21 Married Women in Chennai Remove ‘Thali’ Despite Husbands Being Alive

I have not read of any recent protests against widows being forced (directly or indirectly) to take off symbols of matrimony (colours, jewellery, make up) – but this event was found objectionable by some.

The display of symbols of matrimony plays a part in the process that pressurises women to Get Married, or become a Suhagan, and then to Stay a Suhagan.  It’s not enough for women to get married, and stay married, they also must Stay Suhagan. While it is no longer legal to burn a widow alive, women in traditional communities, are still under pressure to make sure that their spouse outlives them.

What do you think of this news? I believe these small steps are great for starting a conversation, about what is, for a majority of Indians, a taboo topic – in fact it’s so taboo, it’s not even a topic.

The easier way to deal with all such symbols is I think for women to wear or reject/ignore them irrespective of their marital status. Married women not wearing these symbols or single women wearing them would render the symbol useless – because then they fail to serve the purpose they have been created for.

And the easiest, I think, is for married women to stop wearing them.

What do you think?

21 Married Women in Chennai Remove ‘Thali’ Despite Husbands Being Alivece

CHENNAI: Terming the “thali” or “mangalsutra”, traditionally worn around the neck by married Hindu women as long as their spouses are alive, a symbol of slavery or oppression, 21 married women discarded it at a function organised by Tamil outfit Dravidar Kazhagam here on Tuesday.
…  According to DK, the event got over even before a division bench of the Madras High Court issued a stay order on the function.

The DK announced the “thali” removal programme after protests by Hindu Munnani against television channel Puthiya Thalaimurai over its proposed programme on women wearing “thali”.

The Tamil TV channel later cancelled the programme but two tiffin box bombs of low intensity were thrown at the channel’s office.

Several Hindu organisations had opposed the DK’s “thali” removal programme.
Tying a “thali” or “mangalsutra” by the groom around the brides neck is a major custom in Hindu weddings. A woman removes the “thali” only on the death of her husband.

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Sindoor, Tali and Mangalsutra.

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108 thoughts on “21 Married Women in Chennai Remove ‘Thali’ Despite Husbands Being Alive

  1. I am a tamilian and i dont wear a thali… In fact my husband suggested i wear something nice and take the thali off in the first few months of my marriage. i dont wear the toe rings or finger rings either!

    Sometimes its the media which reiterates the social conditioning and what to adhere and what not to.. In a way it influences peoples thoughts around a subject…and form opinions.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Me neither. The reason is precisely this – the requirement for women to wear it if married and remove it when the husband is dead. Too much drama is enacted out in society and in soaps around a mangalsutra/sindoor/thali. Time people grew up and got a bit rational.

      Liked by 1 person

    • This is so true. Movies have really dramatized the mangalsutra in such disturbing ways – a common scene is of the bad guy holding it like a noose in front of a screaming, helpless damsel – thus imprinting in people’s minds, the complete vulnerability of a woman – a little thread is enough to silence her for life.

      The opposite but equally deranged scenario – there is another movie where a woman leads a marginal existence because she is a rape victim. The villagers treat her inhumanely. One day, the good guy just ‘decides’ he will put an end to this injustice. He dumps his existing lover and ties the managalsutra around the rape victim’s neck. Without asking her of course if she wants to marry him (she is expected to be grateful and she is). In this case, the sight of him dangling the managalsutra in front of her sends her into a rapturous delight.

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      • Oh, you mentioned the movies. There’s this 80s movie ‘Woh 7 Din’ where a girl has been forcefully married off to a doctor whose wife has died. The doctor husband finds out about her lover and brings him home to get them married. But the lover enlightens everyone about the importance of the mangalsutra for a woman, as the girl shrieks out in mortal fear when the doctor husband approaches her to remove the mangalsutra.

        And I am told that the movie Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge creates awareness about the importance of the engagement-ring being worn on the ring-finger just because that finger has a nerve which runs directly to the heart. Having specialized in human anatomy I almost dropped unconscious out of shock on hearing this but thankfully ended up falling in a fit of laughter.😛 And I’ve seen highly educated females sharing articles on Facebook about the ‘science’ behind such symbols and rituals.

        No. Wearing a toe-ring has no effect whatsoever on the uterus or the fertility of the female concerned. And sticker bindis and synthetic sindoor (containing Mercuric sulphide) can cause a wide range of skin diseases including cancers.

        Liked by 5 people

        • Hey now. You may have studied doctory but that doesn’t give you the rights to talk about the toe ring! Just no. Much thanks!

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    • Me too.. I did not like a religious marriage, neither did my husband. So, our wedding was done according to the dravidian marriage act in Tamil Nadu (suyamariyadhai thirumanam).
      It involved both me and my husband reading out our marriage vows and the legal registraiton in front of friends and relatives. That was all🙂

      I have never worn a thali or mangal sutra.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Disclaimer – I am not Indian, but married to a Tamilian.
    My my, I thought these were a lot like the Western wedding bands, a symbol of mutual love. I never knew that a woman needed to remove them after her husband’s death, and that they were seen as a symbol of slavery or oppression.
    I do wear my Western engagement ring and wedding band, along with my thali and toe rings. It would never cross my mind to remove them once my husband is dead! Actually in the West, a widow will take her husband’s wedding band and wear it around her neck on a gold chain, or something like that, to remember him.

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  3. I married a South Indian Brahmin 33 years ago. My FIL passed an order (among other orders applicable only to me, his only DIL) that I never ever remove my mangalsutra, which holds the thali as that would amount to disrespect to the family and my action would take away years from my husband’s life. I complied for a few years, only not to disrupt the family atmosphere. My MIL did not care a hoot whether I wore it or not, and dropped her thali into the golka of a temple after FIL’s death with a sigh of relief. My husband never noticed whether I had it on or off. I now wear my mangalsutra as a piece of jewelry whenever it matches my sari for the occasion.

    The thali/toe rings/sindoor are signs that a woman is married and is not available to another. There is no such sign for a hindu man to show he is married. That is misogyny. Although this is not a general statement for all Indian or Hindu men, it was and is prevalent in modern times in many homes.

    Its time to take off the thali.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha. I can really relate to your’s MIL’s sigh of relief. A lot of women in unhappy marriages feel unfettered relief when their “lord and master” passes away.

      Yet, they are supposed to conceal their relief and act like a Bollywood wife, scream, wail and shriek, because the reason for their existence is now gone.

      I am glad to see things changing. My late grandmother lived as a widow for 17 years, and continued to wear a bindi, although she did remove her mangalsutra.

      My mother has a widowed friend who continues to wear her mangalsutra, and giant red bindis, because she feels like they are an intergral part of her identity.

      My best friend was widowed at 38, and there was absolutely no change in her attire. She wore white for a few hours, but was begged by her in-laws to change into her jeans the moment the priest left.

      A month after her husband died, her in-laws told her that while she would always be their daughter, they would be very happy if she “found love again”.

      She lived in jeans and T-shirts before she was widowed, never wore a bindi or a mangalsutra when married, and dresses exactly as she did before.

      I can see how differently she has coped with widowhood, and how important being independent is.

      My MIL was widowed last year at the age of 76; she’s still unable to contemplate a life without her “pati parmeshwar” and spends her days cursing her luck, and my late FIL, for leaving her a widow.

      In contrast, while my best friend grieves for her husband, whom she loved passionately, she’s moved on with dignity. She went back to work, lives a full, busy, happy life and is in complete control of her life.

