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THE PRACTICE OF DOWRY AND BRIDE PRICE AMONG THE PATIDARS OF GUJARAT

Ruma Bhattacharya

Associate Professor
Dept. of History
Ramthakur College
Badharghatt, Agartala
Tripura (India)

Abstract

Since ages the traditional Indian Marriages are characterized by transfers of money or goods made at the time of marriage between families involved which can go in both directions – from the bride’s family to the groom’s or vice versa. The former is known as dowry, while the latter is known as bride price. In this paper I have analyzed the practice of both the customs among the Lewa and Kadwa Patidars of Gujarat, using retrospective data from archival as well as various other secondary sources.The Patidars basically belonged to the agricultural community of Gujarat whose main occupation was farming but today they have excelled in business affairs, politics and governance as well as in community welfare works. They were also termed as kanbis which was applied to the cultivating castes only. Though various scholars have divided them into various sub-divisions, yet the most notable were the Lewa and Kadwa Patidars. This paper brings to light that while dowry was common among the former the practice of bride price was prevalent among the later. The paper shows that excessive dowry system among the Lewas was the result of hypergamic marriage system which allows marrying of girls only in families higher in social rank within the caste which stimulated a fierce competition amongst the ordinary kanbis for marriages with boys of the high prestige Patidars. When dowries became unaffordable they used to kill their daughters. The superior group accepted a girl for marriage from an inferior group on the condition of a large amount of dowry from the latter. On the other hand they considered it disgraceful to off er their girls to the inferior groups. The paper also shows that quite contrary to the practice of dowry among the Lewa Patidars, there was the practice of Bride Price among the Kadwa Patidars. The importance of women in the agrarian economy made marriage an acknowledged economic necessity where the work qualities of a prospective bride were looked for at the time of arranging marriages. As single man used to get married to more than one wife there was scarcity of girls among the community. Hence the girls were sought from Kathiawad and also from other places for marriage purpose in exchange of money. For an illustration the girls between four and nine years of age were sold to Gujarat for marriage purpose by their parents. In some cases people used to surrender their daughters to their creditors to pay back the loan who were tortured aft er marriage if their fathers failed to pay back the loans. Some greedy parents used to give their daughters even to married persons who could pay for them sufficiently well. Getting money for their daughters was all important for them. Findings in this paper expand our knowledge of the dynamics and key determinants of marriage transactions in India, contributing to the broader agenda of improving our understanding of an important social institution that is too oft en responsible for violating basic human rights as far as women are concerned.

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