M = Mangalsutra

That the English phrase ‘tie the knot’ means to get married is well known, yet its origin is less clear. A quick search showed that it’s not really known whether the expression derives from an actual knot used in marriage ceremonies or whether the knot is merely symbolic of a lasting unity

But in Hindu weddings, tying the knot appears to be integral to the wedding ceremony. The knot may be made between the robes of the bride and the groom. The knotted robes are to be kept tied for at least a year. In addition, in many regions of the country, this is also accompanied by the tying of a mangalsutra (literally holy thread) or thaali (as it is known in south India) by the groom around the bride’s neck. This necklace is usually made of gold and black beads. The groom ties it with the prayer -“May you live long by wearing this sacred mangalsutra, the reason of my life”. In some cultures, three knots are tied, first by the groom, and the other two by the sisters, symbolizing the bride’s union with her new family.

Most Hindu weddings have this custom of tying the holy thread around the bride’s neck – in fact, even Syrian Christians of Kerala also wear a thaali (with a cross at the center) besides the wedding ring. There are several variations in the thaali and one can even identify the ethnic background of the bride from the designs – more about this here.

Much like the wedding ring, the mangalsutra may be used to identify the marital status of a female. Many ethnic groups also wear toe-rings as a symbol of their marital status. But considering the diversity of India (and progressive stance), its absence does not necessarily indicate she is unmarried. For instance, Kashmiri Pandits (wear dijaru an ear ornament) and Bengalis (next on the list!) do not have this custom.

But, of course, the men are not required to sport any symbol of marriage – not even a wedding ring. 😉

But to be fair and contrary to popular belief and the importance given to this custom  – this is not a religious practice but a social one, and that too of recent origin. Let’s face it, women (well most women, have to admit am not much of a jewelry person) like to wear jewelry. And all that associated superstition probably evolved over the years to enable the daughter-in-law to hang on to her only piece of jewelry in times of financial crises. Moreover, in the absence of bank lockers and stuff, where else to keep it safely but on her own person? Do correct me if, as usual, my imagination is running wild…

Quote for the day: When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on :- F.D. Roosevelt

Let me know what you think – pretty please? 🙂

For more information about the blog please click here and for the readers of Moonshine, here’s Chapter 54

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Email me at mysilverstreaks@gmail.com or tweet me @mysilverstreaks

15 thoughts on “M = Mangalsutra”

  1. Not only do men not have to sport any kind symbol for marriage but even the title they sport (Mr.) does not give anything away – unlike a Miss or Mrs.! Of course, in the last decade of so, Ms. has become the dominant title for women (unless she is a Dr.!) which too does not give away the marital status. Mr., of course, is an abbreviation for Master. Ms. is abbreviated from Mistress – where the original meaning of ‘ a woman being in a position of authority’ – which is perhaps not as well known as its colloquial reference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But as they say what is in a name ? Here in India at least, men need no symbol, women sniff out unmarried men (or if in doubt just ask straight out) and harried, err I mean married men wear their own status badge quite clear for all to see 😉


  2. Have one tied around my neck too…thaali tied in the thread in the mandap, later on transferred to a gold chain(for convenience I guess) on the 4th day of the wedding…
    Wonder whether in a society like our’s, could that have been a reason? …letting the D-i-L hold to that piece of jewelry…really?
    Marriage is a pretty business, but what’s with your “please” getting pretty? :-))

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hahah. Cute question at the end! Mine is in a masala box safe in my kitchen! Too warm to wear anything around my neck one summer….then I just didn’t get around to putting it back on. It is fascinating to see how even subsects in a religion have their own unique mangalsutra designs!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting that you say it is a social one!! Nowadays, a question mark can be put on “where else to keep it safely but on her own person?”, … rather we end up safeguarding it most times 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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