not the right of the guy’s family.. and there should be no demands from the guy’s side.. IDEALLY..

    but then ofcourse nothing remains ideal in this world does it ?

    So yes.. it COULD have been compared may be in a distant past… but no longer!

    Me – No Winnie the poohi, nothing remains ideal 😦 That is why we need a system that does not depend on ideal situations and human good will 😦


  17. dowry in this day and age is bull shit and nothing else!

    and if the parents want to give any gifts, let them give it out of their own free will whenever they want to! and not in the form of dowry.

    you know my MIL tried to give gyaan to M saying dowry is given because daughters dont get inheritance and the works. which may be historically true and even then they always had to shell out MORE than they could ever afford.

    Ofcos they never asked for anything and my parents knew that i would pretty much NOT get married than give dowry. i told M you have a wife who is educated enough to earn. consider that your dowry! :p

    but seriously. its ONLY a menace. on my recent trip to jaisalmer, we found this 12th std guy who also did bit of guide work to earn extra money. he said in a village some kms away they didnt have any girls till about 10yrs ago. now after major sensitizing etc the count is 25. people just kill girl babies because a wage earner cant afford to give 60 tolas of gold in dowry! 😦


    • same here. every bit of it. even gifts i got during the wedding and later on when people visited us was grabbed away by my MIL for her daughters. even hubby asked me to hand over my gold jewellery to MIL as he was the one who was supposed to get his sisters married as FIL was no more (there were three other brothers, out of who two were older) and where does he go for collecting dowry for them? If they had got a fat dowry from me, it would have made getting hub’s sisters married easy…”but they only got a small dowry from my family”…their words.


  18. A very thought-provoking post!

    When I was studying… we (a group of us, classmates) were discussing this topic. Most of the guys were like, whats wrong with taking dowry… ??? Do you think we’ll feed an extra person… free of cost… ??? Thats not done.

    Shocking but true… its difficult nay impossible to change some mindsets, even in the 21st century.


    • Musings of an Unknown Indian, I just wonder why can’t both spouses work and earn so that the husband does not have to look after her “free of charge”?

      But the truth is they want her to work free of charge at home and want her parents to pay for her food and upkeep. The husband’s family gets a free maid and free money.

      Is a man doing a woman a great favor by marrying her?


  19. IHM seriously , now a days many educated girls of my generations are forcing guys to demand dowry.Many of my friend’s ,girlfriend’s\wouldbe’s did the same.There theory is simple -” Apart from what we are earning it is good 2 have an extra back up and after all they are our parents” …seriously i’m not joking 🙂
    Recently i had a discussion with a father of two girls(in a train journey) about the same.His comment really surprised me.He told me like “Unlike olden days we are having hardly 1 or 2
    daughters now a days.So like giving proper education to them, finding a good guy for them ,
    we also happy to ‘send’ them properly.

    Anyways back to post,in fact i pointed the views of upper middle class familes and rich family’s above.I know it is not the same with middle class and lower middle class families

    I heard a lot about this gift culture on festivals in TamilNadu and AP.Like girls parents and her brother has to present gifts,dress to there in son in law\bro in law on all special festivals.
    Don’t know who created all these customs and all.Common if they can’t afford it then………What to say ,pathetic


  20. IHM in a andhra there is a caste known as kammas,where the property is always in the name of a girl and the guys never have anything on their names.Once a girl gets married all the property is registered on her name and she passes all the property to her daughter when she gets her daughter married and the sons don’t get anything.And they always get their daughter married in their relatives so that the property doesn’t goes to the outsider.And married women never gives her land/gold etc to her husband or the in-laws or daughter-inlaws,she gives everything to her daughter.

    Taking dowry is a status symbol in some caste in andhra.They make a special dias at the time of marriage to display the dowry(furniture,moterbike,tv etc…..) the boy is getting.And the come dialogue the bridegroom family says that its your daughter who is going to use the things u are going.

    The people who take dowry are not humans.


  21. A friend once told me that a certain relative had told her parents “It’s a pity that your daughter is the elder one. If son was older you could have taken his wife’s dowry and got your daughter married off in a grand way!”

    In Kerala, in the place where I come from, some folks follow the matriarchal system of dividing family property. That means it passes on to the daughters and their kids. This leaves the sons out in the cold and they son is expected to mooch off his wife’s property! So even though girls do have a share in the inheritance, it may not always work out for the best. I know of a family where the son used his savings and even pledged his wife’s gold to build a home for his parents, but his mother,sticking to tradition told him that he would get to enjoy his wife’s property and willed that house to his two sisters.

    Me – Dreamer you are right, this is equally unjust and hence has it’s its own share of problems! …Why can’t we simply start giving equally to every kid and say no to dowry and bride-price etc ?


