Here's an entry from the LJ of vyshnavi....and all the comments that follow...
*I* think one of the reasons the practice of dowry started was that there was the age-old inequity of the women not having a share in the property; so the parents would give her jewellery and money as her share. A bride would bring in a "dower"...her portion of the property. The word "endow" comes from "endower"...to provide a dower, or gift, to someone. The practice of "dower" and "dot" (in French) existed in the West, too. Also, in the days when women were totally dependent financially, this would be a nest-egg to fall back on in hard times. It was not a bad thing to start with....but the practice got vitiated into greedy demands.
Recently, I met a couple who were looking for a match for their son. They were pretty horrified at the thought of dowry. "Ohmigod, what a terrible practice!" the mother exclaimed. "We would never demand dowry for our son." Someone else then suggested the name of a prospective bride. "Oh...." hesitated the lady. "But her parents are not in 'big' jobs...they wouldn't be able to give her much jewellery..."... Jewellery?.... "See...we have our social standing, and the jewellery and silver vessels are not for us, it's only for her..."... Oh?.... "And we do need to have a grand wedding to befit our status..." Grand wedding? Would they pay for half of it? "That is too modern for us! The custom is for the bride's parents to pay for the wedding, why should we?"....Oh?..."And throughout the first year, think of how happy the girl will be if the parents come over with gifts-- for her! Why should we prevent her being happy?"...OH???...."And of course if we have an alliance with people of 'good' social standing (read bank balance)..they will naturally like to provide her with a nice flat or a car, why should we come in the way of that?"...And would THEY give their daughter-in-law some jewellery? ...."But her parents have already given her all the jewellery that she wants...perhaps we would give her something..." OHHH????And what if your son brings home someone who won't have her parents stage a grand wedding, or give jewellery?...."We will have to tolerate that I suppose...we are quite broad-minded about it.".... OOOOHHHHHH????...Can you think of a wedding without the jewellery and the property and stuff?...."Oh, but Indian weddings are all these things combined..." I agree on this...the Tambram wedding, even today, is divided into Vaitheekam (religious) and Loukeekam (temporal...guess what, the "what" and the "how much"!)
This lady and her nodding husband FIRMLY believe that they are against dowry! (They are my age, I think...but we seem to populate different worlds.)