DOWRY - THE SIKH PERSPECTIVEO my father! Give me the Lord's Naam (Gur-Giaan, Aatam-Giaan, Shabad-Giaan ...)
as my wedding gift / dowry... (sggs 78).
A dowry (Daaj or Dahej) is a form of payment made by the wife's family to the husband's family. It may include money, gifts, property, and other belongings that the wife brings to her husband as her marriage payment. In certain cultures, it is the groom who makes payment to the bride's family.
The dowry system as a quantifiable offering in a marriage has existed throughout the world. In the middle ages in Europe, for instance, when a couple were to marry the bride and her family would give a dowry to the groom, which generally consisted of land, money or other articles. The amount of dowry generally depended on the relative status of the girl's family. For example, in 1662 Charles of England was given the Indian city of Bombay as a dowry for marrying Catherine of Braganza of Portugal. At that time the city of Bombay was under the control of the Portuguese.
In one form or other, currently the dowry system exists in many parts of the world, particularly in most part of South Asia and Africa. Although the dowry is not rooted solely to Indian culture, it is widely prevalent in India at the present time. The dowry system has been outlawed since the enactment of the 1961 Dowry Prohibition Act in India's Penal Code (amended in 1984 and 1986). However, contrary to Indian Law, it is on the increase as a culturally sanctioned and socially structured practice.
Today the dowry system in India has become one of the majority evils in the society. The inability for a wife and her family to meet the dowry demands of the husband and his family are responsible for the domestic violence in the early years of marriage and also thousands of dowry related murders known as "dowry deaths".
Out of all of this, many incidents happen as follows. Usually the husband's family is never satisfied with the amount of dowry his wife brings in as marriage payments. As a result, soon after the marriage, the husband and his parents start demanding that the wife gives more money or property. If she and her parents resist the additional demands or if they have nothing left, then she gets beaten up, psychologically tortured, murdered or burnt to death by the so called mysterious "kitchen fires". In many cases women commit suicide or they become deserted by their husbands.
Like many systems, originally the dowry system had good intentions in that it was specifically designed as a safety net for the woman. The money, gifts, property, and other belongings given solely to the woman by her parents at the time of marriage, an inheritance, was meant to exclusively remain with the woman. Under the spell of evil passions, however, the original intentions of the dowry has been abused to the extent that it has led to the total erosion of its intended function. Consequently, the custom has been corrupted to the extent that it has become a price tag for the groom and death noose for the bride. Depending on the qualifications, profession, education, and income of the groom, the price tag skyrockets. With higher education (doctors, engineers, etc.), some consider it their divine right to get a "fat" dowry. High expectations of dowry have led to abortions of female fetuses, and many poor families resorting to female infanticide for the fear of not being able to provide dowry.
Present in all levels of the society, the dowry system has exasperated the hierarchical lower status of woman. In addition to dowry system, for centuries women in India have been systematically downgraded by many ways. For example, they have been deprived of education (material and spiritual) and equal rights for property and inheritance; they have been subjected to the evil of caste system (Jaat-Paat) and economic oppression; they have been falsely labeled by the priest class as spiritually "impure" due to menstruation; and so on. This sort of attitude towards woman has promoted social degradation of the status of women as well as social inequality between man and woman. As a result, the attitude towards women as subordinate remains not only in India but throughout the world. In some cultures and religions it's worse than others.
The Root Cause Of Social Evils
Why people participate in such heinous and gruesome practices in the first place? The underlying cause of such social evils is the ignorance of one's True Nature, the Pure Self. In fact man's false ego born out of this ignorance is the cause of his birth and the birth of his phenomenal world of names and gross objects. This false ego-sense is said to be the mother of man's all material concepts. It causes man to succumb to selfishness, corruption, frauds, deception and falsehood. When so deluded, one's false ego exhibits demoniac instincts.
The first perverted son of this materially conditioned false ego is Kaam, which essentially means lust, desires, craving, Vaasnaas, etc. In the guise of fulfilling one's material needs, ego lures man to continuously seeking of sense gratification. Therefore, the Kaam is the compelling desire to indulge in sensory temptations. When the Kaam or desire gets fulfilled, it gives rise to more desires! However, if it does not get fulfilled, then it manifests into anger (Krodh). Thus anger is the second perverted son of ego. The inflated ego makes one enslaved to his whims, likes and dislikes, covetousness, averse, acquisitiveness, etc. This is Lobh (greed), the third perverted son of ego. The greed leads man to stealing, dishonesty, cheating, and self-surfeit at the expense of the well being of others. The Moh is the fourth perverted son of ego - the emotional attachment of this ego to mundane objects, causing the mind to lose its wisdom. The Ahankaar or pride is the fifth perverted son of ego which makes the mind narrow and limited. It gives rise to arrogance, haughtiness, self-conceit, etc. Enviousness or jealously towards others is the sixth perverted son of ego. One who is jealous or envious of others feels painful and resentful at their betterment, and would feel happy only when some miseries befall on them. The false ego always gets hurt upon seeing others enjoying an advantage. Yet there is a seventh perverted son of ego whose name is also mentioned in the scriptures, that is, the stubborn mindedness. The stubborn mindedness (Mann-Hatha) is the lack of spiritual wisdom, understanding, earnestness, and so on. It is synonymous to the state of self-will, unbelief, affliction, hardness of heart, impenitence, reprobacy, heinousness, fanaticism, crookedness, evil-mindedness, mental-weakness, immaturity, stupor, obstinate error, and raw or undisciplined mind. Such person, although, may be aware of acting, but he is utterly ignorant being. Thus, the meaning, function, and outcome of stubborn mindedness is totally opposite to the Divine qualities.