    • In legal terms of Kerala’s matriarchal society, sons have equal share in the property but most sons let it go because they get the share from the woman they marry. That way women had something to fall back on and of course weren’t treated badly. It is the thing of past. Now Kerala too has picked up from other regions and now dowry is demanded.


    • Dreamer – In my family(we are from Kerala), we still hold on to the no dowry concept. None of my cousins or relatives have taken dowry – and people who accept dowry are also looked down upon – so even if some people do tend to be greedy – they are worried about societal approval – so desist from accepting dowry.. I really feel that the dowry system will not go unless people start feeling ashamed of it. Right now, it has become a privilege in most parts of India.


      • Missed out mentioning this – Most families in Kerala, even in the matrilineal system – follow the custom of equal inheritance. And even in the purest form, what would happen is that both sons and daughter would get a share of the ancestral property, but the son’s share(of the ancestral property) would be passed to the daughter’s children rather than his own children. But any property that is not ancestral, could be passed on in any way that the parents thought right. The main advantage in this system was that girls in any family would be well provided for and is not considered ‘paraya dhan’ or anything of that sort. As far as I know, this system of inheritance is no longer strictly followed – most people follow equal inheritance.


  22. “Girls who inherit are in a much better position socially.” Definitely. In Kerala girls inherit property and there was no dowry system. Note the past tense. Now the boy’s family wants the inheritance plus a hefty dowry in gold, cash and household goods. They are picking up quite a few things from the rest of the regions!

    Me – But how do they benefit from the inheritance? Doesn’t she get it only in her middle age or later Shail?

    In reply to Dreamers comment above, in the matriarchal system the property is divided between the children (sons and daughters included) and the children of daughters who also get an equal share (but not the children of sons who get a share from their mother’s side). So it is not as if sons don’t get anything at all from his own house. They are legally entitled to.


    • Theoretically Shail, you are absolutely right. But what has happened is now a days is because of the demand for dowry most families end up spending all their money on their daughter’s marriage. Then they usually tell the grooms parents that their house (middle class people will normally have only one house and that too usually will be inherited from the mother or built with help of mothers inheritance) will go to their daughters. The idea is to show that the daughter is worth quite a bit. This is how sons end up having to turn to their wive’s share of the property.

      The matriarchal system in it’s original pure form was empowering to women. The watered down version that exists now is no good for anyone. There are guys who waste all their money on booze because the onus of setting up a home for his family is not his. It’s his wife’s family’s duty to take care of his wife and kids after all! One of my former maids used to tell me that everyday her mother-in-law and husband (an unemployed wastrel) would keep pestering her to ask for her share from her parents, so that the mother-in-laws house could be handed over to her daughter!

      It is the dilution and corruption of what was once a good system that has ensured that women once again get the worst end of a bargain.


    • “But how do they benefit from the inheritance? Doesn’t she get it only in her middle age or later Shail? ”

      In the earlier scenario of the matriarchal system, the women never left their homes for their husband’s place. So inheritance meant the property was not divided. She continued staying in the house she grew up in. In the new scenario that developed later, yes she got the inheritance some time around her middle age and it was mainly put into use for marrying off her daughter or educating her son or even buying a home for the by then near retirement age couple. But now, her inheritance is demanded right at the time of her marriage which puts many parents of daughters at a disadvantage as they then have no place to stay when they are done with dividing up their property between daughters/sons and spending money on the weddings of daughters not to mention the kilos of gold demanded!!

      I loved the comment from Yourfan below. Yeah rather than sponging off from parents each one must learn to stand on his/her own feet. Maybe if parents know that they cannot pass on their money to their children, one set of them will not go all out to amass wealth and another set to try and wrangle it out of them in the form of dowry and such.


  23. I am wary of this inheritance/dowry business. It is usually twisted for people’s selfish needs, and harms a section of the population. That said I agree that girls who inherit are in a socially better position.
    As regards to “There is a custom in some places where the trousseau is critically examined by the in laws and the girls in the new family pick whatever they like from the new bride’s possessions.” what can I say? A girl’s trousseau is her PERSONAL property. Something that she has got for HERSELF, not for moochers to invade. When will people stop invading others’ personal lives?


  24. I’ve never understood dowry. If you are after material benefits and riches, why not just marry a rich lady (or a rich dude)?

    To me, giving dowry is a greater crime than accepting it. Whenever I see these dowry related police cases where the groom and his mom are arrested, I always wonder why the bride’s parents (the originating offenders) are left alone. They are the bigger criminals.

    Me – I think in most such cases they are arrested for harassment of the girl, for torturing her because they want her to bring dowry.