      Unlike my friend, women who are denied any identity save that of a married woman, a “suhagan”, find it very difficult to cope with widowhood and regard their condition with dread and horror.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very True Neha.
        My aunt became a widow at 34 i.e. 4 years after her marriage to my uncle. In these 4 years they had two children also, but she really moved on with grace. She went back to work as soon as the mandatory mourning period of 13 days was over and just went on with life. She is woman I really respect because she is so dignified, took everything in stride, educated both her kids all with her own hard earned money and even cared for her MIL. Not even once did she let her situation have an impact on her, I am sure she loved my uncle and did not wish for this to happen but then that is life. But ya there were hordes of people who commented on how she was going to work etc.

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  4. Exactly what my husband asked me, Sev. He asked me ” What if you want to wear the thaali after I am gone, to remember me by?” I said, there was no option for that. I wear my thaali only at family gatherings, that too only to avoid unsolicited advice/comments/arguments.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I dont wear mine, but i do wear it when i go to india, it offends my parents and yes they all and my inlaws know i dont wear it here, but they dont care, i only have to follow rules when im in their house. my house my rules. They dont care even when they visit me.
    Having said that i see no point in this whole drama. for women whom it matters it matters for those whom it doesn’t they take it off and go about their way. why the natak as if politicians done have enough problems to solve.
    I think we should place more emphasis and discussion on tying it int he first place rather than taking it off later. We follow all kinds of regressive idiotic customs during the wedding, and they try to undo it.
    Sure taking it off or keeping it on is a choice but to hit the root of the issue, I’d go after most of the customs and rituals int he wedding ceremony itself.. why nod your head then and then protest later…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Absolutely! We need to protest against all the regressive customs before and during the wedding. Every single ritual just drips with sexism. Every moment of the wedding is about emphasising how the bride has now passed from being the property of her father to that of her husband. Even the simple “welcome” ceremony in the bridegroom’s household after the wedding is sexist. Even if you think that your life after marriage is equal, it’s still a terrible thing to have done to you during the wedding. The symbolism is pervasive and ever-present. Just say no to traditional weddings.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can’t emphasize how much of a cord this strikes with me. I said yes to a traditional north indian (punjabi wedding), being a south indian myself.The reason was kinda superfluous like I wanted to wear a beautiful lehenga and look pretty and have our friends enjoy the moments with us. As the wedding date came closer and requests for following various ‘customs’ were made like gifting envelopes of money to all relatives during roka (which I vehemently opposed and got that function cancelled), gift clothes, blankets etc again to all relatives on engagement etc, I realized that inspite of being a feminist, I had gotten myself into a patriarchal sexist mess. I tried to convince my fiancée for a court marriage, but it was too late. I had already agreed to a traditional wedding, preparations had started.
        The wedding itself was a nightmare, even after a year I find myself going red with rage. The pundit did not waste a single second humiliating me , emphasizing hw inferior I was to the groom and his family, how it was my job to serve them and basically become a slave.These things are uttered with absolute certainity and impunity. In the wedding video, even my husband looks ashamed in some moments. I bore through it for some time, but outright refused the do the disgusting ‘Bidaai’ farce. I made a public scene on my own wedding and quite proud of it.
        It was a love marriage and I should have been bursting with happiness. But all I could feel was rage and embarassment and I made sure my husband knew how much.

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        • Also, what made me more angry was that the pundit was not some random guy chosen by my parents. He was my husband’s family pundit. So it seemed a lot more personal as if it was coming from them. As I discovered a few days later, his parents were staunch believers of all this paraya dhan, kanyadaan nonsense.
          That is why it is all the more important to oppose these customs, coz they are not just that, they are actually the beliefs and value systems of the majority of the ppl

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        • @Asvita
          You made a scene in your own wedding?
          Respect.
          Wondering what was reaction of all attendees? Am sure at least one person must have had a mild heart attack🙂

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        • @aarti,

          More like they might have pretended to have a heart attack! Can’t let an opportunity go without some emotional blackmailing. It’s culture!

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      • Have you watched a show called “Band Baaja Bride” on NDTV Good Times? While the show is a shameless plug for designers of jewellery and wedding wear, I’m perplexed by how much women buy into the whole “wedding” myth.

        Educated, professional women swooning over jewellery and clothes, getting makeovers with Botox injections and laser hair removal; while the groom continues to look the way he always did.

        So the bride has to look ravishingly beautiful, while the groom just has to show up? Well done, NDTV!

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        • @Aarti
          Well I had a death stare match with the pundit and my parents pleading with me to just get it over with and not create a scene. The logic always is that until now you have followed the functions and rituals , so hw can you leave this out.So, basically if you are made an erroneous decision(in this case my agreeing to a traditional marriage) , you cannot refuse stuff no matter hw nasty or humiliating it gets at any point, you have to go the whole mile.
          Also, funnier were the reactions of our common friends who happen to fall in our age group. They were all eagerly waiting for the bidaai function. When I was refusing to do the bidaai, these ppl come to me and say – arre why are you taking the stuff the pundit said so seriously? These things are to be just ignored.
          I wanted to ask how will I ignore when the same ideology is rubbed in my face everyday? Hw is it that ppl fail to recognize that the crappy stuff the pundit says is actually applied to women in real life and they are supposed to (atleast pretend to) be the kind of women described in the ceremony.
          I was told to say my name aloud , when I said my name (complete with my surname), he publicly snubs me and says that is not you r name anymore, repeat after me – my first name + husband’s surname.
          some other gems –
          -all of my parents, relatives will be completely secondary to my husband’s family
          – My husband to should handover all his savings to me, so that I can cook for and feed his entire family, and if anything is left, then feed myself
          -The ownership of this woman is now transferred from her father to her husband – exactly this in hindi
          -I will not sing ,laugh or giggle loudly in front of my in laws
          and there were many others.

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        • @Neha,
          So true. Every single time I watched the show I would think about the same things, the man is as dark as he has always been, some men bald, some short and plump etc. None of them have tried to become fair, get a six pack or get laser for hair growth. The anchor talks so lovingly and never once hesitates to talk about how important it is for the bride to look beautiful on her day etc..
          Such a shame!!!!

          Like

  6. Well I am Tamilian [in fact the Thaali is worn by most south Indian women] and just hate this concept. When my father passed away my mom was made to take it off. It was not as bad as it is in some other families where it is snatched off the neck, the bangles broken on a stone and bindi wiped out harshly. But I still hated it. When I got married, my husband’s one big request to me was never to take it off. But having never worn anything around my neck, this heavy gold neck piece was a major irritant. I used to find every excuse to take it off, even if for few moments. After a while I realised I was not just fooling myself, but my husband as well. I did not think it was the thing which symbolised our love. When I took it off, I never worried that at that moment his life would be in danger. So what is the point? Just an age old custom. But the weightage it carries in the south is enormous. I was speaking about this to few of my friends when I visited them in India. All of them wanted to take it off. But were worried about the criticism which would follow it. One of them took the [huge] step of taking it off for a week. She said, that one week was very traumatic. Mind you, her husband did not even mind. But people, right from colleagues to auto-wallas were shocked that a married woman was not wearing it.

    The change in this mind-set is long overdue. Such festivals will hopefully bring about some change.

    Btw I blogged about this few days ago as well🙂

    Like

  7. This is full political tamasha that’s all…TN politics is seeing some amount of churn – the traditional “dravidian” parties are facing some competition from “hindutva” parties and is trying to do a reset in the minds of the people….that said, much like Karva Chauth celebrations thanks to KJo movies, the Thali has gotten unreasonable attention in Tamil movies (and serials) – to where it’s gained importance even among communities for whom it wasn’t a big deal to start with.

