Sindoor, Tali and Mangalsutra.

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On the day of my dad’s funeral, somebody pointed out that it was cold and my mother should have a shawl. I got up to get one. A well meaning relative followed me. I picked a maroon shawl. The well meaning relative muttered, “Red won’t be appropriate, take the beige one.” I assured her maroon would be just fine, knowing I was older than her and my mom was in no state to object.

Later mum mentioned how another acquaintance had pointed out one Mrs S, who was so distraught after her husband died that even a year afterwards; she hardly ate unless someone persuaded her to eat. Perhaps she needed a maid for a while. Join Yoga classes. Get out and meet people, anything to lift her spirits, and help her get on with life. Instead she was used as a subtle example of good widowhood.

A friend who is originally from Nainital lost her dad. She was expected to request some male cousins to perform the funeral rites. She was also expected to watch her relatives take away coloured saris and shawls from her mother’s gorgeous collection. She did neither. Some jaws dropped. She performed all rites and her mother still wears sindoor, and is still complimented for her lovely taste in saris.

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When I visited my mum later, she explained, “If I don’t use lipstick, my lips feel dry…” All her life she drank tea or water before applying lipstick, because (unlike her daughters) she hates leaving lipstick marks on teacups. What made her think she needed to justify her use of lipstick now? I reminded her how as a 68 year old grandmother; she could be a role model for the younger women she interacted with. How proud I was when I told well-meaning relatives, “My 68 year old mother wears sleeveless/lipstick/pretty colours/diamonds… ” etc.  I didn’t even want to mention how dad never cared for such customs.

Old age can be empowering in our culture. Suddenly the same old opinions become respectable.

I love putting sindoor (vermilion) on the forehead and filling the hair parting with it. We even have jokes about how one can intentionally let some of this gorgeous red powder sprinkle on the nose because that indicates a loving husband. But all this is only for parties and occasions. In daily life I don’t even wear a bindi or a nose pin.  Most of my friends don’t either, though some wear mangalsutra inside their shirts. (Inside because they realise that generally these symbols don’t go well with western clothes)

Sometimes a rare well meaning acquaintance would point out ‘bare arms‘ (i.e. no bangles).

Another one once said one should either always wear sindoor or never.

Why?

Because it wasn’t a fashion or a style statement.

No? Then what was it?

Why do women wear sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, bichia, tali etc? To show they are married. Why do they need to ‘show’ or announce they are married?  (Please don’t bring love into it, because evn the most unhappily married women wear these). And then why are they expected to take these symbols off when their spouse dies? Do they stop being married?

Manusmriti has answers?  But of course! [will link or write another post later]

Bollywood has answers too!

Those who follow this traditionally should know what the symbols imply. For those who wear sindoor and mangalsutra like they wear lipstick and a pretty neckpiece these become what they should remain – just some pretty ethnic adornments.

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167 thoughts on “Sindoor, Tali and Mangalsutra.

  1. A very thought-provoking post! Your one statement has made me question: “And then why are they expected to take these symbols off when their spouse dies? Do they stop being married?”

    Seriously, if a lady’s husband dies, is she not married anymore? I guess she still is married to her husband… who may not be alive in physical form, but his soul is still there!!

    Nova – Also consider what do other people do or later give up when their spouse dies? Why should only women require to sport these symbols?

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    • I have heard that you wear sindoor and a bindi to ideally ensure a long life for your husband. ( I hate to think that they do not do the same, nor do they ever think of doing something like that)

      Me – This amazes me too Aathira. How come one never hears of husbands doing something to prove they also want their wives to live long??

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      • At least from my perspective, men rarely wear any ornaments at all. That could be a reason why they don’t wear/abandon anything special before/after marriage/death of spouse.

        Feelings for one’s dead spouse is something personal, and pertaining to the family. If one goes with what the outside world says, there is a lot to mess up with life.

        Also, why do someone need to prove all these…whether it is the husband or the wife??

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  2. Beautiful post.. I love your blog merely bcos you voice out a lot of things/thots/issues floating in my head…

    I keep asking mom- what is it that men have to show they are married? forget christians.. am talking abt Hindus… women wear thali and toe ring.. but men – only a few extra threads in their holy thread[poonal]... When i see aunts and sil’s of mine not sporting toe rings, or not wearing their thali all the time am quite impressed, some remove it at night and put it on in the morning, while others wear it only in the presence of elders or going for family occasions..

    Another thing i’ve noticed is some women wear black beads while going for weddings and at home the normal simple thali.. wonder why…. any answers IHM?

    Aarti could be the beads looks more festive? Like I wear any jewellery (and it’s never a symbol of errr suhaag for me) only when I ‘dress up’… because I like being casually dressed.

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  3. Well said, IHM! I don’t tell any of my relatives that I don’t wear these “symbols” daily. Mine are restricted to occasions and festivals. I can’t imagine wearing a mangalsutra & toe-rings to work everyday. They just don’t go with the attire. But anyway people don’t understand so I prefer not telling anybody at all. I put them on when some guests are expected or if I’m attending a function.

    I don’t subscribe to the it-indicates-your-husband’s-long-life nonsense either. Because going by that logic, there shouldn’t be any widows at all!

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    • Ok, for a change, I whole heartedly agree :)

      I remember few years back, in our neighbourhood, a lady lost her husband after 2 years of marriage to cancer. She was quite young at that time.

      When the MIL’s husband had expired around 20 years back, the MIL was also young and she didn’t leave her house for a few years – always dressed in white and played the widow part to perfection.

      So this time, the MIL expected her DIL to do the same. But the world had changed. Things got really ugly. The MIL (also in grief herself since she lost her young son) was very bitter about her DIL going to her parents house. And the DIL (also in grief on loosing her young husband) was herself very confused on what should she actually do.

      Thank goodness that the girl’s parents understood that life cannot be wasted grieving forever. They took their daughter and 1 year old grand daughter with them. I always told my mom (they were good friends) – “why don’t you explain aunty to let go of her DIL? She should actually find another guy for this girl – the girl can’t live this life forever – she is so young.”

      I hope that girl is happy today wherever she is. And I hope the MIL has realised that the world has changed.

      Me – The older woman must have expected the girl to take care of her, this is what as done earlier. Can’t blame her either.

      One of my maid’s son died of kidney failure after a long illness. He had been married for a month or so when he was taken ill – no kids and his wife spent more than an year taking him in and out of hospitals. Since her husband was not earning anything, she also did more work than others at home (this was considered appropriate by my maid, who was working outside to help with his medical bills). When he died, my maid was disappointed because her parents took her away and got her a job and later she was remarried. If she had stayed she would have been like a free maid for the family.

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      • ha ha!!! I bought a diamond managsutra.. much to the consternation of my elders who said diamonds didn’t suit my nakshatra… So I gave them an option either I wear the diamond one or not wear it at all.

        I neither believe nor follow these symbols of marriage. I do not find the need for any person to proclaim their martial status. Its a personal thing.My husband neither sports the ring nor the janjyam :)

        Last year when grandfather-in-law passed away, I was proud the way his sons and daughters took a firm stance and refused to let their mother go through the horrific rituals. Granny wears what she likes in the colors she likes and she has not given up her bindi. :)

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  4. As a teenager I was shocked when I saw bangles being removed from a woman’s wrist because her husband died. I couldn’t forget that scene for years. In the big cities situation is gradually improving. There are instances where daughters have performed the last rites of their fathers and women pundits have performed marriages. As literacy spreads I am sure conditions of women will be better. These days widow marriage is a common occurrence, a few decades ago it was difficult to imagine.

    I agree Prerna :) And I have asked both my kids to perform mine together :)

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  5. Excellent post IHM!
    I know almost 80% of the Indian women will agree with you, but sadly only 20 % will muster enough courage to admit they think this way.
    You are very right, Indian culture taught us to respect the elderly, that brought along the thinking that whatever elderly said was “true & time tested”too.

    I admire the way you’ve put forward this sensitive issue.

    Keep up the wonderful work.

    Cheers!!

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  6. When I was younger I had asked mum the same question why women had to wear the Mangalsutra, toerings, finger-rings, and sindoor to show that they’re married and why men didn’t have to wear anything to indicate that they’re married? At that time, mum said it was to ward off “other” men from troubling women. She said it indicated that the woman had someone to “protect” her. I then asked her why “she” (mum) was wearing it since she didn’t need protection from dad? My mum is a very strong woman capable of “protecting” herself and didn’t need dad to do it for her. Then said said she was doing it because if she doesn’t, everybody around would question her.

    My mum doesn’t wear the mangalsutra or the sindoor or any of the adornments at home. They’re out only when she has to go out for a function or when dad’s relatives come home. In fact, she even got a “fancy” mangalsutra designed to wear so that they go along with “fancy” saris, but she was criticized for that too.

    I don’t think it’s demeaning to wear these adornments as long as the woman herself wants to do it. I have a lot of friends that want to wear these symbols and no amount of convincing will make them not do it. However, wearing these adornments should not be forced on the woman if she doesn’t want to do it. Wearing them does not indicate love or does not, in any way, increase the husbands life-span. Such ideas are irrational and should be removed from the minds of people.

    Me – I feel if men wore obvious symbols there are less chances of women to be fooled into relationships with them, thinking or believing that they aren’t married. (It’s different when they know the man is married from the beginning. )

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    • in america, too, married men who want to attract extramarital attention, take their wedding rings off before they enter a room or bar or office or any other place where they think they might find a hook up. the problem, though, is that if the man have very fair skin there is a tan line . . . which is why so many men prefer to never wear the wedding ring to begin with. oh. and women here do the same thing too but in fewer numbers because they are so busy working outside the home and inside as well that they don’t have as much leisure time as the men.

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  7. IHM, my take on this is that one certainly doesn’t need to *show* anyone else that you are married. However, expecting a married woman who has worn these all her life to stop, just because she is a widow, is so cruel. Our treatment of widows, historically, leaves much, much to be desired. Kudos to women like your mom who challenge such norms.

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    • Hey Appu i agree

      When i lost my father, i still can’t forget how my mother’s bangles and other ornaments were removed. How can a woman be so cruel to another woman, and rip her off of her most precious possessions?

      Wish all woman become so daring…while a widower can remarry even within a week. This is a man made society

      Regards

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  8. U just voiced my thoughts. The customs of breaking those green bangles after the husband’s death….painful!! That Manu is to be blamed and no one else!! and of course all who harp on what he has said…

    Ashes

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  9. IHM,

    You wrote a post I’ve long thought about. I cannot comment cause it would be injustice to write in brief but I will mail you my thoughts.