  25. Even though modern day touts about no dowry, when it comes to arranged marriages, most people conveniently pick match from families by analyzing their estate in anticipation that due dowry will come. Things might look changed, but much has not. I think a girl is worth if she can stand for herself, make decisions for herself. Otherwise the value of dowry she brings in might not keep her stature for ever. NO DOWRY and EQUAL INHERITANCE is the way to go.

    Me – I agree Lakshmi!! ‘No Dowry and Equal Inheritance’ is the way to go.


  26. IHM, I am yet to read the post but jut going by the title,

    Dowry and Inheritance can never be compared
    . Dowry is a social evil because of which many girls are burned, tortured and some remain unmarried. Inheritance is something that children get legally. It is something that is passed on to children. Dowry is DEMANDED.

    It beats me when I see some people justifying dowry and compare it to inheritance.

    Will come back and read in detail. You always bring us important topics of discussion.

    Me – Thanks Solilo Don !! 🙂


  27. I had this discussion with my mom few weeks back. My question was that so much money is spent on a girls wedding, feeding 300 or more people, giving gifts and such to boys parents and relatives, what part of that big expense does that girl get hold of? Since we live away from home, under the pretext of things being together under one roof in the name of family unity, my gold, including the one given by my mother, is with my mother in law. every time I go back for a trip, I keep wondering if I should ask for it, but for the sake of maintaining peace, I always end up not doing it. So, if my parents feel, they gave me my share and my in laws feel, it actually belongs to them, where do I stand?
    Sorry didn’t mean to make it so personal, I don’t know if its appropriate to publish.

    Me – I feel this is very relevant Sandhya. I was trying to say the same thing with my mother’s example, and this is the norm everywhere!!


    • @sands,

      The core issue in your case is that you allowed your parents to arrange a marriage for you – the arrangement was between them and your spouse’s parents, and thus the financial transactions are also between them. Your parents gave “their” money and “their” gold to your in-laws.

      The only way to eradicate this is to avoid arranged weddings and if possible avoid expensive wedding ceremonies too. Just register your marriage and throw a party for close relatives and friends.

      Later on, you can legally claim your parent’s inherited assets (assets they inherited from your grandparents), but remember that under Indian law you don’t have any rights to any assets your parents “earned” on their own.

      Eventually it also helps if couples drop this expectation to live on their parents’ wealth. If both of you are employed, plan and save for a secure financial future together.


      • Making assumptions while commenting isn’t a very healthy comment policy.

        Your comment makes an assumption : me expecting wealth from either my inlaws or my parents and not being self sufficient.

        Another assumption you made : we had a lavish wedding where we spent a whole lot of money and was an arrangement between my parents and in laws. I don;t need to explain how I got married but my comment about feeding 300 people was for an average Indian wedding

        Another assumption: My parents giving gold and money to my in laws. Where did I say that??

        Both us are employed and live in a separate country! The jewelery was not given to my MIL but to me and was taken away from me on the pretext of keeping it safe and not needing it in the US of A. My comment in no way suggested that I expect my parents to give me wealth or anything but if they do give me something, it belongs to me and not to MIL.


        • It was not obvious from your earlier post that you were talking in general rather than about your specific experience. So when you mentioned the 300+ guest wedding, I thought it was your wedding.

          Since you were posting in general, please reinterpret my reply as being addressed to the stereotypical arranged marriage bride rather than to you. For various reasons I am strongly against the concept of arranged marriages, and the standard habit of spending hundreds of thousands on the wedding function (even when the family cannot afford it) seems completely illogical to me.

          To me, any marriage function should be completely sponsored by the bride and the groom and not by their parents. But then at this point we are going off topic, so I’ll wait for the Indian Home Maker to write a blog entry on arranged marriages and I’ll pour out my thoughts at that time. 🙂

          Me – I feel marriage should be optional – not the only goal of an adult’s life… will definitely write a post on arranged marriages!! 🙂


        • Sands, I had a similar experience. My in-laws were very unhappy when I wanted to take my jewelery with me. I saw no reason to leave my jewelery with them, while I would be in another city -but this was something that upset them. I find it really sad that everything which is supposed to be a girl’s is automatically assumed to be the in-law’s property! All my jewelery is in my locker – which is a relief – I could not have imagined having to ask somebody every time I needed a piece of jewelery!


  28. Why should children mooch off their parents? It is parents’ duty to give good education to children and after that it is up to children to shape up their life. Inheritance should be something that helps them to fall back on..not something to live off. Children inherit things from parents including family heirlooms, jewelry and property but that should be things for rainy day.