    And of course, it’s a silly tradition and should be challenged as and when possible. I think toerings have already reached this state, as has the black-beads-chain that is a Thali to some communities. The problem with wanting everyone to wear the std. Tamil Thali – it’s not a particularly nice-looking piece of jewelry! I don’t see anyone wanting to wear one unless required!

    Like

    • There is nothing politial about this. In fact its in the DK’s founding principle that it will never become a political party so as to not to compromise on activism.

      Like

      • DK was very much a political party.

        Abstention from politics was *not* a founding principal of DK.. Ee.Ve.Ra. chose it after a loss in elections in pre independence Madras state.

        I despise the exaggerated importance of the “thali” (that Thamizh movies and mega serials have championed) as much as everyone else in this thread. But my extremely limited love for DK ends there (and that love too is a side effect of alignment of cause). DK has in the past repeatedly chosen contrarian “shock” measures to garner publicity, frequently with no connection to logic or their self proclaimed social justice. The “thali/mangal sutra” negation was chosen for very much the same reason.

        Like

  8. Just a few days back I had this very question in mind as to why women and why ‘only’ women are required to display various ‘symbols’ of being married. Even in the present day scenario, if a couple is newly married (at least for the first few days), one simply cannot identify the newly married male in a crowd. But the newly married female stands out (what with forearms full of sparkling bangles, sindoor, mangalsutra, etc.) even in a huge crowd.

    I was curious to know the thoughts of females regarding these symbols of marriage, so I questioned my female colleagues about this. The discussion which involved a married female and two unmarried females went about something like the following :

    Me : Why are only females supposed to wear symbols of marriage and not males ?
    Female 1 (unmarried) : Girls like to look beautiful. These accessories make them look attractive. There’s no such issue with men.
    Me : But I don’t see you wearing any of them ?
    Female 1 : That’s my choice. I don’t feel like wearing them. Though I like wearing bangles.
    Female 2 (married) jokingly chips in : I got to wear a variety of expensive gold jewelry when I got married. I would be too happy to wear them all.
    *Female 2 does not wear any of the symbols of marriage to work. Though she does wear them when she visits her husband and in-laws who live in another city, and during ritualistic days (ex. karva-chauth).*
    Female 3 (unmarried) : In my community, the girl has to wear a nose-ring once she is married.
    Me : What does the guy have to wear once he is married ?
    Female 3 : (smiles) No such rules for guys. But if I don’t wear a nose-ring…
    Me : What then ? What will be done to you ?
    Female 3 : I simply HAVE to wear it. There is no other option.
    Me : So it means these symbols are displayed by married females out of fear ?
    Female 1 : Partly out of fear, partly because they want to.
    Me : Want to… to look attractive ? Or to earn acceptance of others that their purpose of life is now complete now that they are married ?
    Female 2 : You won’t understand.

    I left it at that. But I would like to know the views of the female readers here about why do married females wear symbols of being married. Is it voluntary or is it out of fear ? If voluntary, is it simply to look attractive or is it out of social conditioning ?

    Just wondering… is there a synonym for ‘suhagan’ available to be used for husbands ? If not, then maybe this concept came into being to underline the view that every married female is owned by her husband. Once the owner is gone, it would put a question on the very existence of the widowed female. Hence, married women are pressurized to pray to be outlived by their husbands.

    Ughhhh…

    Liked by 5 people

    • Your question was “why symbols of marriage” not “why do women wear jewellery “. So the answer “to be pretty ” is clearly wrong.

      They are equalents of dogs collars. You know what happens to dogs that don’t wear it’s collar. Does your dog wear a collar? Do you ever wear a collar that says “owner of Labrador”? For similar reasons, men don’t need to “look married”.

      Dear sarcasm challenged folks, I dont mean women are dogs. I mean there is ownership concept involved here.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I am not married, so I can’t really answer your question through personal experience. But having observed the people around me, these symbols are never worn to look attractive. You can look attractive in a nice slim chain without the taali or mangalsutra, right? You can look attractive in different coloured bangles and bracelets too. My theory is that women wear it

      (1) because they have it. A lot of time and money is spend on these accouterments so they feel as if they might as well use it.

      (2) due to active force. It is no secret that both marital and birth families put pressure on women to look the part of a married woman.

      (3) due to passive aggressive behaviour of random people. Most women are taught to care about what society thinks, and they don’t want to have to fight battles every time they go for a function. Most people who wear it on ‘certain occasions’ only fall under this category.

      (4) because they believe in it. Some women genuinely believe it is their duty to look married and act married, and be a slave to men. Some might even be superstitious enough to believe that if they take this stuff off, their husbands might actually suffer or die.

      I should think very few women wear it because they think it looks pretty. You will never find these same women wearing symbols of oppression from other cultures because it looks pretty. They are mostly either just in denial of the real reason (being forced), or quite happily accepting of it because it suits them.

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      • I would just ask the person who claims that she wears it ONLY because she thinks it’s pretty, whether she wore it before her marriage because it looked pretty. I’m quite sure that would not have happened, so it really invalidates the entire argument.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I have seen one more reason . Punjabis wear these 100 red shiny bangles called chuda. That is like the thali for them. When I asked a colleague why she has been wearing them from the past 1 year, she said how else will I get attention?
          Many girls love the attention they receive as newly weds as there is some kind of elevation of social status when a woman gets married.Thus, they wear the obvious marriage symbols so that wherever they go people(other women) gush over them. I have actually seen this happening, the increased respect, the awe.
          As if, the lady has accomplished something major

          Liked by 1 person

      • @fem
        Lovely answer. Every other day I have to tell my daughter (3yrs) to wear what SHE likes and not what Daddy/Granny/padosan aunty approves of.

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    • Muslims don’t have to wear any symbolic jewellery as such as married woman ! The normal load of bangles and other baubles MILs force depending how gaudy and rich they are !
      I am unmarried yet till my mom was alive she had heartbreak that I don’t wear bangles and deck up like other girls though I wear other gold baubles on daily basis !
      I have heard some converted localised Muslims have adopted bad practice s like dowry and wearing a mangalsutra like chain after marriage !
      We only exchange rings,have five minute nikah ceremony and then go and feast !

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    • @Shobhit
      Social Conditioning a million times.
      Any other answer (fear,looking attractive), is another way of saying Conditioning, don’t you agree?

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    • I think it’s social conditioning and all the televised drama around these ceremonies and rituals…that’s all.
      For the society to function “normally”, there must be “rules”(no matter how insane those rules are). Nobody questions them because everybody “seems so happy” obeying them. Once someone questions some of these ridiculous rules, the entire so called society stands up united against this person and try’s to set an example so such divergence are nipped in the bud. If the person still questions or challenges their authority, he/she is alienated so the rest of the obedient flock is not affected.
      Whoever made these rules suited their convenience and others just comply to be a part of the society. Human beings are social animals who fear isolation. It’s this fear that makes them want to be a part of the society.

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      • What I don’t understand is why women follow rules and customs that cause so much damage to their well-being.

        Yes, conditioning can be a powerful motivator. Yet, as human beings, we all have the power to reason, to think and to act in support of our well-being.

        Yet, many women hold attitudes and follow customs that are antithetical to their happiness and well-being.