    I lost my father very early in my life. My mother is the most beautiful person I’ve seen and is admired for her fine taste in clothes (alwasy prim and proper sarees) and jewellery. I did not let her change and thankfully she did not want to either.

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  10. Read your comment on my blog – sorry could not reply. I cannot believe that the person still had the content up! I hope he/she has learnt a lesson. If you need any more posts from us – let us know! We all are with you!

    Me – Thanks and hugs!!!!!!!

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  11. Hey,
    I’m really liking your writing. Day by day i’m getting addicted to it.

    As far as this post is concerned, I believe that as long as there is love & respect for each other, no husband or wife should really care about all these conventional make up stuff. They hardly make difference.

    I love too look things from the human perspective, not a male/female perspective. And that is what I like about your writing. Apart from this , you are educating the masses.

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  12. I really dont know what was the logic behind these symbolic adornments when they were started, and dont believe in strictly following any of them.. Mom follows all, sis follows some and I follow none. My mil is not fussed about it.. neither is my mom.. she just tells me that when i wear some of those things, apparently I look married, happy and blah blah. They otherwise are heard saying that their younger daughter (me) doesnt show any signs of being married..

    I kept the toe ring on after wedding and it spoilt my saree (getting entangled with he silk threads) and is inconvenient with the footwear too.. So i removed it.

    I only do them when I want to dress up traditionally and LOOK married :) and avoid looking an odd man out. I love my finger rings and have a very pretty mangalsutra for daily wear which I dont mind wearing ;) but again I dont think removing it one day means i dont love my husband that day or any such crap.. (no offence to anyone who thinks differently, pls)

    As far as widows expected to give up everything is concerned, i think the pressure from society is totally unfair.. the girl herself might be devastated for having lost her husband and that is the reason maybe she doesnt feel like using all those stuff.. one should help her come out of the depression instead of treating her typically like a ‘widow’

    thats what i think..

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    • Dear

      Over a period of time, our society evolved around the belief we believed. It was like our constitution and the laws keep changing to protect or guide us through the times. There would have been a lot of contradictions before the society agreed to introduced few rituals etc etc for the well being of our people Alan the society. So never criticise… but evolve believing in everything.

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  13. Lovely post – I agree entirely with you.
    It is possible that these were considered adornments to look beautiful to one’s husband as also symbols that kept other men from leching at her indicating she is married.
    Perhaps widows did not feel the need for such adornments after their husbands’ death and hence voluntarily gave them up.
    But all this should be voluntary and no one should be forced into giving up colored clothes or bangles or sindoor. It is bad enough that the woman has lost her loved one. Why force some ugly practices and force her into mourning for ever?

    Me – I agree Usha, but often even when there is no direct compulsion, women are superstitious, or there is subtle pressure to follow the norms.
    I also feel if men also wore such symbols their wives might feel more secure, because the husband is less at risk of being taken as a bachelor, and hence being tempted into extra marital relationships.

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  14. I’ve one suggestion for your blog.
    The notice you are putting in the middle of every page these days hinders the flow of reading. I request you to put it on the bottom of the feed page. It won’t appear in the article on your blog but if someone steals your content, it’ll appear on the bottom of their blog’s page.

    I’m quite liking the features of WordPress. my blog is with Blogger, should I move it to WordPress?. What do you suggest?.
    What I like about blogger is Google’s promise that they won’t ever delete any blog, even if it is not updated. Is it so with the WordPress too? Or they delete a blog if it’s not updated for a long time?.

    Me – WP is very good in fact brilliant, I wrote a post about my experience when I shifted. …but let me ask around about the deletion thing!! Not sure!!
    And I will take your suggestion and remove this and see how to add it to the feed…

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  15. Women are not allowed to go to the burial ground,why?? Why only men are allowed? When my father in-law died my husband and his brothers took their mother to the burial ground inspite of hearing protest from the relatives and they didnt allow her to break her bangles etc…,later my mother in-law voluntarily removed all.And we sisters made it a point that my mom wears bindi always.

    I always have this thought in my mind why a girl removes bindi and stops wearing bindi after her husband death? She has been wearing bindi since her birth and because she lost her husband she has to remove her bindi,why she should not look beautiful?

    Me – Your mom’s lucky to have such wonderful daughters Saritha :) And a woman must look good for herself, all her life.

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  16. Very good topic you brought up here IHM..I dont wear any splly after having angel.i stopped wearing rings even…..i just done want her to be hurt by any of jewellery stuff..

    Do we wear good just to impress our husbands ..not really..after few yrs of marriage its more to show off in society…so widows also have full right to continue the same after husband passed away..

    Me – A very good point Rashmi. I think women must look good for themselves first, and then they automatically feel confident and look good to everybody. And if people looked good only to impress their spouses, then unless they are together, we will see a lot of shabbily dressed people in this world.

    After loosing ur companion..its anyways sad life …why to make it more dull by wearing dull colors and stop using jewellery…I agree its more coz of social pressure than ur own will for widows..

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  17. Oh yeah…even I get comments on how I dont wear Bracelets or bangles and stuff! I tell them I look pretty when I am simple :) I’ve noticed that widows have a tough life. I was used to seeing widows in white sarees only. I had a Hindi teacher who used to be well dressed…pretty Calcutta sarees,green glass bangles and a red tikka with a mangalsutra. When her husband died we all thought she would dress differently(I think we expected her to wear only white sarees without any jewellery) We were surprised to see her well dressed in the same coloured sarees. Only thing was she started wearing black bindi’s and gold bangles instead of the glass ones….and a chain instead of a mangalsutra. That was a good thing for us girls to see who were brought up thinking white was the only colour widows could wear. In Catholics widows wear only black….but I hardly see anyone wearing only that colour nowadays. Ofcourse there are no such restrictions for guys!

    Me – Homecooked it really matters …what we see around us affects us. We should set strong examples and be there for anybody who needs support…

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  18. My mother in law has always been a well groomed lady, and after her husband(my FIL) passed away a few years ago, she showed a confusion abt what she ‘wanted’ to wear thereafter, and wht she would be ‘expected’ wear! She also hinted that the FIL had expressly stated that after him she must remain the way she always was…so I stuck to my guns(despite my other SILS making a fuss) and encouraged to remain as well groomed as she always had been! Becos she would crumble even further than she already had at losing her best friend,and hubby!

    I remember the narrow mindedness of my own aunts when as a young bride I loved dressing up, but was looked at with alarm if I did so when hubby was on a biz trip…which as a young and easily hurt person, it did irreversible damage to my self esteem!

    This is such a sad silent truth in many women’s lives
    and I love how you bring these thing sup in such wonderfully written posts!

    Me – She is lucky to have you in the family Indy!! Hats off to you!

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  19. Powerful post IHM… Being human is all about making one’s choices but sadly in the Indian set up these choices for women are always made by significant others. Wish we had more gritty women like your mom who pay no heed to such meaningless rituals.Kudos to her !!
    Symbolically speaking all marital ornaments are designed to bind a woman..rather tie her down..Bangles are so akin to handcuffs..and mangalsutra/ tali is like a noose around the neck. i know such thoughts will get me a lot of flak from “Culturally inclined” people. But this symbolism has been drawn from none other than Manusmriti !!
    And after her husband’s death why does she suddenly cease to feel the need to be protected/ ward off unwanted male attention… Most of such rituals defy logic !!

    I don’t understand when it comes to men they have a choice whether they even want to wear their wedding ring.Don’t they need “protection” or don’t they feel the need to show they are married..
    Why do we have such double standards ???

    Me – I agree in fact the words kada, janzeer, bediya are the words used for binding prisoners/slaves. We should write on this, in the mean time, do you know what the word PATNI means? And PATI?
    And men should require protection of their wedding rings – protection from bad women who provoke them to be unfaithful.

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    • what do the words PATi & PATNI mean,IHM ?? Will try and trace their etymology.
      Though i differ slightly here no woman can provoke a married man to be unfaithful..he’ll go astray if he wants to and nothing can prevent him !!

      Me – I was being sarcastic liveonimpulse!! I would NEVER say that seriously!!!

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  20. Hi ,
    I am glad women like you are writing about this. A very thought provoking post. Thank you for sharing it. I always tell mom that she should dress the way my dad would have loved to see her. Death of a husband does not mean you die with him. My old bua who is in her 80z insisted that ma puts a bindi during a wedding in her home in Allahabad. I feel proud to have women like her in my family . Glad I dropped by IHM. keep the good work going ..

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  21. I think the reason why this practice started out was to save women (who lost their husbands) from trauma by not wearing symbols that could have reminded them of their late husband. Like all other practices, this got tagged as ‘compulsory’, ‘religious’, ‘cultural’,….
    I don’t wear these symbols on a daily basis not because I dont like them, but because I find them as hassles. My younger sister wears them and flaunts them because she things red sindoor suits her, and her mangalsutra goes with her dress!! Its our choice. I wear them when my in-laws are around, not because I am scared of them but because they like it and I want them to be happy (again not a compulsion. The day I dont wear them, they dont make faces or show their displeasure). My hubby is cool in this respect.. He doesnt care. Though he feels that some ornaments/bindi/sindoor makes me look very traditional and attractive (his words ;-) ). Just as he says that a particular dress looks good or bad…
    Is there a direct pressure? No.
    Indirect? to some extent.
    Am I ok with it? yes, of course
    What does it mean for me? Nothing. Just like a particular necklace would be preferred on a certain occasion, I choose to wear bindi/sindoor/bangles as and when required.
    Is my marital status linked to this? No way!! My husband’s long life depends on factors other than how I dress up!!

    Me – Puja I feel it’s great to be aware and conscious of these things, that way if there is pressure – we notice and when we take a decision it is a conscious decision. And when people are nice, we feel like being nice to them, specially when there’s no displeasure when we do our own thing :)

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  22. another powerpacked, lovely post..

    let me relate my experience..

    when i was newly married, i removed my bangles and loha for the night as it was too inconvenient.. in the morning, it didn’t occur immediately to put those on and i roamed about with khali hands.. once my mother-in-law gently asked me never to keep my hands khali.. then of course, there was the sindoor.. i wore it quite enthusiastically for a year or so, even when i was studying for i was young and as you have said, felt proud in ‘announcing that i am married, happily”

    .. but now, i don’t feel the need.. with jeans, i can’t really digest the red streak. besides, often the chemical-mix irritates my skin. use it at marriages and functions for it goes well with a saree. wrt to someone’s quote in your post, I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that sindoor or mangalsutra can’t be used when it suits your dress and the occasion.

    at one or two occasions elderly people have asked in a whisper to my MIL why i don’t wear the sindoor and which of the bangles is my ‘loha’. she has hushed the topic nervously..

    while i think the in-laws would wish that i flaunt sindoor and loha everytime, they have not actually asked me to do so.

    then again, there’s this niramish rule for widows in Bengal that irritates me.
    I have written it in detail in this post.

    http://gaurigharpure.blogspot.com/2008/01/politics-of-food.html

    in their hearts of hearts, people advocate it and there are judgements passed when a widow continues eating non-veg. so much has to change in this hypocritic, culturally-rich, intellectual “communist” part of India

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  23. ‘And then why are they expected to take these symbols off when their spouse dies? Do they stop being married?”