Status Of Woman In Sikhi:
Yogis call woman as "Narak ghor kaa dwaaraa", meaning that the woman is "the doorway leading to the most rigorous hell". In contrast to Yogis, The Gurbani says:
- ਮਃ ੧ ॥ ਭੰਡਿ ਜੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਨਿੰਮੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਮੰਗਣੁ ਵੀਆਹੁ ॥ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਚਲੈ ਰਾਹੁ ॥ ਭੰਡੁ ਮੁਆ ਭੰਡੁ ਭਾਲੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਬੰਧਾਨੁ ॥ ਸੋ ਕਿਉ ਮੰਦਾ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਿਤੁ ਜੰਮਹਿ ਰਾਜਾਨ ॥ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੀ ਭੰਡੁ ਊਪਜੈ ਭੰਡੈ ਬਾਝੁ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭੰਡੈ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਏਕੋ ਸਚਾ ਸੋਇ ॥ ਜਿਤੁ ਮੁਖਿ ਸਦਾ ਸਾਲਾਹੀਐ ਭਾਗਾ ਰਤੀ ਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਤੇ ਮੁਖ ਊਜਲੇ ਤਿਤੁ ਸਚੈ ਦਰਬਾਰਿ ॥੨॥: Ma: 1 || Bhand janmeeai bhand ninmeeai bhand mangan veeaahu || Bhandahu hovai dosatee bhandahu chalai raahu. Bhand muaa bhand bhaaleeai bhand hovai bandhaan || So kio mandaa aakheeai jit jammahi raajaan || Bhandahu hee bhand oopajai bhndai baajh na koi || Nanak bhandai baaharaa eko sachaa soi ||Jit mukh sadaa saalaaheeai bhaagaa ratee chaar || Nanak te mukh oojale tih sachai darabaar ||2|| (sggs 473).
Dowry And Sikhi:
Uprooting of the evil from the society is the purpose of religions. If any religion is empty of this central purpose then that religion is bogus. Therefore, genuine religion is that which teaches living entities as to what actions will bring them Eternal Freedom (Mukti) from evil-mindedness, and what actions will bring them Total Perfection. Thus, a religion is not a declaration of noble objectives, it is an action to fulfill such objectives.
Is the material dowry allowed in Sikhi? What is the Gurbani's position on this social evil of dowry? Does the Gurmat (Divine Teaching of the Gurbani) provide answer to this important question? If yes, are we aware of the Gurbani's position and its teaching in this context?
All Sikh Masters were the great reformers. They worked to reform and redefine the social and religious fabric of the human society. They made men and women equal partners and showed them the path on which both could walk to meet their material needs, and then advance to achieve the spiritual prosperity. To reawaken women and uplift their status in the society, plenty of feminine symbols have been used in Gurbani in this context.
The system of material dowry has been condemned in the Gurmat (the knowledge of the Gurbani). According to the Gurbani, that person who accepts or offers a material dowry should be known as a Manmukh (spiritually ignorant or material-being). In spite of such stern condemnation of the dowry system, still the majority of Sikhs indulge in this demoniac practice. Why? It's because the most of us are devoid of the Divine Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad as well as the true meaning of the words "Sikh" and "Khaalsaa". As a result, the majority of us are caught in the spell of evil passions, and, thereby, act as Manmukhs (material or egoistic beings).
In the Gurmat, the Jeeva (individual being) asks her Father for giving her only the Divine Name (Gur-Giaan, Aatam-Giaan, Shabad-Giaan ...) as her wedding gift / dowry. Nothing else. As declared in the Gurbani, asking for or offering of any mundane dowry / gift other than the Divine Name is a false show of once false ego-sense (Haumai) - Manmukhtaa, greed ...
- ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਮੇਰੇ ਬਾਬੁਲਾ ਹਰਿ ਦੇਵਹੁ ਦਾਨੁ ਮੈ ਦਾਜੋ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਕਪੜੋ ਹਰਿ ਸੋਭਾ ਦੇਵਹੁ ਜਿਤੁ ਸਵਰੈ ਮੇਰਾ ਕਾਜੋ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਭਗਤੀ ਕਾਜੁ ਸੁਹੇਲਾ ਗੁਰਿ ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਦਾਨੁ ਦਿਵਾਇਆ ॥ ਖੰਡਿ ਵਰਭੰਡਿ ਹਰਿ ਸੋਭਾ ਹੋਈ ਇਹੁ ਦਾਨੁ ਨ ਰਲੈ ਰਲਾਇਆ ॥ ਹੋਰਿ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਦਾਜੁ ਜਿ ਰਖਿ ਦਿਖਾਲਹਿ ਸੁ ਕੂੜੁ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ਕਚੁ ਪਾਜੋ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਮੇਰੇ ਬਾਬੁਲਾ ਹਰਿ ਦੇਵਹੁ ਦਾਨੁ ਮੈ ਦਾਜੋ ॥੪॥: Hari prabh mere Baabulaa Hari devahu daan mai daajo ...: O my father! Give me the Lord's Naam (Gur-Giaan, Aatam-Giaan, Shabad-Giaan ...) as my wedding gift / dowry. Give me the Lord's Naam as my clothes (wedding gown, etc.), and the Lord's Naam as my glory, to accomplish my task (of getting wedded to the Lord - Realization of the Mool ...). Through the Lord's Bhagti (Understanding of the Gurbani ...), this task (of wedding to the Lord) becomes easy (comfortable, charming, beautiful ...); the Satigur, has given this gift. (Through this gift of the Lord's Name, one's) glory (ਸੋਭਾ) pervades across the continents, and throughout the Universe. This gift is such that no other (dowry) is equal to it (ਇਹ ਦਾਜ ਐਸਾ ਹੈ ਕਿ ਇਸ ਨਾਲ ਹੋਰ ਕੋਈ ਦਾਜ ਬਰਾਬਰੀ ਨਹੀਂ ਕਰ ਸਕਦਾ). Any other dowry, which the Manmukhs (self-willed ...) place for show, is only false egotism, and a false display (of falsehood). O my father! Give me the Lord's Naam (Gur-Giaan, Aatam-Giaan, Shabad-Giaan ...) as my wedding gift / dowry. ||4|| (sggs 78).
The Gurmat cannot be more clear than this. The illusion is created by our ignorance. The Gurbani affirms that if one tries to understand, realize and comprehend the sublime meaning of the Gur-Shabad than he will know that without the Divine Name everything else is ignorance or babbling in false ego.
Now, perhaps we can appreciate the fact that it's very easy for someone to call himself a Sikh or a Khaalsaa, but very difficult to be one! These names represent the Self-realized state one has to reach. As proclaimed in the Gurbani, the true ones are very few and far in between! Why? Because the majority of us have our minds switched off from the Intuitive Understanding of the Gur-Shabad. As declared in the Gurbani, nobody can become a true Sikh or a Khaalsaa without realizing the Self. Because, to be a true Sikh or a Khaalsaa is not a question of heredity, family of birth, ancestry, race, region, social status, caste, creed, education, titles, religion or any peculiar external appearance of a person; it is a question of Self-realization!! Khaalas - or khalas - simply means pure. In this context, consider the following verses:
- ਸੋ ਗੁਰੂ ਸੋ ਸਿਖੁ ਹੈ ਭਾਈ ਜਿਸੁ ਜੋਤੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਮਿਲਾਇ ॥: So guroo so sikh hai bhaaee jin joti jot milaai: O Brother! He is the Guroo and he is the Sikh, who has merged his light in the Light (i.e., who has become one with his Mool…). (sggs 602).
- ਪੂਰਨ ਜੋਤ ਜਗੈ ਘਟ ਮੈ ਤਬ ਖਾਲਸ ਤਾਹਿ ਨਖਾਲਸ ਜਾਨੋ ॥: Pooran jot jagai ghat main tab Khaalas taahi Nakhaalas jaano: One becomes Pure (i.e, Khalsa…) only when he realizes Complete Light of the Lord within; otherwise know him to be an impure one (Guru Gobind Singh Sahib, Dasam Granth, 1350).
- ਆਤਮ ਰਸ ਜਿ ਜਾਨਹੀ ਸੋ ਹੈ ਖਾਲਸ ਦੇਵ ॥ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਮਹਿ, ਮੋ ਮਹਿ, ਤਾਸ ਮਹਿ, ਰੰਚਕ ਨਾਹਨ ਭੇਵ ॥: Aatam ras ji jaanahee so hai khaalas dev. Prabh mahi mo mahi taas mahi ranchak naahan bhed: He who has realized the True Nature or Subtle Essence of the Soul (i.e., Joti-svaroopa, Pure Consciousness, Lord's Sublime Essence, Joy of the Soul, etc.) within is alone the godly Khalsa - Pure Being (Sarab Loh Granth).
- ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਨ ਭਏ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਜਿਹ ਜਾਨੀ ॥: Kahu Kabeer jan bhaye Khaalse prem bhagti jih jaanee: O Kabeer! Those persons become ਖਾਲਸੇ (Khaalse) who have realized the Prema Bhagti (Perfect Understanding of the Gur-Shabad, Gurbani, or Gur-Giaan…). (sggs 655).
Thus, a true Sikh only asks for Spiritual dowry — The Lord's Name (Naam: Aatam Giaan) as the "Gift", the Name as the "clothes", and the Name as the "Glory". Such dowry being Eternal in nature is sure to bestow on the sincere soul-bride the True Happiness. Because, as the Gurbani says, no other dowry is equal to it.
— T. Singh