Posted at 04:18 PM ET, 05/12/2011

Dowry calculator pokes fun at Indian marriage tradition


An Indian Muslim bride with bangles and henna-decorated hands takes part in a mass marriage ceremony in Mumbai on May 29, 2010. Mass marriages cut ceremony costs for families who still follow the custom of dowry. (Sajjad Hussain - AFP/Getty Images)

The tradition of a dowry has been around for longer than there has been a record to tell of it.

For centuries, women have given money goods or estate to the men's family for the honor of marrying into it.

Yet in India — a country in which doweries were long considered essential — the younger generation is starting to reject and even laugh at them.

Last week, a dowry calculator was created to parody how much money brides and the “matchmaking aunties” should be bringing to their groom.

Anupam Mittal, founder and CEO of Shaadi.com, one of India’s most popular matchmaking Web sites, says city-dwelling, high income young Indians are willing to ridicule what they feel is an antiquated practice. The practice was made illegal in 1961.

But dowry is still prevalent. among rural and low-income families and Indian wives have continued to face harassment from husband’s families about the size of their dowry.

The calculator, released just in time for one of India’s several marriage seasons, pokes fun at the factors an Indian woman weighs when considering a groom. There are boxes for age, profession, caste, salary, father’s profession, how dark or light their skin color, height, and alma mater.

Mittal says that the characteristics considered important for a bride and groom have changed over time.

“When we looked at newspaper matrimonial ads, we found that in the 1970s the emphasis by women was on men that were well-settled with a good income. In the ’80s it was about physical attributes. And then, beginning in the ’90s, it was about your working background, marking a shift from domestic to professional.”

Whether a groom’s skin color is brown or wheatish may no longer influence an Indian woman’s decision, but the place where he went to business school, his profession, or salary still might.

Mittal also said that while most urban families no longer demand a traditional dowry, the older generation is still interested in what objects the wife brings to her new home.

Not so for the youth. In the comments below the dowry calculator, dozens of younger Indian readers joked about the ancient tradition, seeming eager to show they rejected it.

One female reader, Shrestha Chowdhury, asserted the independence of women in her generation by writing: “I came here looking for the ‘bride version.’ I AM DISAPPOINT[ED].”

By  |  04:18 PM ET, 05/12/2011

 
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