    Your question is very right, IHM. When my brother in law expired, my husband did the kriyas. So my co-sister was with us. On the 7th day or something, my husband’s relatives said that her mangalsuthra should be removed and put into a glass of milk at midnight. All of us ‘sunmangalis’ should hold a haldi root and sleep and should not come there to watch! My co-sister said that she was not going to do any such thing and my husband agreed. She was wearing it for a long time – she lost her husband when she was just 24! She did not remove the bindi also. She re-married and lives happily.

    If we support our parents or relatives who are in need at these times, the person who is bereaved will have guts to stop following these rituals blindly.

    Now, I notice that most of my friends and relatives who have lost their husbands wear bindi and they look as before and I am so happy to notice that times are changing.

    This is a very thought provoking, important post, IHM! I am happy to know that you and Saritha have supported your mothers whole heartedly.

    Me – I am so glad you supported her!! 24 is so young!!! I feel really good when I hear such stories… you could blog about it! I did not know about the keeping it in milk ritual… sad how we can traumatise a grieving person further :(

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  24. O, and do you know… what our English professor once said about nose-rings??

    he said all you young girls who feel your nathnis are a fashion statement, do you know the etymological route of the word???

    it comes from naath– as in husband. ni– means -his… the nathni thus goes to show that this woman is taken, she has a master. it is no different that the ring put in a bullock’s nose to pull the rein and control the beast. It is a symbol that the husband can rein in the woman now as and when he wishes..

    I was like shocked when he said this, but took it with a pinch of salt. but then there was so much logic and conviction in what he said..

    i gave up the idea of getting my nose pierced that day.

    Me – Or make sure it is worn before one is taken and continue to wear it even when he is no more. Symbols can be changed. I have heard traditionally a husband was supposed to take off the nathni on the wedding night.

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    • If Nathni comes Naath(husband)-ni(his), is it safe to say Patni means Pati-ni? :)

      Me – No Manasa … PATNI means something else. Let’s see if anybody can tell… maybe I should announce an award for the person who gives the right answer!! Ok, let me do that in the next post!!

      Like

    • Oh !!! I didnt knew abt this, when I poked my nose, as a teenager !!!! Me and my sis, wanted to do this most fashionable thing at that time.

      And what irony, after getting married, I removed it and S just loved it – the nose looked better without the nose ring was his feeling.

      Me – I also got my nose pierced just for fun in college days, …but I often take it off for months or years – out of irritation, when I have allergies and I sneeze, it’s irritating :)

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  25. Good question IHM.. made me think as to why I wear the minne..

    realized it is another social conditioning that has been handed down from generation to generation… but frankly speaking I have reached a stage where I dont have the same attachment as before and now I wear it only since I do not want to lose the bit of gold…

    Hubby already removed his wedding ring long back since it was getting too tight and he is least bothered about my “minnu”…

    Me – Happy Kitten the conditioning is so strong that I know of a woman who saw her toes without bichia (toe rings) in her dream and remained worried for a long time, thinking her husband might come to some harm. I feel these are only symbols and the feelings that a couple has should be mutual and above all these symbols.

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  26. The way I see it, it should be about individual choices. To my maternal grandmother, her sindoor was a symbol of the 50 something years she spent with my grandfather before he passed on. She stopped wearing any afterwards. But to my paternal grandma, she lost her husband 10 years after they were married, but never stopped wearing her bangles, sindoor and taali. To her, they are reminders of the past happiness she had shared, and an indicator of the future joy her children will bring. :)

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  27. Why do women wear sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, bichia, tali etc?

    why dont you address this query to a vedic scholar…..to find out the real reasons behind these….

    i would not be comfortable if my wife removes the mangalsutra….though at the end of the day it is invidual choice…

    yes it is painful to see the rituals of removing bangles etc when the husband dies…but in our family we dont follow this….

    infact more painful is not allowing widows to come anywhere close to attend religious functions..again we dont follow this…

    from what ever i read this is my understanding…..early days whatever comes into being it is classified as part of Hinduism…vedas, upanshads, manu etc etc came into force in different periods….for that matter atheism is also part of hinduism…

    so in the first place, no body forces to follow rituals….i could have gone to a temple and exchanged garlands and got married…so where is the question of wearing all these in the first place?

    The individual constraint here is the family you have born into…..

    what i mean here is Hinduism does not disown anybody just because you dont follow the so called customs…it is your family that disowns you for not following…..so why blame the scriptures….

    Me – Sunder you are right, generally the only compulsion is from the family and if the family supports one can easily change these things.
    But why would you be uncomfortable if your wife does not wear the mangal sutra… just asking to hear a husband’s point of view.

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    • my mind is conditioned…that it is a bad omen..thats all…

      Me – Just imagine if it was so simple so many of my maids would have safely, even accidentally (DV) – and without fear of retribution killed their husbands.
      And what about Husbands also doing something for the wife’s long life?

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  28. Excellent post.

    I have seen it is women who are more responsible for this. It is my MIL who goes bersek if I forget to put Sindoor or take off my bangles. It was women of the house who sorted through my grandma’s sarees days after my grandfather’s death to decide which ones she was “allowed” to wear. All in the name of tradition!

    Me – You are right, it is generally women who do this!! The silver lining is Hypermom that then women can change this too!

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  29. First?? (No one has claimed it so far, right?) :)

    Hey what is that note in the middle. It made me check the url on my explorer.

    BTW, I agree, the mangalsutra is nothing but a fashion statement these days. I wear mine without fail these days since I get so many compliments. :) Quite a show-off I am that way :P

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  30. Touchy post!! I am listing couple of my own personal experiences.

    1. A few years back, I attended my friend’s marriage. She lost her father during her school days and with very limited support from the relatives, her mother strived hard to get herself educated and then get a job and give my friend the best life. But during the marriage her mother did not even stand in the stage. It was her father’s relatives, who until that day did not care for them, did the Kanya daan and the other customs. I could not control my anger. I could do nothing and was in tears… :(

    2. Last year, my close friend lost his father. His mom is still to come to terms with his loss. The few months which followed was so tough for my friend. His mom was always crying, she skipped meals and physically became weak. I dont know why our society never misses a chance to say something -ve. Instead of consoling her, he said there were so many customs that reminded her of the loss and made her go back to the shell…

    The society does not view a woman as independent. She is always associated with a man. Once the man passes, people forget her existence. They think her happiness is not to be considered.

    Hoping all these changes in the years to come!!

    Sorry about the long comment

    Me – The long comment is welcome Bindhu :)
    Why did her mother care for all these relatives!!?? This is so sad and shocking… I think this gave others an opportunity to enjoy some attention and power. This is outrageous. I can imagine how terrible you must have felt… and you can’t even do anything but watch! :(
    I think women must come out of their homes and be active in public life so that they are seen as ‘real people’.

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  31. I find these customs no different than the burqas, naqabs or hijabs – the concept, the social outlook and the desire to dominate women is all the same.

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  32. I’m sure the sindoor, mangalsutra, loha etc. (symbols of marriage) were all ‘invented’ to mark a woman as the property of a man – “Stay away from her as she belongs to me”…

    In Bengal, traditionally a widow is supposed to wear a white saree with no blouse, cut her hair short and eat vegetarian food…Earlier, many were discarded to Varanasi or Mathura (pushed into forgetfulness) in the name of religion…

    I don’t wear either the sindoor or the loha as I’m supposed to…Infact, the first and last time I wore them was during my wedding ceremony…When my FIL asked me why I didn’t wear them, I promptly replied “Your son doesn’t like me wearing them” (my husband hadn’t said anything and doesn’t care if I wear them or not)…This has been my strategy for everything since then – blame it on the man! It works as it stops all the questions…

    Wearing the symbols of marriage is a matter of individual choice…

    Me – Yes Sraboney, these are supposed to mark ownership, I plan to get a link for this!!. This one is ‘taken’ is the message. I wonder if you know what the word PATNI and PATI mean? ;)

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    • No, I don’t know what they mean but I do know what ‘Swami’ (husbands are referred to by this term in Bengali) means…I’ve never referred to my husband as Swami simply because he’s not my swami but my husband…

      Me – PATI and SWAMI mean the same thing. I never use the term PATI either. It means owner or Lord. But what does PATNI mean?

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      • My 2 cents…

        Even the word “husband” has a meaning that is quite removed from the generaly inocuous sense that we use it in. At some point in the history of development of the English language, the word had come to mean “the master of the house” and also someone who is in “control or judicious use of resources.”

        The original sense of the word “husband” relates more to the modern word “husbandry.”

        What is appalling is that the term “wife” — which could have a root meaning “a veiled person” — could also have a proposed root *ghwibh-, which means “shame.”

        I feel that “partner” — which, interestingly, has no offensive root meanings — could be a better, and propbably the best, replacement. If any reference to the physico-mental setup of a partner in a couple partnership is required, we could use the accepted biological terms.

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  33. It is unreasonable to expect men to not want to display symbols suggesting ownership. Buy a house, put up a nameplate. Procure a wife, bring on the sindoor and mangalsutra. Where’s the problem with this?

    Arre, all you modern women, with your notions of equality, you are just not understanding our culture….tsk tsk.
    :-)

    Quirky Indian

    Me – Modern women do not realise how lucky they are to be able to display their good fortune ;)

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  34. Very though-provoking questions here! :)

    I wear the mangalsutra only because I Like wearing it and as I’ve mentioned many a times, the black beads look good to almost anything I wear :)

    Both my aunts are young widows and lost their respective husbands at a very young age.
    This has not stopped them from wearing colourful sarees, bindis, bangles, jewellery.
    Neither did they dress in white ever unless its a very fashionable cotton saree with embroidery or designs!!
    My granny also hasn’t stopped wearing her bindi, necklace or her beautiful sarees after my grandpa died…
    They just don’t wear the mangalsutra.

    So, I guess its just social conditioning and the mere thought of what “others” would think would dictate the behaviour of women in such a position.
    Life goes on ,whether we like it or not and Time heals almost everything.