    As mentioned before Dowry is something that is demanded and if demand is not met then we have seen marriages called off, girls burned and tortured and in some cases the guy remarries and first wife is reduced to a maid. All this happens even today. May be not in our society but middle class and lower middle class families struggle because of this social evil and it is also the reason why most people prefer a boy at the time of birth. This ‘beti paraya dhan’ and ‘kisi aur ki amanat’ c**p supports dowry system. That is exactly the reason why I don’t support joint family system where the norm is to bring a girl and then girl becomes part of her new family.


  29. Dowry is demanded by the in-laws, parents are not given a choice and the girl never sees any of it..Inheritance is given by parents as they choose to and once given it’s in the girls name..
    Not similar at all..two very different things..One legal, complete with documents, signed by witnesses, other illegal and any mention of it would lead people to run around courts..
    A close friend of ours were looking for a groom for their daughter..the guy’s family kept saying no dowry..we only want the girl..When came time for the shagun, ring ceremony..they said one ginni (one tolla Gold) for every person from the groom side who was coming for the ceremony as shagun. The girl’s family was taken by surprised. The girl took a stand and said no to the whole thing..she refused to marry the guy even when the parents were ready to give in..
    I know how difficult this was for her but I still applaud her for taking a stand.

    Me – Comfortablynam such people become such good examples!! Hats off to that girl!


  30. I am against both the dowry and inheritance IHM… One thing i will be sure in my marriage is i dont want a penny as dowry… And i dont need a penny as inheritance… As solilo said my parents has given me enough education and knowledge to survive in this world… I Think thats really enough for me…

    Me – I wish more young people thought like you Kanagu… My heart felt, deepest wishes to you!!


  31. Dowry is an insidious curse, a kind of social virus which poisons married life and family life, and should be completely eradicated from society, in my opinion.

    In my notebook, acceptance of dowry is one of the most despicable and dishonorable acts for a man. It shows that the man (getting married) who demands (or quietly lets his family demand) dowry is a wimp and does not have any confidence in his own financial ability to contribute to family support. (Otherwise why would he need dowry?)

    I am mystified by the sense of blatant entitlement and acceptance that many Indian families display when it comes to dowry. The underlying salivating greed of family members demanding dowry, and the frequently resultant post-marriage cruelty towards the new bride because of dowry sickens me to the core.

    I would also put a part of the blame on the families of many Indian brides who give away dowry so easily under social compulsion. Girls should be raised to be educated, independent and self-sufficient, and families must be strong enough to refuse marital alliances where the other party demands dowry. Marriage should be an option best left to the girl concerned, and dowry should be totally out of the question.

    I am not a big fan of inheritance (I prefer every generation should start from scratch, only using the basic amount necessary to prepare oneself for life, i.e. education), but I do guess it amounts to financial security for the next generation and can be of use in many unforeseen situations. Inheritance though is a completely different thing compared to dowry. As you correctly said, inheritance empowers whereas dowry burdens.

    As for gifts during marriage, whatever is given to the bride belongs to the bride unless she is ready to voluntarily share her items with her husband’s family.
    I once asked my parents why newly married couples receive so many gifts during marriage. They told me that these “gifts” are a goodwill gesture from well-wishers and relatives to help the new couple set up their new home and married life. Well, in that case all these items belong solely to the couple concerned and nobody else!

    In the end a married couple should be treated as a separate entity, an independent family unit; outside the sphere of influence of either the boy’s family or the girl’s family. There should be no “sasuraal” or no “maayka”, just “hamara pyaara ghar” where everyone the couple jointly makes the rules. This will cause many social ills related to married life in India to vanish.

    Me – Beautifully said … I agree of course! 🙂


  32. Acc to my granny,in earlier days when girls weren’t entitled to family property,she was given dowry. But in today context I dont support dowry system at all. If at all parents wish to give gifts to their daughter in either gold or cash……they should also open a seperate account and safety deposit box in her name alone,so that she has control over the gifts. I have seen cases where the daughter-in-laws cash gift was used for frivolous exps by the in-laws and the gold worn by sisters in law!


  33. The guy would be lucky if he had more than one wife !! hai na?? 😀 😀 😀 😀

    I dont believe in dowry or inheritance, and I dont need them either !! I would rather starve to death than depend on all those !

    Me – It’s good to read that young people today are thinking like this Vimmuuu!!


  34. Dowry and inheritance can never be equated. Dowry is more or less a bribe to marry somebody’s daughter. Does anybody come an check how much a son has inherited – so if they are the same – how is it that the bridegroom’s side has any say in how much the dowry should be?

