through life with so much pride and pleasure as the
cost of their marriage, if it happen to be large for
their condition of life; it is their amoka
their title of nobility; and their parents consider
it their duty to make it as large as they can.
A man would hardly feel secure of the sympathy of
his family, tribe, circle of society, or rulers, for
the loss of ’his ox, or his ass, or anything
that is his’, if it should happen to have cost
him nothing; and, till he could feel secure of their
sympathy for the loss, he would not feel very secure
in the possession. He, therefore, or those who
are interested in his welfare, strengthen his security
by an outlay which invests his wife with a tangible
value in cost, well understood by his circle and rulers.
His family, tribe, and circle have received the purchase
money, and feel bound to secure to him the commodity
purchased; and, as they are in all such matters commonly
much stronger than the rulers themselves, the money
spent among them is more efficacious in securing the
exclusive enjoyment of the wife than if it had been
paid in taxes or fees to them for a marriage licence.
The pride of families and tribes, and the desire of
the multitude to participate in the enjoyment of such
ceremonies, tend to keep up this usage after the cause
in which it originated may have ceased to operate;
but it will, it is to be hoped, gradually decline
with the increased feeling of security to person, property,
and character under our rule. Nothing is now more
common than to see an individual in the humblest rank
spending all that he has, or can borrow, in the marriage
of one of many daughters, and trusting to Providence
for the means of marrying the others; nor in the higher,
to find a young man, whose estates have, during a long
minority, under the careful management of Government
officers, been freed from very heavy debts, with which
an improvident father had left them encumbered, the
moment he attains his majority and enters upon the
management, borrowing three times their annual rent,
at an exorbitant interest, to marry a couple of sisters,
at the same rate of outlay in feasts and fireworks
that his grandmother was married with.
1. The author’s figure of ‘eighty
millions’ was a mere guess, and
probably, even in his time, was much below the mark.
The figures of
the census of 1911 are:
Total population of India, excluding
Burma . . . . 301,432,623
Hindus . . . . 217,197,213
The proportions in different provinces vary enormously.
2. See ante. Chapter 1, note 3.
3. The word amoka is corrupt, and even
Sir George Grierson cannot suggest a plausible explanation.
Can it be a misprint for anka, in the sense
4. Akbar levied a tax on marriages, ranging from
a single copper coin (dam = 1/40th of rupee)
for poor people to 10 gold mohurs, or about 150 rupees,
for high officials. Abul Fazl declares that ’the
payment of this tax is looked upon as auspicious’,
a statement open to doubt (Blochmann, transl. Ain,
vol. i, p. 278). In 1772 Warren Hastings abolished
the marriage fees levied up to that time in Bengal
by the Muhammadan law-officers. But I am disposed
to think that a modern finance minister might reconsider
the propriety of imposing a moderate tax, carefully