    Just my thoughts here…

    Me – I agree about social conditioning Pixie. But even if we just support those we can, I am sure they’d lead happier lives. Unfortunately many women are too much into it to even let other women in the family choose… :(

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    • After my uncle death , My aunts also wear all jewellery (incldng finger rings, toe rings, gold bangles, big anklets, waist chain, and other necklaces, and other chains from neck to navel length, bindi, ear hoops except mangalsutra chain & black bead chain) she always use color designer sarees. now she was 50 yrs.

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  35. Excellent post, Indian homemaker! I loved reading it. I really am becoming a fan of your hard hitting posts on archaic Indian social customs and gender discrimination! Posts like yours make me feel hopeful for an egalitarian, respectful, productive, free and gender equal society in the future for India. Please keep up the barrage of such posts! These are critical drops which can precipitate radical changes in the mindset of common Indians.

    Ultimately it boils down to the freedom of choice for a woman or a man. What someone eats, drinks, wears or does NOT wear, in personal settings, should be strictly a personal choice and should not be dependent on external approval and coercion.

    I feel nosy, orthodox people who try to dictate and pass comments/snide remarks on others’ adherence to/negligence of customs, rituals and traditions, do so to get a sense of self IMPORTANCE and CONTROL (Power). They have nothing better in their miserable lives and generally have a low sense of self-worth. I call them the “narrow-minded miserable self-appointed guardians of Indian culture and traditions”. Fortunately, with women like you and many others thinking openly like this, the tribe of such “guardians” will surely decrease in the upcoming generations. :-)

    Me – locutus83 I agree they are totally self appointed and unwelcome guardians :) They want attention and power so ignoring them is the best way to handle them!

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  36. first of all kudos 2 U’r mom :) ..
    @ sindoor tali ,mangalsoothra…….these all left to a person choice rather than wearing it or not wearing it based on relatives\neighbours\wellwishers\friends compulsion\comments.I guess one should wear what he\she is comfortable with rather than based on others choice….

    what to say ,It is unfortunate to see that many people around us are still living in ‘stone age’…

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  37. Why do they wear it ?? sigh… I should ask my wife to reply… lets hope I can get around to do that.. !!

    my wife doesnt use sindoor ever… !! she hates it and I hate it too… !

    she loves her mangalsutra.. but only when in home… or on simpler clothes… when out… its accesories as per the dress… !!

    bangles et all only happen when she wears Sarees or in Garba… etc..

    Thankfully in our house hold its all according to ones own wishes.. !

    Yea my mom if she doesnt put a bindi.. we all remark that she hasnt put a bindi.. coz we have just become used to seeing her in a bindi.. its as if something is missing.. !!

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  38. Well, I have always wanted to know why is it so important to show to the world that I am married and use the sindoor and mangalsutra etc. Men don’t have any such display? I have never put any of these things…simply because I don’t believe in the necessity to display my marital status and also maybe because I have never seen anybody at home do it or maybe coz its not a part of my culture. So, I always have to hear from people – oh! but you don’t look married!!
    Have asked friends who do mark their marital status – what is the importance or significance. But they have not been able to give me a reason…apart from the fact that it shows that they have husband.

    Me – Maria it has only one meaning – that the woman has a husband, or more accurately, that the husband has the woman :)

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  39. Mangalsutra dharan ritual in the wedding, was not followed till 2000 years back…I wrote about this in a post on ‘Arya samaaj wedding – http://maradhimanni.blogspot.com/search/label/Rituals

    My sister-in-law’s sister-in-law, who is 78 years old, is still wearing her mangalsutra and bindi. Her husband expired some 10 years back. No one in our family say that widows should not come forward and participate in the family functions etc. thank god. No one bothers about these things, I feel and am happy about it! We do all the poojas, follow the festivals properly, do Shraadhdha, everything…but slowly the unwanted rituals are not followed in our family.

    But my grandmother had a shaved head, I remember now. She died when I was 10. She wore plain (sandal ) coloured saree without blouse. No jewellery. My maternal grandmother wore colourful saree, blouse, plain chain in her neck and bangles. She loved Rafi’s songs and was singing his songs all the time! As you said, this needs a post, IHM! Thank you!

    Me – Sandhya it’s so sad that anybody had to live her life like this. I am glad it’s changing – if we don’t change and evolve we will have to reject all this eventually. While I am fine with living a life without any rituals – I know a lot of people value them, and those who do value them must make an effort to make us a more fair, less rigid and less biased society.
    I would love to read your post on this.

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  40. This story was told to me by a taxi driver on a long drive home.

    There is a small village in Afghanistan. I can’t recall the name of that place right now. As per the customs and traditions of that village, if a woman’s husband dies, the husband’s brother is obliged to marry her. It is his duty.

    If that women goes back to her place, no one would marry her. And she would spend the rest of her life in oblivion. So the brother marries her, even if he is already married. So that the women gets another chance for a normal life.

    I don’t know this custom is bad or good is or if it is cruel or fair? I don’t want to judge. This isn’t exactly relevant to your post. But it came to mind and thought of sharing.

    The driver, who narrated this story to me, married his elder brother’s wife when he was killed. I asked him how he felt about it? He was indifferent. Said he did it because he had to. And now he shares his life with both his wives, equally. He said it was a small price he had to pay for a much larger cause – his brother’s wife could lead a normal life. And that was far more important for him. I asked him if he felt odd marrying his sis-in-law? He said he did but that was not important anymore.

    Needless to say, I was shocked. That one conversation completely messed up my mind. I hadn’t heard of something like this ever. And till today, I often think of that man, his 2 wives and wonder.

    Sorry for eating up your comment space with this story.

    Me – Masood this is/was common in many parts of North India also. It’s given in Manusmriti too. It caused a lot of unhappiness, and many times the widow was older than the brother in law. I don’t see why couldn’t she be free to marry anyone else of her choice! One reason could be to ensure her share of gold and property (if she had any sons) was not lost.

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  41. A very good read!

    Infact none of our scriptures ask anyone to stop wearing vermillion, etc. Nor do any of them sanction ‘Sati’.

    All these evil and obnoxious customs have crept in when vested interests have tried to control the lives of people through ‘religion’… which btw is again a foreign word.

    Even in our great epics… after Bali dies, his widow marries Sugriva (her brother-in-law), after Ravan is killed, Mandodari marries Bibhishan. Mandodari is also considered as one of the 5 Kanyas… and is thought to be the real mother of Sita… in a story akin to Karna and Kunti.

    Only Madri commits ‘Sati’ due to her ‘guilt’… of being ‘responsible’ for her husband’s death.

    It took generations of social reformers to fight these evil customs and achieve some success.

    Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar… that great Bengali scholar and social reformer… studied all our scriptures, held and led protests and indulged in discussions and debates with so called scholars and leading lights of his times… and was ultimately able to prove that ‘Sati’ was nowhere mentioned in our scriptures.

    That a minor tweak of what is mentioned gave rise to this cruel ‘custom’. It was ‘agre’… meaning: the widow would lead the funeral procession… and not ‘agne’ meaning: to go into the fire’. And they can remarry if they so please… the husband’s younger brother being the most suitable.

    If you notice… the majority of the social reformers came from the eastern part of India… and they were reasonably successful in their endeavours too. In those days, Bengal was the hub of all activities in India and was a very large area. Consisting of present day W. Bengal, Bangladesh, Orissa. With close ties to Tripura and Assam, even Bihar. Wonder why this land was the first to be ‘divided’ ostensibly on ‘administrative’ grounds…

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  42. Super! I have been married for five years. Happily. And i do not think it necessary to flaunt my married status.

    My MIL went thru some crap when my FIL passed away. Her 3 DIL’s (me included) put our foot down and refused to comply with stupid customs. It seems they have to dress like a bride and then someone will come along, clear away the sindoor, break the bangles etc. How pathetic can we get! We did not allow it.

    We told MIL that if she chooses, she can remove the things that came with being married, like toe rings, thali etc. But she had to wear bangles, bindi etc that existed on her before being married.

    And I have seen that in these scenarios, it is we women who are more cruel to our own kind than men!

    Me – The good thing is Butterfly that this also gives us the power to change these ridiculously cruel customs.
    And so many of us are doing it!! Proud of you. Your MIL is lucky to have such awesome DILs!!!

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  43. When one of my relative lost her husband . She was hesistant to wear flowers , attending functions etc but surprisingly it was her MIL who encouraged her to be what she always was, wear flowers, wear her fav dresses, attend all functions etc ! Things are changing … hope the change reaches throughout the society …

    Me – Yes, and Lakshmi, once again it’s the women who are making a difference! Yes they can :)

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  44. Commentators have already expressed most of my thoughts. The pressure on women to behave in certain ways is very strong in society. Why widows, even when it comes to normal women when they attend functions like weddings etc they are expected to dress up while men can be more casual. I always resented this as I personally am not fond of dressing up but do so for weddings out of respect for societal norms. I always envy my husband who can throw on a kurta and a pair of jeans! People talk about dressing right according to various occasions, but men usually dress according to norms only when they attend office. In social gatherings they are excused for some reason.

    Me – In fact Nita, men are excused all dressing rules. Women have to wear traditional clothing but men adopted comfortable modern clothing decades ago! Even in school uniforms in the last decade, new rules have been made where girls have to wear salwar kurtas while boys are free to wear western trousers and shirts.

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    • I so agree, Nita and IHM! All the rules are for the women folk. Men can go to a traditional wedding in jeans and nobody would blink. A woman, or even worse, a married daughter-in-law in jeans and that could be the end of the world :)

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  45. I feel that the best tribute one can pay in the memory of the departed dear soul is to continue wearing, eating or doing such acts that the deceased one would have loved us to do.

    Me – I agree. Just the thought of so much avoidable unhappiness makes me wonder what kind of society are we?

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  46. It’s not just for married women, but over here people start scolding you even if you’re single and you’re walking around with bare hands (i.e, with no bangles). I like walking around my house with no jewellery of any sort. Makes me feel free. My relatives, whenever they drop over for a visit, can’t help but pinpoint these things out to me – ‘you should wear a small gold necklace and a single bangle at least’.

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  47. Being a widow doesn’t mean that you’re dead! I fail to understand such things. If a widow is seen having a good time, I’m sure our Indian society will find faults with that too.

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  48. /* I didn’t even want to mention how dad never cared for such customs. */

    That is why you and me can talk the way we do, because we have been shown that those things aren’t necessary..for people who have never ever been shown the other side of thought, the very idea of thinking against their belief would be blasphemy..

    As for men, well Aarti did point out that we are to wear another thread..now considering men roamed bare bodied (well almost) until recently, I think that was good enough..But why show whether you are married or not? Hmm..maybe it has it’s origins when we were still pretty backward..?

