September 22nd, 2006

wave

The whole dowry question....

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Here's an entry from the LJ of vyshnavi....and all the comments that follow...

http://vyshnavi.livejournal.com/103628.html


*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.)
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MahALaya amAvAsyA...Nava rAthri begins

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The new moon of the "mahALaya paksham"...when the moon grows into the nine nights, Navarathri or ten nights,  Dasshera  ....a festive season where people in Tamizh Nadu set out "kolu", or an arrangement of dolls on steps, which is supposed to represent the universe in miniature. (Will take my camera along to some homes and post pictures, promise!) Women and children visit each others' homes, dress up,  and sing or talk and the social fabric gets strengthened....in our generation, many women didn't work and we had the leisure for these pursuits.

In Bengal, the mother goddess Durga is venerated in the form of VERY beautiful mud idols; she is immersed after the tenth day, amidst tearful leave-taking...

In Delhi, the tenth day marks the victory of Rama over Ravana, and the effigy of rAvaNA ,the king of Lanka, and the personification of evil, is burnt at the RamLila grounds....

Tend

My earliest memories of mahALaya amAvasyA is the very early morning rendition, on our valve-diode-filled Murphy radio, of the Bengali-pronounced (and to my mind, murdered) Sanskrit shlOkA, "yA dEvi sarva bhoothEshhU"... " that goddess  who is in the form of"....learning, power, peace, and so on....but it imbued me with a sense of exaltation and happiness.

I may not be a greatly religious person, or an avid believer...but I do love the cultural underpinnings of our festivals!
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