Mangalsutra is the most sacred ornament in a Hindu marriage. A marriage is symbol of a sacred bond and a divine union between two souls. Mangalsutra which is an auspicious ‘thread’ is an identity of a married woman. The tying of mangalsutra on a bride is a major part of the Indian wedding ceremony.
Importance of a mangalsutra:
The groom ties a mangalsutra on the bride’s neck at the auspicious occasion of marriage. Tying a mangalsutra is the most important ceremony in Indian marriages. It is akin to the western tradition of exchanging rings. And thus every Indian woman believes it to be the most significant symbol of love presented to her by her husband during the occasion of wedding.
…And it symbolizes…
Traditionally, three knots are tied; the first two by the groom and the third knot is tied by the groom’s sister, to make the bride a part of the groom’s family. This tradition is like taking an oath towards a married life. These knots symbolize amalgamation and stable commitment between the two families. The third one, which is tied by the sister, is the give-and-take, a pledge of duty from the groom’s side, towards the bride’s wealth and well being brought through this arrangement.
Evolution of a mangalsutra:
Evolution is a part of change and everything in the world evolves simultaneously to match the changing times and styles. The evolution of mangalsutra or the ‘auspicious cord’ in India is an example of this evolution. The wearing of mangalsutra is a woman’s way of demonstrating that she is a married woman.
However, nowadays, women do not want to flaunting their marital status, the long gold chain with black beads i.e. mangalsutra has undergone change in style.
The ‘then’ times…
It is said that the practice of wearing a gold mangalsutra did not exist in earlier societies. Then, a yellow cord was tied around the woman’s neck or wrist, or in some cases around the wrist of the bridal couple, as a symbol of marriage. The yellow thread practice continues to be symbolic in many Tamil Nadu weddings.
The custom of tying a mangalsutra became popular after the 6th century AD. The mangalsutra is believed to ward off the evil eye. The black beads are believed to enthrall the negative energy before it reaches the bride’s family.
In the ancient days, even children wore mangalsutra made with tiger teeth and nails covered with gold. This is associated with the weapon of Lord Vishnu. The concept is that every child who wears it will be protected from all kinds of evil. It is believed that Lord Krishna wore it in the shape of tortoise and tender leaves.
The ‘now’ times…
The yellow thread was merged with the yellow thread as a sign of marital status. The yellow thread slowly changed into wearing a golden chain, perhaps as a sign of wealth and richness.
Aesthetics and adornment also played a part in this change. This ornament is mangalsutra, an important ornament of Indian wedding jewellery.
However, at many places the symbol of marriage i.e. “yellow thread” did not evolve into a golden chain everywhere. In some parts of India, the tradition of wearing a cord on the wrist continued. In eastern part of India, married women flaunt shell and red coral bangles (called shakha and paula) to demonstrate their marital status.
The design of the mangalsutra depends on the budget. Nevertheless, people still like to opt for the traditional design because of its elegance.
In different communities present in India, there are wide-ranging varieties of mangalsutra also called the taali. In some regions, it is in the form of a gold chain, while in the other regions, it is worn on a yellow thread. Yet many have black beads looped together. Sometimes, it has depictions of the lineage divinity like Shiva, Goddess Tulsi, or Lord Vishnu.
Some also have pendants of precious gemstones, while others have red and yellow beads.
Many women today alter the length of their mangalsutra to suit their attire. It is also considered safe to wear shorter mangalsutra to prevent incidents of chain snatching. Some prefer a single string of black beads instead of two strings. While, if budget permits some women wear a gold chain combined with black beads. The pattern depends on the belief of the community one belongs to.
Like each and every bead is essential in adding elegance to a necklace, similarly, the long and the short of it is that, it is a woman’s duty to intermingle and blend into the new family after marriage.