    The concept of somebody’s dowry being distributed amongst the in-laws is horrible. We had neighbours whose son got married to a doctor(he was one as well) but apparently they did not give enough dowry. The son insisted on this match and the parents and sister were not happy with it. When the couple were entering the house, the bridegroom’s sister, took off the gold that the bride was wearing – calling it shagun! Apparently she did it because the bride did not bring the expected dowry! We were so shocked to hear that! This bride was a qualified doctor, whose parents must have spent just as much on her as the bridegroom’s parents yet, they expected more! Inheritance would never come in making or breaking off matches, but dowry is, in so many cases, the reason for weddings to get called off, for women to be burnt, and for the killing off, of female fetuses. How can these two concepts be equated by people, is beyond me!!

    This whole dowry business will stop only when people start feeling ashamed of giving and taking dowry. As far as, the cars and the flats that come as part of dowry are proudly exhibited – it just becomes a huge status symbol. I actually know young people – both men and women, who defend it. Unless people start to feel ashamed of it -it will not go away from our society.


  35. I think it’s a totally irrelevant concept in this day and age. My sister and brother and I have never had any expectations of dowry or even inheritance from my parents because they have already given so much to us in the form of education, support and even to the point of paying for most of my wedding (My husband paid for the other half himself).

    Because we came into our marriage with pretty much nothing (being newly graudated students), when I was getting married my mother would joke that all the things she bought for me (e.g. kitchen stuff that she had more wisdom over lol) were part of my dhahej but it was never looked at in that way.

    I married a non-Indian and obviously they had no idea of asking for dowry or anything (which surprisingly in the NRI world it still happens, especially when people are getting arranged marriages to those back in India), so anything my parents gave me were gifts to help me in the set up of our new home and they were for both my husband and myself.

    My sister is getting married to her childhood sweetheart and they are quite traditional people (to the point despite being family friends for over a decade they didn’t my sister marrying their son because she wasn’t ‘Indian’ enough for them – whatever that means) – I don’t think they’d ever ask for it but the family pressure from overseas (esp since a lot of his family are coming down for the wedding) is something that might make them….


  36. Anything forced is not right. Period. Everyone has got brains and need to live based on THEIR brains.

    On the other hand, even if a lot of guys in urban India say NO to dowry, you still find parents who worry about dowry. They think it might become a problem for the girl in the future. Its all embedded in the blood it seems and might take a few years to wipe this stigma.


  37. Absolutely not, dowry cannot be justified under any circumstances and you have given the reasons for that. Dowry is evil. Any jewellery given at the time of marriage, or in fact anything given at the time of marriage belongs to the girl whose father has given it and it is up to her to dispose of it the way she chooses. There are families which do not take dowry but I know they are not so common in India. Dowry is given directly or indirectly. I think a girl’s parents spending on the wedding is itself a kind of dowry. As you said they have to spend whether they can afford it or not and they have to match the so-called “status” of the groom as the groom’s guests need to be satisfied. What is also sick is the way the groom’s family inquires about the menu etc. I have two daughters and I dread the thought of meeting some backward people. I come from a modern family where my grandfather insisted on spending half of the wedding costs and insisted that the plot of land given by my mother’s father be put on her name, and so if I come across a backward or greedy family I think I don’t know what I will do! I hope there are more liberal thinking families today than in yesteryear but after being introduced to the internet world I have started to think that things have got worse! I hope I am wrong.


  38. In older times, dowry may have been an alternative to inheritance where the girls would’ve taken the “movable” stuff like jewelley, furniture with her. It doesn’t hold any value anymore. Women are empowered with inheritance and the gifts given during marriage should be strictly couple’s. With inheritance I don’t think women (or anyone) needs to wait till the demise of parents. If the property is ancestoral, they have a share right when they are born. It is only the assets that is created by the parents that s/he cannot demand a share in if required.

    I guess what is more required is that girls are brought up to be well educated and independent so that they can finance their livlihood themselves and not depend on either dowry or inheritance. Parents should spend that money on education and creating opportunities instead up hoarding it up for dowry/inheritance.

    I had a friend who was not great at studies. Her dad sold some land and sent her an US univerisity for higher studies because she was not able to get through good indian univs due to high competition. When she was feeling very guilty about this expenditure that her dad was making, he told her – “I would rather use this money to make you independent than keep it for your dowry. Just don’t expect me to find you a groom now :)”

    That friend is now earning very well in a prestigious bank in US and is also happily married (without dowry). That’s the way forward for all of us.


  39. In my mother’s side, we don’t discuss about the dowry at all! The boy’s side gift the girl some gold, whether they are rich or poor, to welcome Lakshmi to their home.

    In Tamilnadu, dowry system is still there. And after marriage the girl’s side has to go on giving gifts for each and every festival. It is not easy for many families. And they have to take care of the first two deliveries…the baby should be given gold chain, gold bangles, silver anklets, silver or gold waist chain etc.

    In olden days, girls were not educated but now the girls hold professional degrees (the parents spend for their education with donations etc.) and earn handsomely. Still the dowry system is going on.