    Me – That’s a question to ask Vishesh, ‘WHy show you are married or not?’

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  49. Wow !!!!

    Its kind of difficult to reason with the society on issues that mostly are so subjective and personal i.e why should i wear bangles or why shouldn’t I. Then there is notion that you are not married to the man, you are also married to the entire family, actually not just the family, but family of family, the neighbors, actually every aunty who knows your family is your critic, most of the times sarcastic ones but at the end of it all, they are all well wishers.

    For eg, the lady who follows you to get a shawl will for sure speak of the incident to someone probably like – ” And, you know she picked a maroon shawl, and i even said it wont look good, but she just wont listen & oh my god i was so shocked. ”

    The bottom line is the Indian value system has a lot of flexibility for men in pretty much all aspects of life but on the other hand it has too much baggage for women which is not just unfair but most part of it absolutely useless & unimportant.

    – Me – I agree Kamal… and if we ignore well meaning relatives, and go on living our lives they generally can’t do much… and might just realise how much better it is to live and let live :) The highlighted part… it’s so true!!

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  50. Oh no I am late to the party IHM. Absolutely agree with your points. Let girls who want to wear the mangalsutra wear it, but do not force it on everyone in the name of tradition.
    I don’t wear mine, and the husband does not wear his sacred thread either, and we have found that neither of us care about these things. People have tried to tell us/hint at this, but we do what we want to do…
    About the disgusting process followed when a woman loses her husband, I have really no words. Let the poor woman grieve in peace. When my grandfather passed away, some relatives tried to tell my dad to perform the rituals where the woman is seated on a chair with all her ornaments and all of them are removed one by one, but my dad dismissed their suggestions and did not do anything out of the ordinary. Can you imagine IHM there is a custom where a widow is decked up in all her jewellery and then everything is removed one by one? Can you imagine anyone going through this horrible process and being sane? I was shocked when I was told that this was tradition.

    Me – Hats off to your dad, Shilpa. I feel a lot of people are rejecting such senseless and cruel customs, and it’s easy to put an end to them in our homes. People might talk for a day or two, but eventually they let us be.

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  51. Hello! IHM (delurking)

    Thanks for the thought/comment provoking post.

    I recall vaguely that according to earlier customs, married men were to wear toe ring and married women wear thali/mangalsutra. Reason being, that a women with a bowed head could spot a toe ring of a married man and men would spot the dangling mangal sutra of a married woman. Cant validate this – dont know how true this is.

    But, where I come from (Tamilnadu), men wear toe ring on the wedding day. However, “conveniently” they get to remove it after the wedding day . I am sure women (of earlier days) were only eager to pick up that piece of ‘wedding symbol’ and add it to their collection!

    And totally agree with you about women (in our culture) are seen as the ambassadors of carrying on culture, etc but men get a free pass all the time (whether it comes to clothes, rituals, jewelry, etc) – about time for some changes..

    Me – Welcome Mullai :) Loved your comment. And I had no idea about men wearing toe rings… but it’s easy to imagine this happening exactly like this. I have tried wearing toe rings once, found them too uncomfortable, and I am so glad I wasn’t born in days when all these were compulsory for women!

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  52. I cant even start talking about a well meaning relative.. might post about it when my outrage on their well meaningless has lessened!

    We were having this ritual at home when my relative insisted that I apply bindi atleast for this occasion.. I ofcourse refused which caused a lil disturbance *sigh* I have never been comfortable wearing a bindi.. even when my parents.. and the school i went to.. (It wasnt convent school.. ) insisted.. i refused.. I simply was willing to take punishment.. than be forced into doing what I didnt like.. its not that bindis r not beautiful.. but the point is.. the choice is mine to make and I refuse to make it just for the sense of propriety bah!

    Exactly my feelings Winnie. But I have found that normally if we are firm and clear we are left alone after a while. You are very strong. I have never liked words like ‘propriety’ anyway. Hugs Winnie.

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  53. As usual a topic which touches so many hearts and minds. I have blogged about this (of sorts). Maybe I’ve mentioned it previously – but do check it out at http://deepalifeandtimes.blogspot.com/2009_04_01_archive.html (Patriarchy and the Twice Born). Would love to hear what you have to say.

    The thing is – once you break tradition and make an alternate way of life, it becomes the norm. And thats a good thing. When I got married, I told my husband that I don’t like announcing my married state to the world. He said ‘do what you like’. My FIL said the same (MIL had passed on). And for the most part I’ve followed my heart. (Except a few times when some tabbies got in the way and all I could do was fulminate on their meddling)

    I just wanted to share one incident. Its about my mother. Now she’s a lady steeped in tradition. Who does things a certain way because thats always the way they have been done. But there have been times when she’s really surprised me. When my aunt (her younger sister) lost her husband, she gave me some bindis and asked me to tell my aunt to wear them. I was only too glad to do as she told me. My aunt never refuses what I ask of her since she considers me the daughter she never had. And so, a norm was broken in my family and am happy to report that ‘all the kings horses and all the kings men’ will never put that custom together again!!

    Me – Deepa I love those words… ‘all the kinds horses and all the kings men, will never put that custom together again’!! LOL Awesome :lol:

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  54. If I were to hazard a guess (and I am!) I would say that these symbols demonstrate to the world that the woman is “owned” or “taken”. It’s also why Ms. becomes Mrs. after marriage, though now it’s a habit, and I don’t think it’s a big deal – I may be wrong though.

    Men of course aren’t required to wear anything special, change their prefix, or their last name. The changing of the last name (again a guess) is to indicate that the woman has given up her personality and personal life and immersed herself in her husband’s.

    Women change their last names even in more mature societies, and so I don’t have hope of a sea change anytime soon. The good news is that the worst that can happen if a woman ignores all the above customs is the occasional “jaw dropping” – and that shouldn’t be too hard to put up with IMHO.

    Me – I have been Ms all though my school years and am still a Ms :) Ms applies to all married, single, divorced – all women.
    And I loved what you said, I agree, all one will have to put up with is an occasional jaw dropping :) …it’s so true! I have seen this happen :) And then the jaw gets back in place and everybody gets used to a new custom-free life :)

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  55. This is what I’d heard about how the women-friendly ancient India started considering women as slaves – In those times, men and women were considered equal. Then the invaders came one after the other. And they would attack the womenfolk first. So women started living in granaries, which were built underground. This continued for centuries and it became an accepted practice that women had to be kept below – physically and mentally. Manu was an upstart who came up during those times to validate such practices in Manusmruti.

    I am not sure about the authenticity of this story, but I think it as a possibility. Hindus do have a lot of contradicting practices. Durga is revered as a powerful goddess. Ardhanareeshwara (Shiva-Sakthi) is worshiped as ultimate union of male and female. But mortal women are powerless slaves.

    So I guess it’s all about personal choices. If a woman is strong enough to ignore the illogical rules imposed by the society, she doesn’t need to wear the symbols of marriage. If the husband is conditioned to follow these customs, she can easily have her way.

    Btw, I don’t wear Sindoor and only occasionally wear the obscure Kerala thali (that too on a small chain that remains invisible mostly). So many people decide that I am unmarried. When they know the truth, unfailingly the response would be “But you don’t look married.” Every time I ask them back, “How am I supposed to look married?”. :)

    Me – Interesting information Bindhu! I have read one reason why widow remarriage was banned was because men killed other men to marry their wives, by making it impossible for widows to remarry – they sought to control this.
    And of course always the men’s insecurity with never being sure their children were their own… lead to a lot of controlling.
    I have faced this you don’t look married too…

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    • I have faced these questions too. I am a Hindu girl who had an arranged marriage and I never changed my surname, wore a thali and bangles (except for weddings with a saree), or toe rings. People always told me I never looked married.

      Now, I am on my second child as well and still get the same old…you don’t look married, you don’t look like a mother.

      I always thank them for the compliment :) I get a good inner laugh at the startled look on their faces (as they didn’t mean it as a compliment at all)

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  56. i loved the attitude of ur nainital based friend who did the last rites without asking her male cousins….

    u r looking at yours truly who performed the last rites of both her grandparents since her spineless male cousin cudnt care less for it. i love my grandparents too much to send them off, didnt let him touch anything, told every relative of mine that i’d do everything, and nobody dare question me. nobody did :-)

    i’ve always felt it was a silly custom anyway. why shud sons alone do it? dont daughters love their parents any less?

    Me – Aww that was so terrific Ashwathy!!! I am so proud to know you!

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  57. And what about widows being stigmatised against “blessing” newly married couples and not being invited for family functions?! It is shocking to see that such nonsense still exists in our society.
    I know so many aunties who are like your mom and they are a so wonderful to be with and talk to.
    More power to such women.

    Me- Yes Praveen, imagine depriving an unhappy person from any joy… I feel this could have started by insecurity, now that the woman (a widow) belonged to no one, all the present men (!! How we insult them too) would be tempted!

    Aside, pardon my ignorance, but how will having that piece of text protect your blog post from being copied? What if the copycat choses to just copy the blog post ignoring the in between warning?

    Me – This was one of the suggestions to prevent duplicating of feeds … I feel try everything :( This might help is tracking such plagiarism? Or making it a little inconvenient for the copycat?

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  58. a very nice post, IHM, as always…

    when my grandfather passed away, relatives expected grandma to not wear bright color saris, not wear her sindoor (which she has always loved all her life)…and i was sooo hoping grandma wouldn’t give into all these crappy things that is expected of her just because her husband is no more…

    and she did what she felt was right…she never gave up wearing sindoor…or bright saris or anything like that…she goes by living her life just like it was before g’pa passed away..and i’m so proud of her for not giving into what the society expects of her :-)

    Me – Do you realise Titaxy, just because she did this, she paved the way for future generations in so many ways? I wish all grand parents would realise the power they have to change women’s fate in the coming generations!

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  59. loved reading it ! way to go.. lets hope the women change their attitudes, we still have along way to go …it will take a few more generations probably to get rid of these …

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  60. Everything you and other commentators have said makes so much sense!

    The way I look at it – all these symbols are signs of ownership more than anything else. How else can the fact be explained that men have no such symbols? In our part of the country, men do wear wedding rings, though.

    But expecting a widow to remove all these ‘signs of marriage’ is just another way of telling her that her life is over. My great aunt got widowed at a very young age. She brought up two sons and even now continues to wear colourful sarees and bindis and looks lovely – as she rightly should! In that age – her husband was my grandma’s brother – it must have been quite revolutionary – but it makes my heart happy to see that such a tradition was broken even then! Some time back a dear aunt of mine lost her husband and in her grief wanted to give away all her lovely coloured sarees, but she was convinced by everybody around that her life has not ended and that she would feel differently later – and she did.

