Marri Srinivas and Durga, both in their 20s, entered into a wedlock in August in Pedana town of Krishna district, keeping alive the Yanadi tribe’s custom of “reverse dowry” paid to the prospective bride.
The majority of the Yanadi tribal families share the same settlement where non-tribal communities practise dowry. The Yanadi tribe refers to the custom as “Gamaalam”
“The wedding talks are held between the parents of the prospective bride and the bridegroom. The Gamaalam is paid soon after the alliance is accepted by both the families. It is directly paid to the parents of the prospective bride,” said Marri Nageswara Rao, father of Mr. Srinivas.
Mr. Nageswara Rao and his wife, Janikamma, had paid a “reverse dowry” of ₹1,000 for the wedding of their elder son a few years ago and ₹3,000 for their younger son last month.
Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Durga said: “My parents had accepted the reverse dowry, agreeing for the alliance. Wedding in our tribe is a consensus between two families rather than a community’s affair.”
According to the Yanadi tribal elders, the custom restricts the maximum reverse dowry at ₹3,000 to ₹4,000, given that the tribal families are mostly not prosperous and eke out a livelihood hunting crab, farming, rat-catching, and daily-wage works. Known for their honesty, there is no watch within the tribe to keep an eye on the amount of dowry.
In Krishna district, Yanadi is a nomad tribe, migrating within the district in search of livelihood in every season.
The family allows the man to enter into the wedlock only after he is able to build a house (any house) for the girl and prepares to lead the family without support from his family. “I have fulfilled my immediate responsibility of building a new house for my wife. We have shifted to the new thatched house near a farm field in Pedana town and are leading our life together attending farm works”, said Mr. Srinivas.
None of the Yanadi tribal family are able to figure or remember their exact age. When asked about the age of many families, they confess to their ignorance of not being able to record or remember their age. It’s a fact that hundreds of Yanadi families in Krishna district did not even register for Aadhaar or ration card which specify the age.