What it Is
I think there is widespread ignorance about the institution of dowry. It is common to call this as nothing but avarice, the groom's side is having.
In fact dowry exists in many parts of the world, each society having their unique, traditional pattern. From ‘dowry dance’ to wealth, it can occur in different forms, both bride and groom, or only one of them, taking pivotal roles in the exchange of this. It thus is generally considered as money, wealth or valuables brought by a woman to her husband’s home. It always is seen as a part of ones marriage customs.
Is That All?
Isn't this is just another custom of the olden times, perhaps one originated while the early humans were getting civilized.
I think we are way off the mark.
Possible Origins and Evolution
The origin of dowry should be going back to the period when marriage itself, was yet to get instituted as a custom. All eligible women could choose the partner of her liking. If the man could not find a valid argument to the contrary, he was bound to ‘perform’ as a male partner, as and when demanded. And for obvious reasons, men would have been on the lookout for an excuse to say ‘no’. (A specific discussion about this issue, is the theme of my book, ’The Unsure Male’)
What else can we learn from the nature and constitution of dowry? An overview of the traditional composition of dowry shows that it came to be of articles, which are generally difficult for a woman to possess without external help. This is a direct proof of my theory that dowry, in fact is nothing but another excuse for the man to stay away from ‘performance’. The desire for something extra, I think, is an afterthought, semblance of a justification to continue this custom. Naturally, those men, who are less healthy and more scared of ‘performance’ of his male functions, would have been making greater demands as dowry. As generations went by, those collected more dowry evolved into the rich and the super-rich. But a weak constitution remained with them and they came to be associated with ill health. Their status became permanent as time went by. Their wealth yielded more wealth and, this perhaps led to the rich-poor divide, as well as the unhealthy rich.
Where You Stand
Is dowry a healthy practice?
What can We Deduce?
The vast majority of people would have found dowry inadequate in moderating the occasions of ‘performance’ and, would have been on the lookout for a more effective measure. Perhaps they found one in having only one woman to ‘perform’ for. Finding a great reduction in one’s load, they would have chosen this as the most acceptable form of living. Naming it monogamy, they valued it the highest. Perhaps, women agreed for permanency of man notwithstanding his incompetence, when they realized that they could enjoy the fruits of their dowry without sharing with others. This also could have eased man’s burden quite a bit, who would have taken steps to formalize the association. And there would have begun, the custom of marriage.
All that we do in the names of religion, god, family, parenthood etc., can easily be seen as nothing else but expedients to keep the custom of dowry, going. In fact dowry can very well be seen as the reason behind private property, which might have encouraged humans to live together as families. I therefore think, it is only natural to assume that religion, god, family, marriage, parenthood etc., are institutions aimed to cement dowry to our society. And dowry brings great relief to man by giving him an opportunity to limit one’s clientele.