International Women's Day | For 30 years, this Ganderbal village has shown the way to austere marriages

As dowry-related suicides across India have been a prime time news sending shock waves among everyone, people in this Ganderbal village who have a simple lifestyle have shown how much more educated they are than those living in urban and modern societies.

Baba Wayil, a village in Ganderbal district has been following austere marriages for the past three decades and no dowry.

Baba Wayil stretches to almost 4 km and consists of 260 households with a population of approximately 1000 people.

The families here believe in austere marriages and no dowry system.

No exchange of gold in weddings is allowed and is considered unacceptable.

The brides in this area do not take along with them anything that qualifies for dowry while bridegrooms do not demand or accept anything from the bride’s family either.

There are no rituals like gifting gold to a bride or bridegroom no matter how well off the family is.

Here the rich and poor are all alike who follow principles and values that this village is upholding since decades.

The families get their daughters married off without any unnecessary burden being put on the brides while there is no such thing of demanding dowry from the groom’s side.

Showkat Ahmad, who runs a grocery store in the area, recently married off his daughter.

“There are no formalities in marriage. We give whatever stuff we wish to give our daughters and there is no pressure to spend unnecessarily for the groom’s family. Whatever we do is with all our heart. We cannot spend overwhelmingly even if we can afford or want to. It’s the rule by which we have to abide. Nobody is beyond the rule.”

There is an official written document and everyone in the area has to comply with the instructions.

The rule says no to the dowry system. It is instead the responsibility of the groom’s family to give a certain amount of money to the bride’s family for their expenses. The bride’s family has to accept the amount even if they can afford the expenses on their own. The amount to be given to the bride’s family is Rs 50,000 in cash which comprises Rs 20,000 Mehr and the rest Rs 30,000 for the bride and her family’s expenses one of which is bridal clothing called Wardan among other things.

Chairman of the Mohalla Committee, the Head Imam of Jamia Masjid, Molvi Bashir Ahmad said, “We strictly keep an eye on our fellow beings in the area so that no bride is forced to take along her dowry to the groom’s family. There is no exchange of gold in any way except what the bride wishes to get along with her for herself only. The rule that there will be no dowry system in place is applicable on both the families of bride and bridegroom whether they are rich or poor. Even if we get our daughters married outside the area, we put our rules and principles before the groom’s family prior to any commitment. Almost everyone appreciates us when they learn about our tradition of not taking dowry.”

About their traditional system of no dowry rule, he added, “How beautiful would it be if everyone could follow the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in Kashmir. We must embrace this culture. I have seen people giving overwhelming and unnecessary stuff to their daughters just to show it off among their peers but get into trouble later due to their extravagance. What is the fun of doing that? It is the wastage of money, energy and resources at the cost of our mental wellbeing. Even if a family affords, it creates a menace in the society we live in.”

Talking to Greater Kashmir, the village president who is an ex-forest officer said, “We punish those who violate the rules and socially boycott those who do not comply so that nobody repeats the mistake Around 35 years back, when we learnt there were some gifts given to groom’s family, we took everything out on the street and set it afire in front of everyone.”

“In one of the cases, a bride had taken with her a locker. When we got to know about it, we took it away from the groom’s house in the middle of the night to give it back to the bride’s family and let everyone else know that it cannot be accepted at any cost”.

The area has not seen any marriage-related disputes so far, especially dowry-related ones.

The basis of the marriage is not materialistic. So there are fewer chances of marriages being broken. With no concept of dowry in the area, the society is hopeful that the successful marriages continue in future too.