The practice of dowry in modern India epitomizes the gulf between the ideal and the real. Stridhan or dakshina were gifts traditionally given at marriage to ensure the well-being of the bride in her new home. In its modern form, however, the demand for dowry has led to brides being tortured and even killed. The socialization of young girls into deference to parents-in-law and husband has spawned a ‘culture of silence‘ that leaves them open to harassment. Despite preventive litigation, dowry remains a widespread ‘social evil‘ - a marker of social status - more common, disturbingly, among the educated urban middle classes than among urban poor or rural population. While caste restrictions on the choice of marriage partners seem to have eased, socio-economic factors have gained in significance. Dowry is also making inroads into communities that did not follow the practice traditionally. Understanding the tenacity of dowry is a step towards ending an exploitative practice.