        It’s not only about the thali or mangalsutra. A

        All the issues that we discuss on IHM’s blog — harassment by in-laws and husband, dowry, sexual violence, slut-shaming, gender discrimination, reproductive freedom, menstrual taboos — most times, women are the staunchest defenders of unfair customs and rules.

        Sometimes, I think that as a gender, women are extremely gullible, bordering on stupid — men have convinced women to follow rules and customs that actually cause women a lot of harm.

        Women willingly follow rituals and rules that are unfair, demeaning and provide NO benefits. Where is their ability to reason? To think? To recognise their self-interest?

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        • It’s brainwashing only to a certain extent. Women know that they are defending views that are detrimental to them. They don’t want a change for several reasons.

          – It’s very difficult to make changes, especially if you are the first in the family or community to do so. Not everyone has the capacity to fight against the immense abuse and pressure that the Indian family is capable of unleashing at the slightest deviation from the norm.

          – They are not earning. Many women don’t work or leave their jobs after marriage. Without experience and facing harassment, they find it difficult to start looking for a job again. Besides, for those who have been out so long out of the job market, it can be a huge confidence loss.

          – They are isolated. We have already discussed this issue on the ‘friends’ topic a few days back. Most women don’t have friends who will stand up for them. Even if the friends themselves want to help out, their husbands, in-laws and parents will not allow them to identify with a woman who goes against the norm. In some severe cases, parents and boyfriends and husbands also gently isolate the woman from the rest of the community purposely so that she will never be able to get help.

          – Investment. Women have already invested financially and emotionally into their marriage and relationships and it is not easy to let go. The higher the investment, the tougher it is to cut the crap and walk out. For those who have spent their lives surviving abuse under the guise of ‘culture’, it invalidates their entire life if someday they come out and acknowledge that it’s not culture, it’s abuse. So they don’t do it.

          So no, women are not gullible are stupid. They instinctively know what is wrong, they just lack the support system and the courage to break free. Calling them stupid for being unable to break free is doubly victimising them.

          Like

    • I’m going to have to shamelessly self-promote here because @Shobhit has no contact information available.🙂 I’ve mused on this topic endlessly and here are some of my posts:

      Of expectations from others when I returned to work after marriage:
      http://www.simblybored.com/2008/04/im-the-same-person-still/

      Of expectations from how Indian women should look:
      http://www.simblybored.com/2011/10/the-indian-womans-uniform/

      Of my expectations from society:
      http://www.simblybored.com/2011/05/open-letter-to-the-great-indian-society/

      A conversation about jewelry:
      http://www.simblybored.com/2012/02/diamond-necklace-and-vaddanam/

      Like

  9. – The Thail/Managalsutra/black beads were never part of Vedic weddings, they were introduced much later in India’s history (only after 6th century AD, according to some scholars). Vedic weddings had the bride and groom each wear a kankanabandhana (binding bracelet) which served as a symbol of commitment and had nothing to do with prolonging anyone’s life. So Hindu nationalists should stop worrying.

    – There is an equality about both spouses wearing these identical ornaments (much like wearing wedding bands) and the symbolism here is more equal here as well – commitment from both parties is needed to make the marriage work.

    – The tying something around the woman’s neck to signify that she’s taken is so regressive and dog-collarish. Why is the husband not wearing something to prolong the wife’s life?

    – If you are truly interested in the health of your spouse, see if you can get him to exercise, eat healthy food, and meditate. How can people get degrees in science and technology and pride themselves on a booming IT industry, yet fail to use their scientific reasoning in assessing something biological like longevity?

    – I refuse to wear marital symbols of any kind. I don’t wear the Indian symbols because they ARE, without a doubt, symbols of oppression. My mother wears it all the time but she never forced her traditions on us. My m-i-l cribbed a little bit early on. I sat down with her and told her I will show my love and commitment to my husband (her son) by being his best friend, emotionally and practically supporting him in every aspect of life, but not by wearing symbols of oppression. I also gave her examples of women in our family who are manipulative/abusive with their husbands but wear the mangalsutra, fast, and do all the pujas for a husband’s long life. My m-i-l now understands where I’m coming from.

    – Symbols are powerful. Political and religious movements propagate their ideas through symbols. What does the swastika conjure up in most people minds? Genocide. What does the American flag symbolize? Freedom and democracy to some. Arrogance and bullying to others? This is why symbolic buildings are targeted during attacks.

    – Symbols are immutable, emotive, and tap into the ancient, pre-language, instinctual parts of our brain. They perpetuate traditions of oppression far better than words and rules. And dismantling symbols is therefore a powerful act.

    Liked by 3 people

      • I agree MR – we should change the wedding practice of tying it. In fact, I agree with Fem that we should change many wedding rituals that have oppressive connotations. But when I got married, I didn’t know any better. I did not have IHM’s blog nor any feminists in my family. I fought for the things I was aware of. Now, it’s different. I know and understand it’s a symbol of oppression. Therefore I refuse to wear it. I have awareness now, so I must act on it.

        I think feminism is a journey. None of us have complete awareness at any given point. We learn as we go along. But if I was ignorant before and got it tied willingly, I don’t want to think I signed a contract to keep it on all my life.

        I don’t judge other women who wear it. I think each one of us must fight our battles when we are ready and comfortable (I myself haven’t figured out everything yet). And sometimes fighting these battles gets tiring. I get that.

        But the more we do things because we want to and believe in and the less we care about disapproval, the faster things will change for all of us. That’s why it matters that we change what we can.

        Liked by 3 people

        • I think we are quite aware of the injustices happening to us and around us. But we simply did not have someone to validate it for us. When I was a teenager, I firmly believed that I was a freak. It was another matter that I revelled in being a freak, but if I had not been so loved and cherished by my family, I might not have been so confident to claim my freakiness. It was also probably because I instinctively realised that to suppress myself would be humiliating and would just make me sad and I didn’t want to be sad. Or humiliated.

          Why was I a freak? Because I just thought I was equal to boys. I would feel free to claim the streets and to walk around when I wanted, while other girls were scared to do so. I asked out the local cutie (at least I thought he was cute😛 ) when I was 14, something that astounded everyone around me. And these were the days when boys would relentlessly pursue the girls they ‘liked’ and stalk them around the place. They were young and knew no better, but if they could do it, why not I?

          But whenever I spoke to other girls, the only response I got was that ‘it can’t be done’. Didn’t matter what I proposed – whether it was going for a movie by ourselves or just taking a walk around the block. But no, I was the freak, not them. Only because there was no validation that I was right. Absolutely none. That’s why I find groups like these really important for not just women’s rights, but for every other equality issue out there.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Agree with you strongly Priya, about constantly learning and fighting our battles as we go through life.
          I have been fighting right from the age of 10. About things that did not feel right to me.At first I would simply refuse.To do certain things just because I am a girl. Like oiling my hair,mehendi,applying gooey stuff like besan on face,etc. During my teenage, I would employ logic. ‘But Americans don’t use oil/mehendi/gooey besan’ so I am sure I will be just fine. As a result,most female relatives stopped talking to me. To this day, we feel awkward when we meet.
          Thanks to IHMs blog, I am better equipped during my battles nowadays.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Priya,
      I so agree with you..
      About the vedic wedding you have mentioned, can you suggest some books which explain these things?
      I have been desperately trying to learn about these but haven’t found any books or resources so far..

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    • @priya
      Thanks for the info about the kankanabandhana in Vedic weddings. The next person who asks me to wear a Mangalsutra better watch out.
      Priya, if you can, why don’t you do a post on the same topic.About Vedic weddings,symbols etc.