    Even now, if a girl baby is born, people ask ‘ponnaaaa?’ in ‘paavam’ tones! And you know what, only women are the leaders in these transactions!


  40. Long back I read an article in ‘outlook’ about boys from Punjab marrying Kerala girls because they don’t have enough girls in their area. One boy came to Kerala on some work and married a Kerala girl and took her back home. She did not know any of their customs or their language. Yet, she blended well with them and as per her in-laws’ request started bringing in Kerala girls to Punjabi boys!

    The girls/boys ratio is dwindling now and boys’ families find it difficult to get girls from matrimonial sites. You can find more boys’ advertisements looking for girls nowadays in newspaper matrmonial columns. And they repeat for a long time…


  41. One is a crime which as you said “puts the life of 50% of the population at risk” making them unwanted for life. Whatever the historical explanation-it no longer justifies continuing with this criminal practice.

    (Even historically Dowry was considered “stree-dhan” property of the girl alone and not something which is distributed amongst the inlaws)

    Inheritance is a legal right which empowers the girl while the former makes her a victim.


  42. The thought of dowry, sickens me. Unfortunately, equality is still a huge issue that so many refuses to forgo. Those who insists on dowry and looks down at the bride’s family – warning, if you do have a daughter of your own. Omen is tricky.


  43. Pingback: Empower the girl child « The tomboy who grew up to be a mom of two

  44. Dowry is an insult and I am glad people are standing against it ..and with changing time parents are giving importance to inheritance ….

    if someone takes dowry in ofc ,we ask ” kitne main bika ?”, but then some people are too shameless bragging about the gold , lakhs and cars … but now girls are more smart as in they would prefer cars they can drive , jwelery thy will posses and wear and house they can live in all they get remain with them and never is gifted to anyone , even if they get cash , its in their account and is not given to the guy …


  45. The Dowry Prohibition Act of 1984 lregards give and take of dowry as punishable but at the same time accepts it as Streedhan when it is labled as voluntary gift. The practice of dowry has only caused and sustained discrimination against women and girl child. In addition, it has contributed to many other ills in society and governance which include corruption and indebtness. There is no justification in seeing it as a susbstitute to inheritence or as comparable to inheritence. Girls and women must have equal inheritance rights and must be empowered to exercise that right.


  46. IHM, I have known families where brothers cheated their sisters of their share of parental property on the grounds “they were given dowry”. And this is “respectable” people. In fact, I just wonder why anyone should be proud of money they gain like this, or indeed money which they do not earn themselves.
    Dowry is a pathetic reversion to a feudal system that has lost its relevance, if indeed it had any. And it is used as an excuse by greedy unprincipled people.


  47. I had written a paper on a related opic in college. A quick history on dowry –

    Dowry was traditionally given as the share of the daughter in her faher’s property so that he sons could inherit the property fully without the property being partiioned into smaller & smaller pieces & reduing its value(prior to the Amendment) and the daughter could set up her own household. Dowry was the ‘stridhan’ of the woman which she could use as she pleased and noone could take from her, her own husband & children (forget the in-laws) had no right on it.However, somewhere along the line, the concept of dowry got bastardised into being the lure for marrying a girl. Thus, dowry was actally considered to be the woman’s inheritance.

    PS: Stridhan would include what the girl got at the time of her marriage from her parents & from her in-laws.


  48. hehehe! right, take your time. But, I think you reply comments very quickly and not based on calculations on the frequency of comments. I am also away from the internet (except for work related things), into social things and all. YOur personal commitments are way way above this blog and definitely a sporadic commentator like me!

    Hey, I am secretly your fan, man, (sorry, woman!) 😛 We are kind of playing a game of getting happy and sad with each other very frequently, just quite like two immature childhood friends! 😀 hehehe, hey I like your blog very much. Thank you.


  49. you ask the most thought provoking questions IHM. I love coming here to read…but mostly i’m a luker..i read and go away. But I still think about what you’ve written. You make me think from so many different angles and prompt me to ask other people about their opinion on the subject and hence discovering new a side to people. i’m sometimes lazy in typing out my multitude of thoughts :(. i cannot understand dowry. it seems to me like a transaction of sorts, like buying a commodity rather than a culmination of two families and the building of relationships. Dowry, feels cold..somehow. never gave and will never ask.


  50. I’m here for the first time. Interesting post. It was very very hard to explain to my prospective in laws that I do not want anything means just that. I do not want anything. It took me quite some time to be heard.

    In the end I had my way. Simple wedding in an Arya Samaj temple. With just 8 people in all and one priest. Me, my parents, her, her parents. Our sisters. That’s it. I refused to take anything. And I did not take anything too. Surprisingly, my parents were very eager to go with my way, her parents thought (and still think) that I am a certified lunatic to have refused silly material stuff like jewellery, electronic gadgets and the like. The only money we spent was Rs. 3100 as fees for the Arya Samaj Temple. That’s all.

