Marriage has also been an interesting system that varies among different cultures and nations. One remarkable type of marriage is that observed among Indians, who are known to inhabit almost every country across the globe. In my neighborhood and locale, there are Indian families that have been living here for several years and it is fascinating to see them through the years, imbibing our own culture. What is more exciting is that they have their own unique traditions in terms of marriage and this is strongly associated with exchanges.
As human beings, we all understand that marriage pertains to the union of two individuals and that vows or promises are given by one partner to another. Although Indians may have their own unique ritual of expressing their vows, I am sure that the vows they make are reciprocal, meaning each partner will swear that he will perform his duties as a husband, and the other partner will declare that she will execute her role as a wife. Such reciprocal exchange is thus also present in marriages of Indian origin. Indian marriages also involve the adornment of the bride with large amounts of jewelry, specifically gold (Shriram Acharya, 1997).
This may be in form of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and belts, as well as gold studded gowns and head dresses. Since gold is a very expensive metal, the parents of the bride generally take the responsibility of providing the money to buy the gold that will decorate their daughter and simply supply their daughter with as much gold as they could amass. This activity may be considered redistribution of assets and in this case, gold, because such ritual signifies good wealth for the future of the couple that will be married.
Thus an Indian wedding ritual is very costly because it not only entails a huge celebration that is attended by family, relative and friends, but a wedding ritual serve as a venue to show the world, as represented by the people who are present during the wedding, that the newly wed couple will face a productive future as signified by the significant amount of gold that they can see adorning the bride. Indian weddings are also associated with the provision of the dowry, wherein the groom will provide a huge amount of money to the parents of the bride, as a form of barter or exchange for taking in their daughter as his wife.
The dowry technically serves as some form of payment or exchange for the efforts the parents have gone through in bringing up his bride as to what she is now going to be, which is his bride and wife. This form of repayment varies among different regions of India, wherein some regions still follow the tradition of giving dowry before the formal wedding itself, while other regions of India have forgone this ritual and would strictly proceed to the wedding ritual itself. Other Indians families would even involve giving herds of cattle and pigs to the parents of the bride, either in combination with money and jewelry or any other gift of value.
Such barter is also observed in other countries in Asia and it is interesting to know that such tradition has long been followed for centuries. Economic systems are thus also observed in marriages and different methods of exchange can be observed even in the neighborhood. The diversity of cities and towns is thus a good way to explore how economic systems influence the daily lives of individuals of different cultures and nationalities.
Shriram P and Acharya S (1997): A manual of Hindu marriage. India: Shantikunj Publishers. 56 pages.