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Indian Marriage Traditions

Indian marriage traditions consist of two widely known practices: dowries and sati. Although both of the practices have changed or have been completely abolished, they still hold an important place in Indian history as well as marriage traditions today. Dowries were originally part of the marriage process in India in order to give the wife economic independence in her husband’s family, but the system evolved. Dowries are given by the woman’s family and can range from money to livestock to bicycles. Indra Chopra was quoted in Women of the World of India by Miranda Hunter saying “the great Indian dowry system continues to rule society regardless of reforms and regulations. A strong awareness that marriage is not a retail system will be a step in the right direction.” Chopra is coming from the point of view against the system of dowries; however, dowries continue to be part of Indian marriage traditions. Demanding a dowry has been illegal since 1995, but they are still a common practice. Before regulation, oftentimes marriage proposals would be rejected because the dowry was not enough.

On a different note, sati is no longer a marriage tradition in India. Sati is the custom when women would throw themselves on the funeral pyre of their husband to burn with them and ideally become forever blessed. It was seen as unshakeable devotion to the husband but is no longer idealized as it used to be. When sati was still practiced, widows were respected for following their husbands onto the pyre because of the commitment it showed. Sati can also be known as suttee which is the Anglicised version of the word. Some people understand the word “sati” as the widow and the word “suttee” as the practice of the widow burning herself. Sati was regulated under the British crown and later abolished in 1829.

A more modern marriage tradition is the classified marriage ads placed in newspapers in order to find a spouse instead of the traditional match through word of mouth or a relative matchmaking. Many marriages tend to be arranged by family members, and a spouse is chosen based on reputation and familial economic status. Marriage traditions continue to change, but many of the old traditions continue for the most part.