    I loved my wedding. It was a dream come true. I always wanted a simple wedding. After a lot of coaxing and cajoling, I managed to do it. Whew, it was hard work, mentally taxing.

    My relatives too think that I am either a lunatic or there is something wrong with my manhood. It’s a shame, really.

    In India, even if the girl & boy want a simple wedding with no dowry, the families do not let them.

    Each time my wife’s family said this or that is the custom, I finally told them I’m calling off the wedding if you don’t do it my way. My wife supported me all the way and came to my house empty handed.

    Let’s look at it this way, our parents helped us study and get jobs and let us manage the house on our own. Now that we are grown up and able to manage our own lives, we should help them and not be a burden on them.

    I will ensure my kids hear enough about my thoughts and get married the same way.

    Sorry, this is a long comment. Blogrolling you IHM.

    Me – Hats off to you both Ramit. I have seen this sort of insistence by my parents but we gave in 😦 …. so I know what you mean 🙂
    I am completely with you about simple weddings and no dowry too. I also feel if the couple does want a lavish wedding, let them both spend, half the amount each, from their own pockets.


  51. Thanks IHM! The Blank Noise meet in Delhi is on Sunday, that’s tomorrow at 3 PM in Inner Circle, CP. For the rest of the cities, check the picture in my blog. The list is in it.


  52. It is an absolutely a no brainer that dowry is bad, social evil, etc. I am sure no one in the above 85 comments have agreed to dowry being a good thing or so. Dowry seen as a good thing is a thing of the past (if it ever was seen as something good), it is pointless wasting time on it.

    But, I think inheritance is even more evil. It would be good to see that donating one’s money to charity in the old age becomes a trend soon. Like it has already hit Bill Gates, warren Buffett and other rich of the world. Inheriting money makes their kid lazy, kind of spoiled brats. In case of money is donated by the rich parents, at least the kids would knew that they have to work hard to earn on their own. The special status that a kid wants for being born to a rich father can wane soon. Unfortunately, we have that capitalist culture very badly here. At the most, the only advantage that the kid would get for being born into an affluent family is of good schooling, good education. Rest, he should build on his own. No, I dont support taking money from parents for some ‘early help’ and any other pretext. That is how we would see the kids of rich and poor working alike at cafes, BPOs, shops or so and earning their won bug.

    Moreover, these jobs would not be looked down upon. Don’t we have some localities where lower middle class live? So, we refer them as ‘hey, thats a place of all vegetable sellers and driver conductors’. That would be evaded soon. A person working hard deserves more money and respect for his work. A person working less deserves less. I think this is also an excellent way to break a social chain.

    We have this dirty culture where ‘business of education’ has spring up, pay money and get a seat, even in the most respected institutes of India.

    Kids of rich, schooled good, get seats through management quota, do not have to worry about job as their is enough at home already and live with a higher class life. Kids of poor, schooled bad, living in small towns, do not get any seats in their preferred career (thanks to all the caste, DEFENSE, NRI, J and K, PH quota guys), have to take some loan, worry for a job, and then worry for its repayment and so on. Reminds of the Bramhinism that we traditionally had. Only that, it is no more on the basis of CASTE, it is on the basis of CLASS. Upper, lower, middle, rich, etc. etc.

    Innovation springs out only when societies become individualist (where concept of inheritance is alien), and not collectivist (full of cultured, adhering to norms and traditional values folks). India (and most of Eastern world)has always been collectivist. West became individualist and every invention belongs to them, see the 17th century England or 19 century America!

    I have written abruptly touching various issues (quite pointlessly) but I hope you will make out how I want to convey the disadvantages of the evil called inheritance. With inheritance, how can there be ‘level playing field’?


  53. there is nothing really “good” coming from dowry…I am from AP (ahem! cant say that now can I?) and girls from certain communities bring crores…yes you read it right…crores with them as “dowry”..and both the families justify that its her share of her property from her parents…and come to think of it…it means she cant trust her brothers with playing it fair after their parents…or what ever the reason might be…all in all there is no security for women what soever…..brothers husband or anyone else..


  54. Pingback: Can Dowry be compared to Inheritance? « The Life and Times of an … < Read what Young Indians Read

  55. Actually dowry is not bad if the parents of the girl, on their own accord, want to gift the newly-weds. Dowry becomes bad when the boy’s family expects it from the girl’s family. Of course, the “dowry” is the property of the girl and not the mother-in-law and therefore no, it cannot be compared to inheritance. The m-i-l has no right to give it away without the consent of the girl.

