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The Indian Wedding and Mangalsutra: A Wedding Gift

The traditional Hindu wedding ceremony Mangalya dharanam was the time when a groom would tie a mangalsutra of turmeric stained yellow thread and black beads around his bride’s neck in a symbolic gesture of unification by marriage.

Intended to indicate an inseparable bond, the mangalsutra is given and tied as the groom states his devotion and prayers are said. The tying ceremony may be assisted by the groom’s sisters in some cases.  Three knots are tied into the wedding necklace, signifying obedience to the husband, to his family and to God.

Manga can be seen as the movement from selfish love to detachment and unselfish interest in the welfare of others

Modern Mangalasutra Designs

The mangalsutra given to the bride on the wedding day was determined by the custom or wishes of the groom’s family. Sometimes, it would be as time passed that the original and often simple mangalsutra would be adjusted by threading with beads and a pendant that would function as an oracle for the marriage. The black beads signified protection from evil and were essentially given or utilized as an omen of goodwill and protection for the husband and his family.

The mangalsutra is still a gift from the bride-groom’s family that signifies the auspicious joining of a pair in marriage.  Symbolizing the promise of happiness and success, the traditional jewelry piece is customary in most Indian culture and from each culture there is traditionally a varied design. Sometimes the wedding jewelry is passed down among family members. The piece is considered sacred and signifies wedlock.

Sutra is literally a thread that holds together, the word derived from the latin root siv’, (to sew).

The mangalsutra tradition is comparable to the gold wedding ring or wedding band of the Western culture. Mangalsutra necklaces are also fashioned using gold, either in yellow or white. Gold is standard adornment for the modern magalsutra. Chains or pendants may be fashioned of gold or white gold. The pendant section is now more often fashioned in diamond, as has always been customary for Indians of particular ethnic regions. Today, diamond pendants are popular among many cultures.  Some pendants may be engraved, function as lockets, or even have coral incorporated into their design.

South Indian Wedding culture

Otherwise known as the Thaali (Southern India), the mangalsutra exhibits a variety of stylized statements and comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  The design is typically caste related and the most common Thaali are the Lakshmi thali.

Today the Thaali and the mangalsutra are either worn constantly or are reserved for special occasions regarded as auspicious days. Where traditional pendants were often of gold, today they are usually diamond and otherwise formed to be highly fashionable and appropriate with any ensemble. Often trendy in design, mangalsutras are chosen for their unusual or extravagant qualities.

Although today the mangalsutra serves as a strong fashion statement, it still simultaneously remains a constant symbol of the true meaning and essence of Hindu marriage. Along with the adornment of traditional Indian wedding jewelry such as the nose ring, toe rings, bangles and bindi, the bride adorns the mangalsutra as a sign of both social status and sanctity of the institution of marriage.