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    • Priya, I think Hindu Nationalists would be alarmed to find out how much of their propaganda is not actually Vedic. For instance, the Saptapadi:

      “We shall share love, share the same food, share our strengths, share the same tastes. We shall be of one mind, we shall observe the vows together. I shall be the Samaveda, you the Rigveda, I shall be the Upper World, you the Earth; I shall be the Sukhilam, you the Holder – together we shall live and beget children, and other riches; come thou, O sweet-worded girl!”

      How is that compatible with the view of eternal sacrifice we hold today?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Isn’t it? “We shall share the same tastes” is code for “the husband’s tastes will be the couple’s tastes”.

        “We shall be of one mind” is code for “The husband’s desires and choices will be the couple’s desires and choices”.

        “I shall be the upper world, you be the earth” sounds like “I’ll be on top, you under me”.

        I had an Arya Samaj wedding, which is apparently based on Vedic rites. I was unpleasantly surprised to see that it was, nevertheless, still quite sexist.

        I did read somewhere that the original idea behind the mangalsutra was to tie the couple’s pranic energies together — a cotton thread was used to tie the couple’s nadis (energy channels) together — this was done by the priest during the ceremony.

        My yoga teacher told me that the contemporary gold mangalsutra is quite superfluous because the original purpose, of consecrating the couple’s nadis, has been lost.

        The original mangalsutra was apparently just a consecrated cotton thread.

        The consecrated cotton thread, which was smeared in turmeric to preserve it’s consecrated nature, was never to be broken or removed because the couple’s energy systems would be badly damaged.

        Apparently, women wore the thread because women’s energies are more stable, receptive and nurturing than masculine energies.

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  10. You know, there’s no traditional “I’m taken” jewelry men wear in Hindu weddings (that I know of). Indian women wear the sindhoor (some), bindi (?) the mangal sutra, the toe rings, bangles (optional?) so that anyone doing a head to toe sweep of there person knows that they are married. If they get married in the West, they add on the engagement and the wedding rings. The wedding band for men in the West is just something that came about only recently. For centuries they didn’t wear obligatory markers at all.
    I don’t think it’s necessarily oppressive to show that you’re married. I think it’s oppressive to have to wear so much “I’m taken” jewelry whereas the guy doesn’t have to.
    My parents have put up profiles for me on Shaadi and Bharatmatrimony. I can’t tell you how many guys a)lie about being divorced or b)being in the process of being divorced, c)say they’re divorced/widowed but will not consider someone who is either. Maybe I’m a jerk, but I always think, absent any other information, that an Indian man in India who is divorced must have made some huge mistakes because Indian women are so conditioned to put up with crap that Western women would divorce over in a heartbeat.

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    • “I always think, absent any other information, that an Indian man in India who is divorced must have made some huge mistakes because Indian women are so conditioned to put up with crap that Western women would divorce over in a heartbeat.”

      This is a good thumbrule to follow — if an Indian man is divorced, his wife found the marriage so intolerable that she chose to divorce in a country where divorced women are treated as pariahs; stigmatised and excluded from “polite circles”.

      There are exceptions, however. My husband was divorced for many years and spent a decade trying to remarry. When I first ment him, this was a huge red flag.

      Why would a man who was educated, professionally successful and seemingly nice still be single.

      To his credit, my husband never got offended, although he saw through my “innocuous questions”.

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      • Did you meet him online initially? Did you get to take a lot of time to get to know him? I think that makes a huge difference.
        Because while it is true that there are exceptions, it is so difficult in the normal course of things in an Indian context to screen for why the marriage failed, “incompatibility that wouldn’t bother me” vs. “asshole I will run screaming from”, that I just don’t bother.

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  11. I’m from a part of south India where it hard to tell if a person is married or single. Married women wear a thin gold chain with a leaf-shaped pendant which looks like any random gold chain that unmarried women may wear. No sindoor, toe rings, special bangles or any of that jazz. In my parents’ extended families, no one cares what jewelry you wear or if you wear any at all.

    We have Hindu weddings without priests and everyone (including the bride) mostly wear white for special occasions. Along comes my MIL who ensures that I am given a jazzy tali which marks me out as a married woman with black beads, etc. (She insisted that she get that one despite my asking her not to get me any or to let me pick my own).

    Whenever she would visit us, she would interrogate me about not wearing it. I refused to wear it. She was an absolute cow about it.

    To honor her, the next time I visited India, I converted my tali into a cow. I sold it and donated the money to Heifer International. My husband doesn’t know or care what I do with my stuff. My MIL will have a cow if she finds out. Not her business, not my problem.

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  12. I am a Tam Brahm from my mom’s side and Andhra from my dad’s side. My mom wears a thaali and bangles etc, basically all that a married woman is supposed to wear. When my grandfather expired on my paternal side, they followed those horrible riutals but on my maternal side, my maternal grandmother simply took off her thalli but did not throw it away, instead she kept it away but wears bangles and bindi and coloured sarees, basically just not the thaali. She did not care what people would say and etc.. I am married to an Andhra man and I do not wear anything on regular days, if I am wearing Indian clothes to work then I just put on a small bindi and the thaali is entirely reserved for festivals and functions, this is the same irrespective of whether I am at mom’s place or in laws place and till date no body has told me anything except my SIL. My mom, MIL and SIL wear everything, but it’s only my SIL who tried telling me the importance of these so called things and I just smiled and left it at that. She was smart enough too to leave it at that and we are all happy. But contrary to all my expectations, my family has been very co-operative, but at the work place it’s a totaly different scene. I work like numerous Indians at an MNC in a metro in South India and the reactions of my colleagues were irritating and stupid.
    It all started as soon as I came back to work after my marriage; I went to work wearing usual leggings with a kurta and earrings to go with my dress. My entire team gathered around me – women were telling me how it’s inauspicious, men were telling me that I don’t care about the feelings of my husband and family etc.. I politely told them that my family is cool with it, then one very close male colleague took me out for coffee and started explaining to me how I should not upset the equilibrium and that s days go by all the usual drama will start etc.. It’s been more than 4 years now and things at home have remained the same, by all my colleagues till today cannot wrap their head around my life.
    Thes best thing was that a new guy joined and though he was not in my team, his seat was near my seat, he was very friendly and nice and we soon became friends, then after a few months one day he seemed to be very upset with me and when I asked him the reason, he said he did not know I was married. So I asked him how did my marital status matter and then he was shocked and told me that he would never have been friends with me if he knew I was married and that was the last day he spoke to me other than for work. So this is the attitude of the “so called mordern man” is what I thought and left it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mil’s mother once commented that “women these days don’t like to wear the thali” and asked to see mine. My mil just smiled and I said I did not have it on. She did not exactly approve, but then commented saying “to each one his/her own” and left it at that. To the credit of the old lady (all other issues aside), she did not mention it to me again – maybe she did to others, but then it is none of my business.

      It really distresses me to see young people being so regressive in their attitudes and makes me worried about the future of women in this country.