    Just for the record, I’m totally against the dowry system. My dad insisted on no dowry when he married mum. So the question of dowry doesn’t arise in my family.


  56. Thankfully, I have neither the problem of inheritance nor dowry (since last 2 generations). I come from a family where there were all love marriages (and that too in ’70s), all inter caste, one inter – regional (both sides speak the same language though!) and only one arriange marriage.

    In my Gen, all love marriages, no dowry remotely!

    And eveyone in my Gen is against inheritance. Kaahe maabaap ke paisa pe jeeye, yaa maje maare?


  57. I guess direct dowry demands are slowly disappearing in modern families, but the bride’s family still foots the wedding expenses, so that means dowry has not been eradicated yet.
    We must acknowledge the basic asymmetry in a patriarchal society in that a woman must stay with her husband’s family. As she is absorbed into it fully, they might have some warped claim on her possessions. In some cases, that might become a grey area.
    Ideally, I like the idea of a nuclear family, where the husband and wife live away from their parents, so that what’s theirs is theirs. They can draw their own lines on whether the husband has any claim on his wife’s inheritance. One must wonder, however, that no one blinks when a woman gets control of what her husband owns, but we do see raised eyebrows when the man does a similar thing.

    Me – Nuclear Family also allows a couple to live as a couple and as adults where they are responsible for taking all their decisions, it also allows both the sets of parents to visit the married children.
    I feel the traditional system of one person being responsible for all finances- earned and inherited allowed women to ‘possess’ all her spouse’s belonging, but it also saw the woman as one of the spouse’s ‘belongings’ – everything that was hers became automatically his- including their children.


    • Your last point is well taken. Not all women would have the insight to know that them getting access to a lot of freedoms and comforts due to their husbands is basically a form of cultural imprisonment and objectification.
      However, from a perspective of ‘to each her own’, I would submit that there are some women who are truly willing to make that trade-off. While I would find it hard personally to even begin to identify with such a philosophy, as it stands, there are women like that, and they deserve the freedom to choose that life. Other women, in the garb of empowerment, are encroaching upon that freedom.


  58. But you have to admit that Liberal Cynic does have a point.

    We all cry foul when the guy get’s the wife’s inheritance. But we are alright with the girl getting the hubby’s inheritance.

    Me- Women don’t really get anything in a traditional system, they remain dependants…

    You could argue here the difference in possession of the said inheritances in a joint family versus a nuclear family.

    But you can never compensate anyone enough for disowning a human being. That’s simply not done.


    • Disowning a child or deleting them from a will is totally a parent’s decision. If it is your money, only you should be able to decide where it goes. We can judge it as a social taboo when a person leaves the chunk of his estate to his son, and gives the daughter hardly anything, (and I would be the first one to judge it) but your money is your money. No one else should be able to dictate what is to be done with it. Hopefully, in the years to come, gender differentiation in this regard will disappear entirely.
      It could work the other way around too. What if my son has no interest in my business but my daughter does? I might decide to leave the business to her, and give my son a lump-sum of money.
      Decisions based on merit are what we need to shoot for.


  59. I am against both inheritance and dowry. Those are the biggest evils we need to fight – whether we are guys or girls. The inheritance part has not been justified properly as to why it is one of our biggest bane. Otherwise, I think both are evils and need to be fought against.

    Destination Infinity


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  63. I commented upon another post without knowing you have dealt with the same issue here. Maybe it would have been more relevant to post that comment here.


  64. Alright first of all, lets make something clear. Dowry system still exists. Anybody denying knowledge of it please go back to sticking your head in the sand. Most parents decide from the moment a girl is born, to start saving in gold and other valuables that can be easily moved to her new home when she gets married. There is a serious number of people who dont take a penny from wives/ D-I-Ls, but these people are often looked upon as oddities (Maybe there is something wrong with the boy, noone will marry him if they demand dowry, they are communists). There is another section that denies the daughter higher education/ awesome career prospects to get her married. This is our India. Accept the idea, before you raise a voice that it is wrong. It is WRONG but the mindset is changing.

    Just like inter caste marriages, adoptions and live in relationships, the existance is undeniable.

    Sorry IHM for the venting, but some of the comments just pushed the wrong buttons.

    Inheritance of wealth shouldnt be a replacement for dowry. It should become an equal rights practice. While dowry is absolutely outdated (why it exists in the first place beats me) and needs to be completely wiped out. Inheritance laws should be rewritten to ensure that every child gets what is their right. The parents may do as they choose with property they made in their lifetime but ancestral property rightfully should go to all siblings, male or female.

    In conclusion, lets abolish dowry completely and make inheritance a must. How much a child inherits depends on how much he has done for the family, including but not limited to the parents. 😀



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