Madhurilata Tagore and her father Part 2


  Rathindranath(boy on left), Madhurilata(seated), Meera and Renuka


The groom’s family agreed to lower their demand for a dowry to Rupees ten thousand from the ir previous demand for Rupees twenty thousand.

23rd March 1901 – we find the financially stretched desperate poet writing to Priyanath Sen;

“It is difficult to say anything about Bela’s dowry. I will try to come up with the sum of ten thousand rupees. That will be in cash and in instalments. This arrangement will not suit me but I will have to agree to it if the need arises. There is very little cash and my father will never agree to the proposal of taking out a loan; thus I cannot raise the topic of a large dowry at this point in time. My father usually blesses the newly married couples with about four to five thousand rupees the day after the wedding has been held. No one has ever needed to remind him about this. I cannot broach the demand for twenty thousand rupees with him at all.”

The desperation of a father pushed the poet to write to Sen again on 24th March;

“I have written to you explicitly clarifying my position regarding the dowry. I feel it is futile to make any efforts where I know they will come to naught. I am not prepared to take on this task at the expense of angering my father and displeasing my family members.”

It is clear that he had to discuss the dowry demands in great detail. Letters of this time speak of talks with the groom’s brothers and the reduction of the sum to half the original amount stated.

But the situation came to an impasse over when the money would be handed over to the groom’s family. At this point Rabindranath Tagore himself decided to appeal to the prospective groom’s sense of fairness and wrote to him in secret. This letter was dated 24th April, 1901. A fuller understanding of the anguish the poet had to bear as a result of these negotiations is easily gained by reading the letter.


Shilaidaha, Kumarkhali, EBSR


Your late father was a close friend of our family. He held me in the kind of affection one feels for a brother and thus I feel I have the right to address you in this familiar manner.

Priyanath Sen has presented you with a proposal to marry my daughter; I have seen your letters regarding the matter and discussions have been held with your brothers.                             

I was keen about the proposed alliance for various reasons and would count myself as fortunate if this marriage was to take place. But I feel that I must discuss the issue with you instead of sitting back in silence, since if this marriage should take place by the grace of God, the relationship between us will be continuous and our mutual happiness and fortune or lack thereof will be celebrated together.

My father gifts all the new members of our family with a dowry on the day after the wedding. I do not wish to repeat the amount of dowry that has been decided upon after discussions. But I must raise a point with you that is related to this gift. I hope you will accept this with generosity.

According to the custom of our family, the son-in-laws must adopt the Brahmo faith a day or two before the marriage. When your brother Avinash suggested at Priyanath Sen’s house that the dowry should be given to you on the day you convert to the Brahmo religion, I had agreed to the suggestion without giving It any further thought. When I told my father about this that night, he expressed great astonishment and said, ‘The couple will be given the dowry as a gift and blessing, but why is the dowry being demanded before the wedding has taken place? Do they not trust me?’

I could not give him a suitable answer and it was immediately apparent to me that the demand showed disrespect and insulted my father.

I am coming to you with this information without going through the usual channels. This is because I feel that it is not your intention to cause us the shame and anguish we have felt. If we are to establish any future relationship it cannot begin on a foundation of suspicion and disrespect. That would only cause hurt and insult further down the line. I will make my final decision only after hearing from you.

If any of your relations are irritated because I wrote to you directly about all this then I hope you will think over the situation and not misunderstand me.

Irrespective of whether my wishes are fulfilled regarding the marriage, I hope you accept my most sincere blessings.


Sri Rabindranath Thakur                                                                  11th Baishakh, 1308