The Mangalsutra: A sacred ornament rooted in tradition
The Mangalsutra in Indian tradition, is not just a piece of jewellery that a woman wears, but it is considered to be one of the three most important “Soubagyalankar” (Soubhagya = marital status as married; alankar = ornament). It is an ornament which symbolizes that the wearer of the ornament is a married woman.The word “Mangal”means auspicious and “Sutra”means thread or cord. The mangalsutra originally was just a basic yellow thread, dyed with turmeric paste to which the pendant or the “Tanmaniya” is tied. Later it evolved as black and gold beads are threaded on this sacred thread. The mangalsutra is placed around the woman’s neck by her husband during the marriage ceremony. This thread symbolizes the love and attachment with which the husband and wife will be tied to each other throughout their lives.
Mangalsutras are generally long that reaches a woman’s chest, but in some variants, it may be just like a necklace and worn around the neck. It generally ends in a pendant either made of gold, or gold along with diamonds.
A symbol of protection and a promise of eternal love
The mangalsutra usually comprise of two parallel threads with black and gold beads ending in a pendant that may traditionally comprise of one or two gold cups. The two strands symbolize the energies of Shiva and Shakti. The black beads include powers of the Earth and the Water Elements while the gold beads include energies of the Fire and Air Elements. With the combination of all the four elemental energies and their absolute powers radiating off in waves, they drive out the negative Raja-Tama dominant energy vibrations.
The golden cups that the mangalsutra holds in the center is placed directly over the woman’s Anahat Chakra. The void in the golden cups represents draining of a woman’s emotion, sentiment and negative disposition of her body and mind. Hence the woman wearing the mangalsutra has the power to drive out all the negative vibrations directed at her marital life.
Different Regions wear Different kinds of Mangalsutra
MangalSutra of Rajashtan
Rajasthani does not have the significance of mangalsutra in their culture but over the years they have accepted this as a symbol of wedlock along with their traditional chudda and sacred thread. Rajasthani women today prefer to wear mangalsutra with diamond, Kudan or Meenakari Pendant and more contemporary designs.
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Mangalsutra of Gujarat
In Gujarat as the Gujarati women wear a nose stud to signify their married status, over the years along with global trends traditions have been adapted and accepted by one and all. Mangalsutra having such a symbolic significance, it has being accepted by almost all communities in India. Gujarati’s like gold and diamond tanmania (pendant), most young generation prefer contemporary and light weighted designs.
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Mangalsutra of Maharashtra
In Maharashtra, the mangalsutra is also fondly called as vatti mangalsutra. It is essential for the women who marries to wear a mangalsutra and green glass bangles daily. Thus an authentic Maharashtrian Mangalsutra will have two gold and black beads chained together in a double line adorned by the dual vati pendant.
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Mangalsutra from South India
Mangalsutra from the south India are famously called ‘Thaali’, though as after few kilometers along with the region, language, customs and cultures changes. There are multiple varieties in ‘Thaali’ designs and each has its different belief story behind. Thaali is generally worn with a gold chain or yellow thread which is also called “Manja Kayiru”. In most cases, the Thaali is a representative of the family deity – like Goddess Meenakshi, Lord Sundareshwara, Tulsi plant, Lord Shiva or one of the many symbols of Lord Shiva.
Mangalsutra of North India
Taagpaag is another name for mangalsutra used in Bihar, it is a black beaded chain with gold pendant. Apart from mangalsutras, the toe ring is equally important for the Bihari brides.
Women from Himachal Pradesh wear special Suhagi jewellery gifted to them on their wedding day while Kashmiri women wear ear ornaments known as Dejhoor as a symbol of wedded status.
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Among the Sikh communities of Punjab, the bride’s father presents a gold kada and gold coins or mohres to the groom which are then threaded into a black thread and tied around the bride’s neck.
Among the Syrian Christian communities in Kerala, they use a variation of sacred wedding thread called “Minnu”. These are similar to Tamil Thaalis, but almost always include a cross motif on them. The Hindu community uses “Ela Thaali”or “Elagu Thaali”. The word Ela refers to Leaf and the traditional design almost always include a leaf motif. Even Muslim communities in South Kerala wear Thaali as part of their marriage custom.
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Evolution from a Traditional symbol to a Modern Accessory
The Mangalsutra has evolved from a traditional and mandatory ornament meant for Hindu married women into a head turning fashion statement. And it is the design of the pendant which has undergone numerous changes. From simple gold round cup-like designs, it has seen an incorporation of various modern design elements and experimentations with different types of metals as well as precious stones. Apart from 22 carat gold, popular mangalsutra designs have been created with 18-carat gold with various textures, platinum as well as different alloys. Use of diamond is highly in vogue nowadays and most brides prefer them over pure gold pendants. From typical leaf and flower motifs, the Diamond mangalsutra have incorporated geometric patterns and even alphabets. Length of the chain has also seen preference shift from longer ones to shorter. Use of gold in the chain is becoming less popular, with most brides opting for entirely black chains.
Another significant change which is quite recent is the way the mangalsutra is worn, with the more modern brides and married women opting for trendy Mangalsutra bracelets. The chain of these bracelets is made up of the traditional golden and black beads with diamond and gold charms attached to them. This way women can stay connected to their cultural roots and because it is in the form of a bracelet they can easily wear it with any outfit Western jeans or Indian saree.
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