    A lot depends on how the people around behave. And a lot of times – it is sadly, the womenfolk who are more keen on pressing on with such customs.. A lot of people are so heavily conditioned, that they cannot dream of removing any of these signs. A maid in my in-laws place was scandalized that I do not wear any of these signs on a regular basis :)

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  61. I agree with this: “And then why are they expected to take these symbols off when their spouse dies? Do they stop being married?”.

    I am somehow attached to my wedding ring, and do not think I will part with it ever.

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  62. It was just 15-20 days after my mrrg. I & a colleague were in my bosses cabin when my boss commented, ‘that’s not the traditional sindoor that u r applying right?”

    I said this is the one which I prefer. To which he said no no you should do it the proper way & BTW where is your mangalsutra? I said, in my culture managlsutra isn’t compulsory so am not wearing it. He said, ‘but if u have one you shud wear’.

    By now my patience had ended and I replied, ‘It is so easy for you guys to comment what we shud wear and what we shouldn’t. If this all bothers you so much start wearing these yourself. Why is it that we ladies have to prove that we are mrrd or rather taken & you guys have to do nothing. So pls start wearing some symbol of mrrg & the say anything to me.’

    Not that my words made them do something on those lines but yes I managed to shut their mouths forever. I simply believe that what I do with these so called symbols of mrrg is my personal choice & nothing shud be forced on us.

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  63. Another one is, even today, even in big cities and the so called modern households, a DIL is expected to cover her head with her saree or dupatta. All these traditions are aimed at binding women, making life uncomfortable for them, another device to control. On my first trip back home, my MIL very lovingly asked me “how come you are not wearing any bangles” I said they make me uncomfortable while I sleep and her response was “yeh to suahg ki nishani hoti hai, aadat ho jayegi” But my response to all such people is My suhag is my husband, so why the hell do I need any nishani? and when someone’s husband dies, these very same people take those nishanis away, just when they are needed the most!!

    Me – I have blogged about the ridiculousness of women covering their heads in extreme weather – washing clothes, changing nappies, cooking in saris – and then we have fire accidents! In normal life I won’t enter the kitchen in such clothes, and there are some adults who are forced to do that. I absolutely agree this is only about controlling…

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  64. Spot on IHM!! I wear sindoor and the traditional red and white bangles married Bengali women wear only during puja days and that too if it goes well with my sari! But then, that’s my choice and I think that is the important factor here. Whether one chooses to wear these symbols of marriage or not…it should be one’s own choice.

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  65. From what I remember reading somewhere, back in the day there were reasons for wearing all/most of these symbolic things. The bindi was not a stick on thing but rather kumkum which helped keep the first Chakra of the human body cool. The mangalsutra/tali rested on the second chakra and was suppose to help protect it. Most of other symbols like chudi, bichiya, payal were in fact a way to control the going and comings of women. When you are decked up with bells and whistles that you make a ruckus every time you walk, the men and elder of the house are always aware of where you are in the house.
    As with all things we have forgotten the real significance of why some customs were started in the first place and blindly follow them and then object when those customs are not met. Now it’s all about meeting other people’s expectations and not about living your life the way you want to. Wearing these symbols has to a personal choice rather than be an enforcement married/widowed notwithstanding.

    Me – I have read about how the payals had bells that made enough noise to make monitoring of a woman’s movements possible…
    Sindur is supposed to be toxic (wikipedia, linked), that is why it irritates the skin/eyes. I also saw a Bollywood movie where a well known singer was fed sindur to ruin his throat forever…

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  66. Doesn’t a lot of this have to do with letting others dictate what you do or don’t do? You wear these symbols if you WANT to or not wear them if you DON’T want to. I understand that this is easier said then done but it does eventually come down to this. We tend to see ourselves a lot from the others eyes. I have been married 7 years, never worn anything that shows that I am married. Yes my mom says ‘bare hands’ when we meet and maybe my MIL thinks but doesn;t say. Bottomline is – I have chosen to be a certain way and no-one else can force me to do anything unless I want to. The counter-arguement is that everyone doesn’t have that choice but I say – YES WE DO! We just need to exercise it.

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  67. I agree with your thought-provoking post. I am against women who removes this adornment merely because the husband is no more. It should also serve as a reminder of the time with your better half. Not strewn away in the closet! Husbands should also play an important role adorning these marriage symbols :D What do you say, IHM?

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  68. Wonderful post IHM… another one ritual which is ridiculous… My feeling is its better leave it to the women…

    and more than that what is disheartening is the things happening after the death of her husband.. heart-breaking….

    and I have seen a debate show on this and many women were really comfortable by coming there without wearing Mangalsutra, tali and sindoor..

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  69. When you are not married – you are supposed to not wear western clothes and wear “modest” stuff, etc etc
    When you are married – you HAVE to wear bindi, sindhur, bangles, etc etc
    When you are widowed – you CANNOT wear bindi, sindhur, etc


    Pray, at what stage of life does the woman actually get to wear what she wants??

    When one of my relatives’ husband passed away, she wanted to even get her head shaved. My grandfather tried persuading her against it. Her logic was simple – if I don’t do it, my society people won’t respect me.

    So all this symbols of marriage reasoning is hogwash. At every stage, it is about control, politics and power play.

    Me – I agree!

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  70. Wow.The right-up and the out-pour of response are both great,prompting me to add my two cents in. Traditions abound in a religion and culture as old as ours. Some of these are based upon time-tested age old wisdom while others as result of myths and fallacies mothballed over time(more so,given so many foreign intrusions and aggressions). As we adapt to changing times,some of these can be tossed out the window as totally benign and irrelevant while others have deeper meaning and we often see modern sciences converging in on those. The key is to take your pick responsibly rather than ignorantly, giving in to personal conveniences or peer pressure. Folks,enjoy your freedom responsibly.

    Me – kuku1 You say ‘enjoy your freedom responsibly’… I feel the biggest responsibility that comes with freedom is to make sure it is not taken away :) And widows being able to wear coloured clothes, or women wearing comfortable clothing and chucking away some adornments is not freedom, but common sense prevailing over senseless customs :)

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  71. Hello,

    I stumbled across your blog, and I am fascinated by every word you write. Your world is quite different than mine, and the few posts that I have read has given me more insight than I have anticipated. I look forward to reading more of your posts and archives. This is a wonderful blog, which are difficult to find.

    Sincerely,

    Thomas

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  72. Had read somewhere long back the history of sindoor.
    It seems before the institution of marriage, women were bought and sold by men as slaves
    And if someone is sold, they used to hit a nail on the forehead (where the sindoor is now) until blood comes out
    So in the slave fair (mela) everyone will know that she is taken

    Later the slavery transformed to marriage and the blood to sindoor

    I will try to get a link from somewhere which talks about this

    Regarding others
    Nathni seems like the rope tied on animals like horses (infact in tamil there is a slang for marriage – mookkukayar meaning nose rope – but used for guys generally)
    Bangles – handcuffs
    Anklets – chains tied to the legs if animals
    Necklaces – chains tied to neck of animals

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  73. Its time we men wore some uniform after the death of our wives, na? For years, women wore the white sari; now the men, they should wear floral beach wear and party dresses !!! :D :D :D

    Nice post IHM, everyone above me had drained all that I had in mind while reading the post. and yes, I should write something silly na ! :D

    Me – ;) Men wearing floral beach wear would be of great help Vimmuuu :lol:

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    • Without taking away the seriousness of the post, Vimmuuu off all things you could wish for was the death of wife?? Why not sticking to symbolism when she is alive?? :D :D

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  74. There was a time when for whatever reason due importance was given to thali, sindoor and mangalsootra. With the changing time and attitude the same has been lost and what all has been lost along with that. I do agree that breaking bangles or wearing white sarees doesn’t make a difference. But sindoor and so on…common IHM, why shouldn’t we retain something purely Indian…in the name of culture, custom, tradition or for whatever reason. Do I sound antiquated?

    Me – Old Monk – Should we retain something in the name of culture, custom and tradition, or for truly being worth keeping?
    How is it these discomforts are only forced on those who have no choice (Namely – women in families that control them)?
    Do you recommend not telling what these mean to the person who is supposed to ‘retain’ them?
    There is a show called BHASKAR BHARTI on Sony TV, it’s about a man who is made to live like a woman by Lord Krishna (as a punishment for hurting a woman, I missed that initial part of the serial). Bhaskar, as Bharti realises how difficult life is when he has no say in anything in his own life.
    If these did not symbolise being a suhagan (married woman with her spouse still alive, also used to mean a lucky married woman, and is the opposite of Abhagan – a woman who does not have a husband.)
    Can and should customs, traditions and culture be valued more than human lives ? Thousands of women exist without living to save these customs. Think about it.
    And what is purely Indian? The true Indian spirit is tolerant, inclusive, colourful, fun loving, compassionate, art and craft loving, dance and music enjoying, spontaneous … if we retain these we are truly Indian. Also we should not forget to be human to be Indians.

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  76. Like Rakesh said, at the heart of it, it is just about subjugation.

    Subjugation so the existing societal norms are not threatened. Pile on a suffering widow and set restrictions with a hope that she will not start liking somebody. Insistence of mangalsutra or sindoor is for a similar reason. So when women fight against these adornment denials, I believe there’s a bigger good that can come out of it in the longer run — a 30 year old widow will no longer resign herself to the fate of leading a solitary, subjugated life but will be open to companionship…

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  77. IHM !!! Such a wonderful post !!! Yday I was quite busy and couldnt login at all !!!!

    WOW !!! I admire the way you’ve written abt this very sensitive issue.

    My aunt (my mom’s cousin sister – youngest of their lot), lost her husband after 10 yrs of marriage. She had 2 small boys to take care of. I was a teenager, witnessing the whole custom and stupidity of the elders insisting on her to remove the sindoor, bangles and the colourful saree. But, Thank God, much to the wrath of the elders, my aunt put her foot down, in deciding that she’ll do no such thing. The bindi she’s been wearing from the day she was born will not be removed now. Neither the bangles nor the colourful saree.

    The elders discriminated her. We were scared – actually I simply didnt know what to do. But I’ll go and meet her and when asked I used to lie that I went to the temple. Both me and my aunt were very fond of each other. She has taught me to be strong in the road of thorns, which our customs and culture has paved. She wears her mangal suta even today. I am proud being associated with such a strong woman !!!!

    She asked my grandparents one simple question – You got me married to this man after seeing the horoscope, right ???? Didnt the horoscope predict that my husband will die in 10 years time ????

    Now, her sons are married and she is absolutely enjoying her life with her sons and daughter-in-laws and will make a super grandmother, from what I know about her.

