Mangal = auspicious
Sutra = thread
Mangal Sutra is a recognisable symbol of a
married Hindu woman.
married, Hindu wear
a necklace with a gold pendant. In North-Indian tradition, the necklace
is often made of black / red glass beads or
coral beads and strung with gold.
In South India,
the necklaces are often made from a colourful cord. The shape, size and
number of gold pendant(s) used are rather dependant on the cultural background of the
To an Indian woman, this is
rather like wearing the wedding band. It is
considerably longer and heavier than the gold wedding
band, but it serves the same purpose. Its an overt signal to all around, that the lady is
/ coral beads and the multi
coloured thread, represents the fragile nature of relationships.
beads are usually used in preference to any other colour, as black colour is said to avert
the evil eye.
Sometimes, red coral beads are used, as coral is
associated with Mars Mangal in Sanskrit and is considered to be auspicious.
is invariably given by the groom to the bride at a key stage
during the wedding. It is his way of saying, You are as precious
as this (gold) necklace to me and his way of showing that he values her above all else.
It is called mangal sutra,
because it represents auspiciousness. By wearing it, a
woman announces that she is happy and fulfilled in her life, this is what makes her
auspicious. The sutra represents the many strands of
emotions, love, faith, trust, friendship etc that go into making up a relationship. Especially as this relationship is to last a life time. It also represents
the many other relationships that bind them now - those of the two families that are now woven
In an age, not too long ago, a
married Hindu woman would not part from her mangal sutra, no matter how hard her financial
situation became. It represented the very essence of marriage to her
and was often viewed as a talisman to protect the life of her (beloved) husband.
Mangal Sutra, along with
the auspicious glass bangles, it was only taken off
addition to a Mangal-sutra, there are a number of other ornaments that are worn as
auspicious symbols of marriage.
India being a vast country, it has
innumerable different traditions followed by its numerous communities. Different
communities consider following ornaments to be essential items
for a married woman.
gold / gem encrusted nose rings,
bangles (made of gold, ivory, lac or
rings (on hands and toes)
Like much else now, the mangal
sutra is worn a fashion item. Its wearer no longer exhibiting her
marital status, rather her desire to make her assemblage look authentic.
Now, women often have different mangal sutras to match different outfits /
Ok for those looking for
a male version of mangal sutra there isnt one. Lighter
wallet is all the man has to show for his marital status !
On a serious note, in some
South Indian communities, namely Lingayats, a married man may wear two
pendants around his neck. Each pendant is a miniature shrine to Lord
Shiva. Amongst some Lingayats, after marriage, the husband can take on
the religious responsibilities of his wife, and hence wears the pendant his wife would
have worn prior to her marriage. In most other Hindu sects, the husband
and wife are free to pursue their own spiritual goals. (see the article
"Traditional Jewelery of
India", by Oppi Untracht, published by Thames and Hudson, is an excellent book to
look up traditional shapes, styles, and methods of Indian jewellery. It
is a veritable encyclopaedia of Indian jewellery, covering every period, style and
variation imaginable and is wonderfully illustrated with pictures and line drawings.
It covers everything from tribal, animal to royal and temple jewellery.
I would recommend you read it, even if it is just a library copy (if you
local library does not have, get them to buy it !!!!! )
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