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    • Also, I had a very traditional Brahmin wedding but that was only because my husband and I just wanted to make our respective families happy. Left to both of us we would have preferred a court wedding followed by a reception, but we agreed to the wedding only for family. Also, I was very confident and trusted my husband that he and his family would not expect me to change and follow customs. Our families knew very well about us and requested us to agree for a traditional wedding and so we did. I thoroughly enjoyed the wedding and have beautiful photographs but other than that till date I do not follow any customs. My husband is an atheist and I am a believer but do not believe in following rituals and so we have been living happily.I would absolutely like to thank my MIL for her maturity here as she is extremely traditional and folows all the rituals to the T, but has never asked me to do anything and neither has she tried to manipulate me. My MIL is very happy with me and likes me just the way I am and when my SIL tried to create problems, she simply asked my SIL to look after her marriage and family and not interfere.We have a small puja set up at my place and when MIL visits us she does all her puja’s and special cooking and cleans up the kitchen for me, later I do my cooking.
      I think a lot of these problems can be eliminated if the boy and girl clearly talk before wedding and then get married rather than think that they can change their spouse after the wedding.
      A lot of girls and boys I have noticed are getting into love marriages these not for love but with the assumption that they can change their spouses to behave according to their convenience after the marriage all in the name of love and this is where they are wrong and that is the reason why we have so many women writing to IHM about marriages going wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Manasa, can you please explain how leggings and kurta is seen as offensive if you wear them as a married woman? Is it considered “sexy”, or something like that? Are you supposed to wear only sarees from the moment you are married?
      (I am not Indian, thus the need for clarification).
      Thanks.

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      • Hi Sev,
        No, leggings and kurta in my case was seen as offensive because as a married woman and that too immediately after the wedding an Indian woman is expected to wear if not sarees at least flashy clothes and a lot of jewelry like the thaali, bangles and toe rings etc. In my case, since I had not worn any of those and dressed like a normal girl people found it offensive, like I was not respecting my marriage and husband.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Oh I see! Well that’s interesting. I remember my MIL getting me silk kurtas to wear after the wedding, that might be why… As I cannot be bothered to wear a saree (and in any case, it’s too complicated for this white girl😉 ). Thanks for explaining, I’m learning a lot here!

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  13. I don’t wear the thali, toe rings, finger rings or bangles. I refused to buy or wear rings for the engagement.

    When I got married and got back to work, the first thing people said was – Oh no, you don’t look married at all.What does that mean ?!- I guess wearing all the symbols of matrimony. I dont even wear the sindoor. Just find it unnecessary to display my marital status. I don’t see the point to it.

    The only time I wear the mangalsutra is when it goes with a sari I wear and even then it is a gold chain that is tucked into the sari.

    I travel and guidebooks recommend a woman wear a ring to keep away men from harassing you- I guess that is one reason , but again in no way should it mount to a compulsion.

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    • See, I have only heard of a woman wearing a wedding ring to send out the “I’m taken” signal which supposedly cuts down on street harassment and come-onsin the West
      I have NEVER heard of single women donning the whole Hindu head to toe married woman jewelry to avoid street harassment or eve teasing (or at least it’s not some kind of trope). It’s an unwritten rule worldwide that if you have a man with you that people leave you the hell alone and if you have a male relative or a husband the effect is stronger. But it seems like it doesn’t work in some Indian cities now?
      If the whole point of all this jewelry is a “keep away” signal for men it’s not very effective if married women get street harassed.

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      • It is not supposed to reduce street harassment, it is supposed to reduce genuine cases of a guy who wants a date be deterred by the sign of marriage and decide “oh shoot, I can’t approach that pretty girl as she is taken”. That is the theory. Men should confirm if they use these marks to decide whether to approach a woman or not.

        Liked by 1 person

        • @Rahini
          Of course. And in the process it’s supposed to reduce harassment and asks for dates/come ons from men in social (and work) situations. A lot of men who don’t respect “I don’t want you” will respect “I’m married”. In western society, one of the quickest ways to end an ask for a date/come ons is “I’m dating someone or I’m married.” It’s a patriarchal compact, “I’m free to hassle/go after women who don’t have keepers but if you have a keeper I will leave you alone (because I don’t want others doing the same to my women and I don’t want to get in a fight).”

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  14. In Malaysia Indian women are warned not to wear Thalis while walking because of the high prevalence of snatch thefts. My mother wore her thali once while going to the temple and it was snatched off her neck by two men in a motorcycle.

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  15. I know about the bengali symbols- the shankha, the pola – these are pais of bangles and the noa/loha bangles which is made of iron and the sindoor.
    These are the symbols married women need to wear.
    These are only for women and not for men.
    Men do not have any symbols for them to be wearing after marriage,
    I hate those symbols.
    They are only for women and very gender biased and hence very humiliating for me.

    I had openly voiced my disgust of these symbols them when I was 17 and I got severely scolded in-front of everybody(family, relatives) by my father.
    He shouted at the top of his voice to snub me down.
    I was shocked at the outrage and was completely dumbfounded.
    I could feel the tears flowing down my eyes.
    I could not speak anything after that.

    Whenever such discussions have come up, I see very few people have any problem with these irrespective of men and women.
    In fact I have seen women happily complying and taking pride in wearing these.
    I specially hate the sindoor and the iron bangle. The iron bangle somehow reminds me of the handcuffs.
    One of my friends say, it might be that the iron bangle concept had actually evolved from that, but I am not sure, as I haven’t done a research on them and I do not care about the reason.
    The only thing I am concerned about is the mindless compliance that is expected of me as a woman to these symbols and if that does not happen everybody around the newly wed woman would go to any extent to make her wear it.
    I am in my mid twenties now and when I say that I will not be wearing these in the future, my mother tells me that my MIL will make me wear it and I will surely comply then and she would then see what I would have to say.
    Frankly I am bitter about this.
    I know I have to get in a huge struggle to do what I want but by guess that’s the only respectful choice I have according to my sensibilities.
    I am not judging anybody who is wearing it, but when I do not want to wear it and have my own reasons for not wearing it, the whole society ganging up against me to make me wear them is nothing but abuse to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I know about the bangle..My hubby is bengali, and I was requested to wear the iron bangle, the red/white bangles and sindoor for the first 2-3 days after marriage. My mom in law also told me to wear sindoor and the iron bangle later in the US, and gave me a sindoor dabba to take with me, but I obviously did not wear it! heh. Later when visiting them, I told them clearly that sindoor makes my hair dry (which it does) and I am not fond of any jewellery, so I will not be wearing any of these symbols. I think she has now accepted this, and does not tell me to wear it anymore. It took her a while to ‘get’ the fact that I do not like wearing jewellery. My MIL’s co-sisters do ask her how her DIL does not wear all this, and I have told her that if its too awkward for her to reply, she can direct the co-sisters to me, and I will be more than happy to answer their questions!
      I am a maharashtrian, and we wear the mangalsutra, but since my parents are cool about it, they have never once told me to wear it. I did get one made for the wedding, but after the first few days of wedding, I never touched it.
      Now, I just wear my engagement ring, and my hubby wears his. But we are now thinking of getting wedding bands, with something nice and personalized engraved on them for both of us to wear.

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  16. Thali wasn’t an original requirement, we’ve got more brahminical (and I say that with immense sarcasm) with the times. Even groups that love to hate brahmins seems to be socialized excessively!

    Several women don’t wear the thali. The issue is when it is made public. Then this concept of ‘taking offense’ gets hyperactive and everyone and their mother gets offended. Change s going to happen when people choose to do what they wish, regardless of others’ unhappiness. Like one reader here said, taking the thali off for a week made the woman in picture upset, her husband was fine. No piece of jewellery has the power to keep someone alive.