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    • Ah !!! Forgot to reply to those questions !!!

      Mangal sutra – yeah, I wear it.
      Sindoor on the forehead – Whenever it suits me !!
      Toe ring – yeah !!!

      But none of these are forced on me. Its my own decision. I remove my mangal sutra, while in the parlor doing a facial or doing a massage – I remove my toe ring, when I wear shoes, becos it hurts.
      Does that mean that I dont love my husband during those times ????

      Me – Ha ha good question Uma ;)

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  78. OMG !!!!!! I could just relate to this post so much, as if I was reading the story of my life !!

    I am the only daughter of my parents and when my dad passed away all relatives said my uncle should perform the rites, an uncle who i saw probably once a year or something, WHY was my question and i did the funeral for my dad and ensure my mom never wore white clothes and stuck to her usual casual western way of dressing and wore jewellery, make-up, perfumes everything which she always did when dad was there too !! it wasn’t easy for me to convince her for all this and get her back to her chirpy self, it was the most difficult task of my life but then I always had the same questions, why should we lead our lives as per others ??

    My life’s incidents summed up in this wonderful post !!!

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  79. Nice way of informing the readers that this post is an original work of IHM ! :)

    Regarding the customs and traditions that Indian society poses on us women is ridiculous in every sector-be it widowhood,marriage,womanhood,motherhood…wherever we step there are customs circling us !

    About mangalsutra and bindi-true ! I too only wear them when I’m totally getting dressed in an indian outfit like sarees and salwar suits. Ohterwise on westerns in daily wear or on holidays no chance ! I don’t need to wear these to show or prove someone that I’m married and that I really love my husband for that matter ! Thankfully, MIL has never imposed her views on me and hubby doesn’t believe in the show-off as well !

    But there are women out there who are really not lucky as few of us here to do what we believe in.

    I liked that point of view that a young woman would look forward to a 68 years old grand mom and want to idolize her.

    And getting dressed in maroons or reds after loosing the husband is a no-no,why ? So why are the women allowed to wear these colors when they are unmarrieds and don’t posses a husband then ? Colors and husbands are no associated to each other… colors are wore taking into consideration that they suit our skin tone and they look good on us ! period !

    Congratulations for getting this post on the WP homapge :)

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  80. IHM! I just love your blog! I am so glad that you are saying all this out and so many people are interacting. Goes a long way in changing perspectives. I really wish there were more people doing this. Internet though an important medium doesnt have as much reach as other popular media. But stuff on tv/movies is so regressive that I am not sure how long it would be before there was any radical change at all levels. The strength of a society depends on how it treats its women. And whether there really is freedom to exert a choice. Most people are not even aware that there is a choice. There are so many women who would want to exert their choice but still are repressed by rest of society, ending up living lives as bitter folks:( Awareness and encouragement from like minded people can make all the difference.

    The sad truth is no matter what the women think, there are fewer men who would be giving up their ‘power’ to achieve a sense of balance and equality.

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  81. brilliant post IHM… one of those posts which makes one think and challenge

    u know in some parts of south india a widow shld continue wearing bindi and even thal if she has a son… my mil wears a bindi because of that reason too

    its always about a man alas

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  82. and as for the sindoor – i wear it once a year on karwachauth somehow i like the look of it that day

    managalsutra – when i dress up

    toe rings oh i love these been wearing them since ages even before marriage

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  83. Your post has elicited so many comments and they seem to exhaustively deal with this subject.

    My take on this…

    Traditionally, (the culture prevailing over last two – three hundred years) a widow, literally lost her right to live on widowhood, so to say. Changes in clothes, shorn of adornements and changes in diet were de-riguer.

    Things were taken to an extreme, when you compare with our current times. I guess those who grew up at that time say in 1930s or 40s may still want not to wear the mangalsutra or the sindoor or colourful clothes. However, those born in 60s may react in a very different way and may even opt for re-marriage.

    I think our society will eventually drop those customs that it finds outdated or inconvenient. Your point that a widow cannot be forced to do anything against her will is very valid.

    Just an interesting aside, there was a custom for even men to apply a “tikka” or a dot of sandalwood paste on their forehead just as a woman applied bindi. That custom has died down in cities and big towns but is still prevalent in smaller towns and villages. This was meant to be (as per science of yoga) the place of the third eye and paste applied served to be a coolant.. :-)

    I still see recent migrants to Mumbai wear this “tikka”.

    That is a great post IHM.

    Me – Hi Mavin that’s really interesting, you mean married men were also required to apply tikka on their forehead!? That would mean our biases came later…

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  84. My comment on another blog on the same subject: –
    I find sindoor goes well with bright coloured saris. You may find many women have taken to wearing sindoor only occasionally (or not at all) because,
    1. They find it inconvenient.
    2. It is difficult to tell if the sindoor they have bought is really non toxic.
    3. Sometimes it’s rebellion.
    There is this belief that application of sindoor (or wearing the tali or mangal sutra) makes the husband live longer. Whether the wife believes that or not, she must wear it everyday, and remove it along with all jewellery and bright coloured clothes, only when the husband dies.
    Amongst the compulsory symbols of ‘suhaag’ are also toe rings (bichia) that hurt if worn with shoes; or many women find bangles cumbersome while bathing or kneading the dough for making chapaties; mangal sutra is found inconvenient with small babies. But they are not allowed to take these off. A male commenter on my blog frankly admitted that he won’t accept his wife taking off her mangal sutra. This compulsion makes many women hate these symbols and also makes them question the right their husbands have of not requiring to display their marital status.

    Widows are also considered ‘abhagan’ or ‘upshakun'(one who brings bad luck). So are women who can’t conceive (‘baanjh’). Even today they are not permitted to take part in any auspicious ceremonies. Again there are no rules for men here.

    There is also the custom of dressing a new widow in bridal finery, and then breaking their bangles and wiping off their sindoor. Their coloured and festive clothes are taken away and they are required to wear plain white saris. These days dull coloured clothes are also permitted. Non vegetarian food and make up is also forbidden to widows. Widowers have no such restrictions. This built resentment and made women question the tradition of indicating their marital status.

    Today if you see a woman free to choose when to wear these symbols and when not to, then she is sort of considered a woman whose opinion and choices are valued in her family. Only a well loved woman would be ‘allowed’ to get away with giving up symbols of ‘suhaag’. Generally this means they have a say in other household or family matters also.

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  85. Good post.As many pointed out mangala sutra and sindoor are marks of ownership. Such symbols of ownership were/are there in most communities all over the World and is not special to India or Hindus.Engagement ring of the West is an example.

    Widows were made to look unattractive in an attempt to prevent re-marriage. Re-marriages will hinder linear inheritance of wealth of the family from father to son.
    Ultimately all such patriarchial traditions and customs are formed with the primary aim of consolidating the wealth of the family in few male hands.

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  86. IHM, I was away on a conference. But here are my two cents.

    My mother takes great pride in her long nails and polishing them. After my father’s death, someone told me to tell her to remove it. I “forgot”.
    For myself, I have found the language barrier invaluable in not wearing bindis , sindoor and the tali( which, is incredibly suggestive in shape, no offence meant). I think these are signs of a regressive time when a woman’s worth was whether or not she was married.

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  87. Thanks a lot for your superb article. But I had difficulty navigating through your website as I kept getting 502 bad gateway error. Just thought to let you know.

    Me – Thanks! I hope the problem resolves on it’s own, maybe something that happened only on that day…

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  88. Hello IHM!!A lovely post.I have been reading your blog silently for quite some time.I had to comment today(and I am lad that a wordpress blog did actually load completely for me to write back).Well,the thing is most times,I can’t access wordpress blogs to contended with reading your in Google Reader.However with this post I realised that you have changed your settings and are allowing only a few words to appear in blog feeds :(.Could you please revert back to the original full feed format as there are many of us who have a problem with wordpress blogs.
    I hope you’ll look into it since it’s such a pleasure to read your posts :)

    Me – I will do that AA. I also read a lot of blogs in reader so I understand the problem, and now that I have added the message about plagiarism, it is safe to let the reader show the entire post. Thanks for your feed back :) I am really glad that you like my blog and that you took the trouble to let me know about this problem :) Thanks.

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  89. At this moment in my life…I can relate to this post soo soo well. Not just from my mom’s standpoint but from a daughter’s standpoint and a family’s standpoint.

    My dad would roll in his grave if he knew either of us changed any of our ways just because he’s no more……and we know that…and getting back to normal life as soon as humanly possible……yet people who know and understand lesser poke their fingers and toes and create rules and customs when non exist!

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  90. More than thirty years back, in a not so forward town lived an aunt of mine a school teacher. When her husband died, she continued wearing bindi and her usual colored sarees. Though relatives (including my own parents who didn’t approve) and outsiders whispered and tongues wagged, she cared two hoots and carried on as usual and all the whispers died down on their own. BTW she had a daughter mind you and unlike others who go, ‘For my daughter’s sake (read marriage) I should take on the accepted role of the widow’ she did not. Her daughter at the time was 14 years old and is now a happily married woman. My aunt is now no more, but I always remember her spirit and the way she didn’t care for conventions or the small-minded people who cannot stand it when others flout established norms.
    What people as a rule forget is all these customs are man made and the same man can change them if he so wishes. The customs and traditions were not thrust upon us at the time of the Big Bang for us to hold on to it as if it is some universal law like the Earth following a set pattern around the Sun! Humans made them for their convenience at some point of time for reasons they thought fit at that time. Other humans years down the line don’t have to follow it as if it is some unwritten law of the universe and can and should change things if they so wish to suit their own convenience.
    I have always questioned why men don’t wear anything to signify that they are married and why they don’t have to identify themselves as widowers to the society like women are asked to do.
    We have been so conditioned that taking off the mangalsutra will affect the longevity of your husband’s life and knowing what sort of life a widow is made to live, the fear makes women stick to such symbols. Most men believe all this too and want their wives to wear all the trappings of a suhagan. The commentator who doesn’t want his wife to take off her mangalsutra/thali probably thinks it will shorten his life span!! :P
    One of my nieces (bless her) not your modern young girl mind you and brought up in a typically traditional home, insisted that her mother, a widow, do the arti when she entered her house after marriage. Her two elder brothers never thought of that during their respective marriages. I believe her grandmother objected but she insisted that it would be her mother and none else. Her mother wears her thali and bindi when it pleases her to do so and I feel thats the way it should be.
    Why the heck should one gender ‘show off” that they are married??!!! Women may have been seen as property before and owned; it is high time that is put an end to.

    Me – Brilliantly put as usual Shail!

