Recently when for some specific purposes, I was looking for the exhaustive definition of Stridhan and its distinction with Dowry, I found the material or definitions available on net mostly wanting. Most places, it is mentioned that a property acquired by a woman before, at the time of marriage and later is Stridhan. But it could not be so simplistic a definition. Though this link did give me some insights about Stridhan, still it was not complete. I thought of making it a snippet for someone who wants to learn the concept.
In modern Hindu Law, the term “Stridhan”, which is also written as Stridhana, Streedhan. Streedhana, Istridhan at various places, texts and judgments, is the absolute property of the woman with all rights to dispose at her own pleasure. It is a specific kind of property enumerated in Smritis and only applicable for Hindus. Husband or other members of the family have no control over these properties. However, husband may use it during the time of distress and emergency but he is under moral (as per Smritis) and Legal obligation to restore the same or its value to his wife.
The origin of Stridhan dates back from Manu who stated that a wife, a son & a slave can have no property of their own and the wealth which they earn is acquired for him to whom they belong, i.e. the Patriarch. Stridhan thus becomes a distinct property which the ladies of the house, including wife has not only separate dominion but right to dispose as per will of the owner. Thus it is wrong to think that only married women can possess Stridhan, an unmarried girl or even a newborn can possess Stridhan (Though power of disposal comes at different age and time as per customs). Though in normal practise a woman’s property commences at her bridal.
Smritis define few kind of Stridhan, which is as follows:
- What is given before the nuptial fire, adhyagni
- What a woman receives while she is conducted from her father’s house to her husband’s dwelling, adhyavahanika
- What is bestowed as token of love, pritidatta or bhartrudaya
- What is given by her mother-in-law or father-in-law at the time of bowing at the feet of elders, padavandanika
- Gifts made by father, mother & brother.
- Gift subsequent, that is, that which is received from her husband’s family or her family subsequent to marriage, anvadheyaka
- Gift of supersession, adhivedmika (This was a present made to woman on her husband’s marriage to another woman. No longer relevant now)
- Gift by bandhus, that is, what is given to the bride by the relations of her mother or of her father, bandhudatta
- Sulka (Fee) received variously as
- as the gratuity for the receipt of which a girl is given in marriage.
- as a special present to the bride to induce her to go cheerfully to the mansion of her husband.
- what is received as a price of household furniture, conveyance, milch-cattle & ornaments.
(SOURCE: Mayne’s Treatise on Hindu Law & USAGE; 17th Edition)
The above-mentioned things are Stridhan; now comes the exception of Stridhan. Two things i.e. Property inherited by a woman whether from males or females or share allotted on partition is not Stridhan.
With the help of the Smritis and with the change in times, courts have enlarged the definition of Stridhan and as per various judgments the below is also included in Stridhan
- All savings by woman and all purchases made with her Stridhan is also Stridhan
- Money or property in lieu of maintenance
- Income from the estate of deceased husband
- Gifts from strangers, whether in coverture or widowhood.
- Earnings and Profits from a woman’s own exertion
- Property obtained by a woman under compromise or settlement
- Hindu woman taking property through adverse possession against the true owner.
Now the big question. Is Dowry articles Stridhan?
Whether any particular dowry article is Stridhan or not is a matter of fact and it has to be proved whether a particular article is Stridhan or not.
If you have any query related to gender biased laws join SahodarWhatsapp Groups by sending Whatsapp message “Subscribe” to Sahodar Trust No. 9811850498