    But hey, we are the land of Karva Chauth (southern equivalent is Karadayam nombu where Savithri blackmailed God with some goodies made in the jungle…still cooking, husband lying dead at her feet!)…we need to break ourselves out of our socialization, we’re pretty good enslaving ourselves and then there are others trying!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I married a Tam Brahm and live in the US. I dont wear Thali when I am in US but wear it when I visit India but dont wear toerings. I feel like such a hypocrite for wearing Thali when around family.But it is a 2 or 3 week trip and I dont want to waste my energy fighting with ppl abt silly stuff.

      It is really stupid to spend all this money on gold and make this thaali.

      In tamil movies in 80s and 90s there would have been gazillion movies dripping with Thali sentiments. Remeber Chinna Thambi anyone. God these diretors need to be lined up and slapped left, right and center.

      All our rituals, customs, signs all revolve around praying for a man’s life. I was really thinking about this and was wondering about the logic of how they could have all started. I was thinking maybe in those days, since man was the breadwinner if he passes away the family would lose their livelihood, ia it why they do all these? But along the same lines if a man loses his wife, the kids kose their mom, isnt that an equal or a bigger loss as the family loses the glue, their main emotuonal support. I say this from havibg experienced the loss of my mom at a young age and the family is all scattered now and the close bond shared with mom’s side relatives all gone.

      When i was India last month and there was karadaiyan nombu and was asked to fall on my husband’s feet, I asked out loud to my SIL, as to why in our mythological stories none of the husbands have prayed for wife’s life or why dont men fall at their wife’s feet. My SIL just laughed and did not say anything.

      Later when we at another TamBrahm’s plafe for lunch, he was explaining abt the custom of how before starting your food, u drizzle water around your food and eat only one rice ( parukkai) 6-7 times since trachea and esophagus are so close to each other and so that food doesnt go into trachea. He was bragging abt how during his US trip he explained this to an American lady and how she was all impressed. At that time it did not occur in my mind but later got thinking if this is indeed true, why only men do this, why arent women doing this.So it is ok if food went into women’s trachea.

      I could go on and on. But I feel like smalll things like these which seem so innocent drip with so much sexism and we are putting in messages in our kids brain that men are somehow superior than women. It is upto parents of our generation to ensure that boys and girls are treated the say way and they grow upto respect each other

      Liked by 1 person

      • Of course it’s ok if food gets into a woman’s trachea. She chokes to death, and her husband gets a younger, prettier replacement!

        The point of all these customs is to convince women that they are dispensable and replaceable — a woman’s life is not very valuable, because she can always be replaced.

        Men are valuable, women just exist to serve them — this is the message all these customs send to women.

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  17. I wear my mangalsutra everyday.Not because the society expects me to. But because it is a symbol of the loving bond, I share with my husband. He wears his finger ring with my name carved on it for the same reason. also he has 3 extra threads attached to his sacred thread (poonal/janivara/upaveeta) since the wedding day. We don’t wear it to show / prove anything to the society/family, in fact it is not visible to others most of the time. But we wear it as a reminder of how much we believed in our love and how we stood firm when our extended family chose to shame us for choosing partners of our choice. They used to treat us like we killed innocent babies or joined a terrorist group. Our younger siblings were asked not to hang out with us lest they get corrupted by us. But we let them firmly know that their opinions don’t count.

    But thanks to God, we had a fairy tale wedding. All thanks to our progressive parents and our cool and awesome priest . He was the most feminist priest I have ever seen. While adding the extra 3 threads on my husband’s poonal he mentioned to him that it symbolized our love and fidelity to each other . Throughout the wedding he emphasized on love, equality, fidelity, compatibility and mutual respect . I was never made to feel that I was the second best in this wedding, but that we were equals. My father in law refused to have the custom where my father had to wash the feet of my husband. The priest made us both fold hands at each other to show that we will always respect each other , it was not just me who folded hands to him.And even after the wedding the feeling conveyed was one that echoed the beautiful amalgamation of 2 families than the daughter being given away. And true to their word our families treat each other with mutual love and respect and don’t hold one another superior/inferior. Though my parents are still getting used to this equal relationship, they sometimes tend to slip in to ladkiwale mode. Hope there are more such priests and more feminist weddings:)

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    • Having said that I am definitely against the customs/symbols whose sole purpose is to make woman feel like slaves. I will be sure to see to it that neither my daughter/DIL are subjected are made to feel inferior to their husbands because of customs.

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        • Yes definitely IHM. Both me and my husband are quite open to both our son and daughter choosing the way they choose to marry on their own, that is if they do choose to marry. If they do choose to marry we only hope they choose a partner with whom they share mutual interests, love and respect:). In fact we think that since we are in the US they might probably choose someone from another nationality. Whomever they choose we just hope they are happy:)

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        • Just to want to say I really LOVE you for expressing this and I wish my family will see this. And if I get married, I do hope (actually am praying) to marry into a family this kind of mindset, who will respect everyone and welcome everyone regarding their status quo, culture..etc. Even though one of my relatives married a non-Indian and has a very successful happy marriage, they are still against marrying from other states/caste/religion. Compatibility, commitment, and mindset is more important in a marriage than race/color/background. LIke I mentioned in another post it’s sad to see Indians segregate themselves to just their community/caste/religion rather than become open and learn and welcome those who are not part of their community.

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      • J1289, I really hope and pray you and everyone finds a life partner with whom you can have blissful life which is based on love, where you are both equals. The world will really be such a beautiful place if nobody meddles in the personal lives of others (including family ) is’nt it? I definitely pray and hope that my children stay in a world where everyone respects the personal space of others, do not judge them for their education choices, sexual orientation, do not judge their choice of friends/life partners,do not judge their choice of getting married/staying married.

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  18. There is an advantage to be a married woman at the college where I studied.Many of my seniors and classmates got married before they made it to the final year of study(Internship) and they were praised by our teaching faculty for having achieved that ultimate qualification in a woman’s life according to them, MARRIAGE(Oh My God! I felt like throwing up while typing this particular sentence).The fourth year of study was a bit difficult to pass, as they would not let us have sufficient internal marks even if we deserved.But those girls who got married would be awarded sufficient marks to ensure that they passed and left the college as early as possible because they are married and have so much to look after at their new homes.Those people who were wearing the symbols of marriage such as toe rings and Thali didn’t have to do much in viva also.Such is the mentality of faculty and that’s the reason married women there preferred to wear those symbols and also they don’t want to be frowned upon by other people for not wearing and some of them take pride in it.

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  19. I am all for these ladies to take off their talis.

    Having never worn anything around my neck, the thought of wearing my mangalsutra everyday was simply ridiculous. Recently we were in court to finalize the adoption of our daughter and my husband thought it would be appropriate to wear it, having never once commented on something like this before. I was quite amused, and to calm him, since there were far more important things at stake, kept it in my purse. But never wore it and I can’t say I got too many looks for it – or perhaps I didn’t register any. Turns out, if you feel conscious you will attract attention and think everyone is looking at you. The more confident you are, the less likely you notice such things. Neither my mother nor MIL gave me gyan about this; I think they both know that what I wear around my neck is so personal that I wouldn’t pay any heed to what they felt. Neither wears it regularly anyway.

    I remember as a young kid attending pujas, that a plate with yellow and red powder got passed around, and all the ladies with thalis got to apply the yellow stuff to the mangalsutra, while the rest of us got just red powder. Why? No one would explain to me. Still don’t know the answer.

