Mangalsutra: many shapes, same emotions

Mangalsutra: many shapes, same emotions


The mangalsutra or thali is a vital part of a bride’s jewellery collection. As with most things in India, the design of the mangalsutra changes from region to region. While some have the thali placed on a sacred yellow thread, others have it on a gold chain. Some have one or two strings of black beads interspersed with gold, holding two orbs or vatis of gold. Others have diamond pendants or coral beads. Each of these designs is dependent on the heritage of the family and their traditions.

The term mangalsutra is essentially a North Indian one; in the south, it is referred to as the thali. That said, the thali, in ancient history was a thread tied around the wrist of child with a tiger tooth or an equivalent element of hunting to ward off the evil eye. As its use evolved, it became the sign of a married woman, more as a social practice than a religious one.

In most cases, the thali is representative of the family deity—Lord Shiva, or the tulsi plant, or even symbols that indicate Lord Shiva. There is a great deal of symbolism and emotion that is attached to the mangalsutra. It is believed to signify the long life bestowed by the groom on his wife and from a wife to her husband. Its design, no matter what its form, is believed to ward off the evil eye and negative energy that surround a couple, with the thali vibrations merging with that of the bride’s heartbeat.

Though, it is interesting to note that the custom of wearing a mangalsutrabecome prevalent only after the 6th century. Up until then, a sacred yellow cord, called the kankanabandhana, was placed on the wrists of both the husband and wife to represent their commitment to one another through marriage.

Across South India, the variations of the mangalsutra are interesting to explore. The Iyer community in Tamil Nadu has a representation of the shiva lingam. The namam and the Sudarshan chakraare found among the Iyengars. In Karnataka, the Konkini is created out of gold and in the shapes of elements from the environment.

There are several ways in which a mangalsutra is tied around the neck of a bride. While some communities simply clasp it on, others go through a series of knots. Each of these knots are tied by the groom and members of his family, such as the sister, to signify a bride’s welcome into her new home.

This symbol of marriage may go by many names, however its emotional significance cannot be denied. That is why a bride and her family spend a good while making the right choice when buying a mangalsutra.


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