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  91. i totally know what you’re talking about.. how people cite examples of perfect widows and how women who choose not to follow the “customs” are frowned upon.. my nani did not remove her bindi and colorful sarees after my grandpa passed. she said she knows she doesnt look good without the bindi and that my grandpa would’ve never wanted her to look bad… so she kept it.. pale colors do no justice to her flawless beauty even at 70, so she wears bright colored sarees… in fact after i got my first job, i bought her a nice maroon saree coz she looks gorgeous in them.
    I don’t wear a bindi mainly coz they don’t go well with the clothes I wear.. i don’t wear my tali.. its too heavy and i feel like my head is forever bent with it, i just put a little dot of sindoor on my parting coz i feel it makes me look good.. couple of friends here comment abuot me not wearing the bindi, not wearing bangles and that i should not forget my customs and traditions wherever i am.. according to me, my traditions are those that I’ve been following since childhood.. i never used to wear a bindi or bangles though the other girls in my family do, even before marriage and so… i don’t feel like it is a tradition for me. :P yup i am a little too stubborn when it comes to such things… i have a draft of a post about something similar.. now i’ll post it after some time! :)

    Me – I would love to read this post!! I feel we should blog about these things!

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  92. Oh its just not about the symbols of marriage only! I don’t know about rest of India but in Bengals, widows used to be treated very badly….heads were shaved and they were left at ashrams at Varanasi etc. U must have seen the movie “Water”. Though all these practices have reduced, widows still can’t eat non veg or food with onions and garlic etc etc.
    There are no such restrictions on widowers!!

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  93. I have had these thoughts a million times. My mother went through the same thing and came out of it unchanged and strong. But I am afraid i could never blog about as coherently and logically as you do here.

    Good stuff…

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  94. For me sindoor is just another form of hypocrisy towards women. The sindoor is like a stamp on the woman to make the world notice that she is married.
    But i guess many nowadays wear sindoor more like an ornament rather than a pratice to show that they are married.

    Me – Hi A_wandering_mind… Welcome and thanks :) I feel it is easier to change what the symbols mean – than to totally reject the symbols which have become a habit. Or perhaps the best way to reject them is to refuse to accept the restrictions they impose. Though I have to agree ‘The sindoor is like a stamp on the woman to make the world notice that she is married.’

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  99. Hi,

    I am reading this now, though it has been posted long time back. My issue is otherway around. I am forced (by in-laws) to wear though I do not like it. I have been following the ‘rules’ but I have decided not to , anymore. How do i do that. Can you write something about how other women face this issue? Is there such issue around?

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  102. I know how it feels to wear these things just because it is a custom!!! I don’t understand why??? and, worst of all…I am unmarried and I don’t wear a bindi or bangles or even avoid any adornment like necklaces because I simply don’t feel comfortable and every time I got my relatives, they always keep pointing out my short-comings!!! I am supposed to wear bindi over jeans just coz its our custom and tradition. the would-be brides are judges on how raditional they look when they go in fornt of their prospective in-laws…I mean give me a break!!! are traditions and customs only to show and follow even if they are done without any reverence??? this is a topic which is like a thorn in my foot!!! I do get pretty vocal on it :D

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    • That must be so tough!! I think if enough of us are either vocal or if we just refuse to accept these prejudices in the name of ‘traditions/customs’ we will see them eventually fading away. Those who talk of respect, need to realise that everybody, including the young and including the women deserve respect.

      When you are offered Respect.

      When you are offered respect,

      Read the fine print.

      It’s nice to know that you are respected.

      Say thank you, and tell them you respect them too.

      But don’t forget to value the respect you have for yourself.

      Don’t trade your Freedom or Happiness for this Respect.

      Instead, offer Respect for Respect.

      Not Respect for Compliance, Femininity, Conformity, Frailty, Weakness, Meekness, Conventionality, Obedience, Diffidence, and Ignorance …

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  103. I’m not one to write generally, and this is a rather old blog, but I felt I simply HAD to narrate this story.
    My brother and SIL were on their honeymoon, when my SIL misplaced her toe-rings. Now theirs was an arranged marriage, and they’d known each other for all of 3 months and my SIL didn’t know how to tell him. So she called her mother for advice, and got a proper dressing-down – “how can you be so careless… what will they think..” and so on and so forth. That made her even more upset. After a lot of cajoling, my brother was able to get the story from her and his response was one of ‘I don’t really care, but if it means so much to you get a replacement pair’. To my SIL’s relief, she found her toe-rings.
    When they got back, my brother narrated the incident to me. Since I have a long-standing case of ‘foot-in-mouth disease’, I happened to repeat it when my mum, SIL and I were home one day. My poor SIL was mortified. If looks could kill, you wouldn’t be reading this today. But my mum’s response was brilliant. She said – and I quote – “I went through about 4 pairs of toe rings, before deciding it wasn’t worth the trouble and stopped wearing them. In fact I only picked up a pair for myself when we were shopping for yours, because I though it would be nice to wear toe-rings for my son’s wedding. So don’t worry about it.”
    My parents have always been just my parents – taken for granted and their vices more apparent than their virtues, But the more I read blogs like yours, the more I realize how lucky I am to be born into a family like mine and how grateful I should be. Kudos and keep up the good work.

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  104. Pingback: When married Indian women strive to look unmarried. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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  106. This is the first time I’m reading your blog and like your writing. However, I do want to say that every culture in this world has a “symbol” for being married – in the West, it is the mandatory engagement ring plus wedding band combination for the women and a simple wedding band for the men. It implies that someone is “off the market” almost and is taken very seriously. If a woman walks out of the house without the band (let’s say she’s heading to the gym!), people raise questions on whether the marriage is in trouble. So every country, religion and culture does have some norms that are followed, and if the marriage ends due to death or divorce, those symbols are automatically taken off. While I am not trying to undermine the stigma that widows endure in India, just questioning wearing mangalsutras, bichis etc while being married is not the most important one. I’m a married Indian woman and the only “symbol” of marriage I wear is a simple gold bangle, but I’m happy with wearing my heart on my sleeve, so to speak. You are absolutely right that it is an individual’s choice, which may be influenced by their communities traditions and/or pop culture. But let’s not kid ourselves that India is the only country where this tradition exists and that the tradition in itself is a bad thing. The type of treatment widows go through in India is another thing altogether and cannot be condoned, completely agree with your statements about that.

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    • //But let’s not kid ourselves that India is the only country where this tradition exists and that the tradition in itself is a bad thing.//

      It doesn’t matter how many other countries are following or not following it.

      I think what Indian women are expected to wear on their sleeves (wrists, foreheads, toes, necks, hair parting and other body parts) is not their love, but their marital status, and their respect for Patriarchal traditions. If it was love they would be encouraged to wear these symbols as widows and as girl friends too.
      Amongst other reasons, I think it is bad because it discriminates against widows.

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  108. I am sooo happy to read this post. Love the topics you chose and the subtle sarcasm in the tone. I share the same thoughts as you on tali, mangal sutra, bangles, sindhoor, bindi and whatever else that falls into this category. My husband and I married each other in a unique ceremony that involved no priest, no mantras, no mangal sutra, no anything else… Just a garland exchange, reading out out wedding declaration, and then a photo session..
    And ironically, even my office colleagues had problems working under a project lead who does not wear her mangal sutra or sindhoor! Well, what can I do except to laugh at them and ignore their comments?
    I am so very happy to read this post and the comments. Cheers!

    I am a long time enthusiast of the GGTS blog. Even more happy to see DG frequently on your blog :)

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  109. I got married a month back. I wore mangalsutra , bangles and sindoor for some 20 days. But now i do not wear these symbols.
    One reason is that I do not believe that these are going to decide my husbands life in any way. Second is it does not look good with my westerns.
    But my MIL and my mom do not like the idea much.To make their situation worse i often sport blacks and whites. They constantly remind me to wear sindoor and bangles since bare hands are not auspicious.
    I do not want to hurt their feelings. But i think if i have to make a change in the society, I should take the first step. My MIL lost her husband a few months ago and I take proper care that she lives the way she has lived for 55 yrs.
    I just hope someday they will be able to think intellectually and will get rid of stringent and meaningless customs.

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  110. In my brother in law’s funeral, my sister was made widow. her older SIL has wiped her sindoor in front of jiju’s body. So horrible

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    • In my brother in law’s funeral, my sister was made widow. her older SIL has wiped her sindoor in front of jiju’s body. So horrible & her age was just 24. newly married just 8 months ago. They made her in newly bride dressing after that They smashed her bangles over body and removed her mangalsutra. She was just crying over his body. They even forced her to wear white saree before cremation. They even not allowed her to see his body more than half an hour. & not allowed to come to cremation. She cried a lot.
      & interestingly, both BIL & sis are very much educated, his funeral was held at his remote village & that uneducated women made her widow. more interestingly, woman is enemy of woman at this function.

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      • How is she coping now? Does she still wear white? My mother wears lipsticks and pretty colours – and she realizes that younger women might be asked to follow her example – she can and is making a difference.

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        • no she still using faint colured plain saree…….but the funeral function of jiju was horrible.even ladies were abusing her.

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  113. NO PURPLE NAIL PAINT FOR SUHAGAN…….:(
    I love that color very much and it looks really pretty on my nails….but i cannot wear it…my MIL says that i should only wear RED or PINK nail paints…..

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  114. The world would change completely if a woman stops hating another woman.If we had the control over someone’s birth or death,everyone would be living happily.When a mother in law wants her grandchild to be a boy and not a girl,she’s an enemy of a woman.When a husband dies,why is a woman treated like she has killed or jinxed him or whatever.First of all,I’m totally against women wearing all those symbols like mangalsutra,sindoor and all that crap.In the western culture,BOTH man and a woman wear a wedding ring/band.It hurts more when educated women wear such symbols in India.If woman doesn’t wear mangalsutra,they make a big deal out of it.What about a man?Isn’t he married to mrs.abc?Do u remember the scene in’Hum dil de chuke sanam’ where Ajay Devgan opposes to take off the wedding ring..how many such men exist in India?As mush as i hate these customs.i believe that a woman whose husband dies should live the life the way she was living before with no justification because till the end of her life she’s gonna remain the wife of Late Mr,xyz.

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  115. Sometimes, it is really surprising how people follow culture without knowing the meaning behind those traditions. Just because a woman’s husband passed away doesn’t mean that she should stop living her life by wearing only sober white clothes not wearing any jewelry and of course to be just a burden and dependent on others.

    Every woman has a right to lead her life the way she wants . The society needs to help her get out of the pain and not impose more restrictions and pain.

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  116. Pingback: ‘When husbands are jealous, they look so cute, no!?’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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