The law has stipulated the minimum age for marriage. I wish it had also stipulated the maximum age considering the attitude of people today. We are not in the least justified in blaming the law if girls aged 25 or 30 remain unmarried. The reason is our own indifference. Take the upanayana samskara. After all, it does not come under the Sarda Act. . Why then do we perform our son's upanayana together with his marriage when he is 30 years or so? It is all due to our indifference to our sastras, our dharma.
Apart from this general apathy, most parents want to celebrate the upanayana and marriage on a lavish scale, indeed like festivities. Both get postponed since the money has to be raised. That even a lifetime's earnings are not sufficient to meet the expenses of a daughter's marriage is preposterous. The result is the samskaras are not performed at the proper time as required by the sastras.
According to our scriptures money has nothing to do with these samskaras. That today it has come to be so is a tragedy- and it is a tragedy that is of our own making. In none of the eight forms of marriage does the groom have to be given any money. Even in the asura type it is the groom that pays money, that is in exchange for the bride. If such a transaction is considered demoniac, what would the rsis who authored our sastras have thought of the prevailing custom of dowry, of the groom's parents telling the bride's people: "Give us your daughter in marriage and also cash." They could not have even imagined that such a custom would ever crop up. There obtained the custom of "Kanya-sulka" - money offered to the bride or "bride price" - which has some support in the canons. But you cannot find an iota of justification in our scriptures for the present dowry system.
Putting an end to this custom- this evil- is the marriage reform that is the true need of the country. Instead of carrying out such a reform, what we have done is to stipulate- in the name of reform- the minimum age of marriage for girls. And this has played havoc with our family and social life. I am referring to the present phenomenon of girls going to work. When it became difficult to find the money for the dowry, for the gifts to be made to the groom's people and for the lavish celebration of the wedding, the Sarda act came in handy by obviating the need to be in a hurry to hold the function.