    Another note: In agreement with another comment here, Indian marriage ceremonies are dripping with sexism. To avoid much of this we had two wedding. One for me, the Arya Samaj way and the other for the ILs, the south indian stuff. Unfortunately it was only on D-day that I listened carefully to the Arya Samaj prayers and realized that I didn’t sign up to many of them. It was more egalitarian than the South Indian stuff though; shorter too!

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    • I am 42, and am expected to know my way about rituals.

      In order to escape nosy relatives, during religious events, weddings and so on, I join the kids and have a great time horsing around.

      At a recent engagement ceremony, buoyed by a few hours of playtime with the kids, I happily proceeded to distribute “akshatha” to all the kiddos present, only to see all the adults burst into laughter.

      Apparenty, only the adults get to shower “akshatha” on the couple, not the kids.

      Someone should writer a primer on all these unwriten rules!🙂

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  20. I don’t see anything wrong with symbolizing if the woman CHOOSES herself to follow that path and wear the thali…her personal belief and like everyone should be respected for what she believes in..it’s just wrong when you force ALL women, especially if they have perspective to follow the herd to uphold “tradition”.

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    • We are not forcing anyone to do anything. We are discussing the issue about how women are actively forced through manipulation and emotional intimidation to do things they would rather not do.

      Also, it is worthwhile discussing why women choose to follow some customs that are derogatory to them. Saying that something is okay just because a woman chooses it is like saying that slavery was fine in US as long as some of the blacks chose to slaves (which some did, since they had no clue how to deal with freedom). This is not to say we must force them to do things they are uncomfortable with, but it is important to recognise that while feminism gives women the prerogative of choice, the choice itself is not feminism.

      The ultimate goal is to emancipate women (and men to) in all ways gradually through education and positive reinforcement.

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  21. I dont wear sindoor toe rings etc etc coz it looks ridiculous with western formals….I do get gentle reminder from few relatives to wear it .I just brush it off.

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  22. I don’t wear my mangalsutra most of the days, and when i do, it;s because it suits the dress i wear. I don’t wear toe rings, but i think they look pretty on others feet, on mine they just look strange.
    I wear engagement rings because i like them, not because i need to.
    I really think it’s a personal choice, and though i’ve been questioned by some old ladies in my family, i don’t bother so much.
    My husband on the other hand is an atheist, but wears the 6 thread sacred thread all the time–not because he believes–but it’s become a habit and because his mother would die if he didn’t.
    What i dislike is the way his mom feels she is the guardian of our faith/religion and will keep telling us to do this and that.
    In an conversation the other day though, i realized she and the rest of her “very religious” family knew next to nothing about hindu mythology, and i’m going to press that to my advantage soon🙂

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  23. I know and understand all of this is right and that the thali and toe rings are a symbol of oppression but hmmm.. I find it so difficult to take off!! It’s been almost 8 years of marriage now and I feel so much apprehension at thinking of taking it off, even for a minute. It’s only very recently that I have started to remove them off during my facials and prior to that i had taken it off only for my c-section.. !! Social conditioning is so difficult to fight with… especially when it’s so deep inside you. Also another big factor is that I stay with my in laws and I can’t imagine what my mom-in-law would say if i took it off now. Sheesh.. i know it’s archaic but with all the drama I’ve seen in tamil movies and serials for so long, i feel so bad even to think of removing it, even if there have been hundreds of times I thought an outfit would look better if I wore it without the thali.

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    • A ‘thaali’ in olden times was simply meant to exist as a symbol of bonding and respect to a woman’s spiritual guru, her husband. Nothing more, nothing less. Over times, of course, the husband ceased to be a spiritual guru and when he became more of a dominant (oppressing?) partner in the marriage, the thaali morphed into a tool for melodrama.

      But if the whole point of this discussion is not to succumb to pressure of any kind the same goes for your choices too. So you don’t have to beat yourself up for wearing it either. Just gradually choose to be comfortable in your decision, irrespective of what it is.

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        • Yup – a woman’s spiritual guru (the one who helps her evolve spiritually) while he himself undertakes the path of spiritual evolution… At the risk of making it sound ‘mumbo-jumbo’ish, I’d want to say that a proper study of our ancient practices will help us understand the intent better. Our ancient set up even had a retirement stage called vanaprastham where a couple was meant to hand over the reins of the household to the younger generation, retire and go away seeking peace (or whatever) A woman was never meant to be inferior to a man, no community was meant to be inferior or superior.

          But of course that is not how things stand today. Things have morphed beyond recognition. It only shows how far we have degenerated as a society.

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        • Unequal systems don’t last, and they create inequality and cruelty. Let’s now move to a more humane and fair society where nobody becomes a guru because of their race, gender, age etc. And where nobody needs to give up life (etc) because they have no ‘guru’. Let’s respect basic human rights for all.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Why was a husband, a woman’s “spiritual guru”? They don’t seem to have done a particulary good job of being gurus, if we look at the state of affairs.

        I’m sorry, but this is a later, (and flawed) interpretation of Hindu philosophy. During Vedic times, both husband and wife were meant to assist in each other’s spiritual journey.

        In fact, the spiritual growth of the couple is one of the primary goals of the “Brahma Vivaha”, which is the kind of marriage mostly witnessed today.

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        • IHM, Neha:

          No denying that “both husband and wife were/are meant to assist in each other’s spiritual journey” and “respect basic human rights for all” at all.

          My take: Power (possibly) corrupted both the system and people involved over time and whatever the original intentions were, they have been heavily compromised. And what we see are only sad remains. Agree, the very phrase of husband being ‘spiritual guru’ certainly sounds archaic in today’s times…

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      • If a man is a woman’s spiritual guru, then he is automatically superior to her, since we also have the tradition of ‘guru devo bhava’. This makes a wife an inferior. So it wasn’t all that different in the ‘olden times’. It doesn’t take much time to evolve to ‘pati parmeshwar’ from this crap.

        Why should an old couple retire to seek peace if they don’t want to simply because they have reached a certain age? Why shouldn’t they enjoy life in their own homes?!

        By this dictum, not only is abuse of women made easier but also elder abuse!

        I will never understand how people come up with such excuses for Hinduism in the “olden days” which was apparently perfect when it was just more of the same. And probably worse because of the lack of secular laws and humanitarian organisations.

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  24. Oh my…this reminds me its been almost 7 years (out of 8 years of marriage) that I didn’t see the light of my thali or toe rings. And surprisingly no one noticed. I noticed that mostly no one cared when I had to go to India for my younger brother wedding and forgot to wear mine and was quite oblivious about it; until a young female relative/childhood friend reminded me of my blasphemy. Suddenly it struck me during the entire wedding process not a single female relative including my mom, my mil, my grandmother, our entire troop of older relatives on all sides did not give a hoot about this. I was pleasantly surprised and realized all these women have quite changed with times and accept us what it is, though they all carry all symbols of matrimony.

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    • My mangalsutra is in India, and I live abroad.
      I must admit I wish I had brought it with me.
      I did not wear it after the wedding ceremony specifically because of the baggage that comes with it, but now , far away from home, I do miss it and wish I could wear it on festivals /occasions .
      I recognise that it is a privileged position to be in, and that many women in India are oppressed by this tradition, but in my specific, individual context, it exists as an optional element of my culture and heritage , and I will wear it when I want to.
      Just not in India, I guess.

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  25. I’m married to someone from a Telugu background and have never worn toe rings or a mangalsutra/ thali except during the wedding ceremony–which was an arya samaj thing done for the sole reason of getting our marriage certificate. The wedding ceremony that we consider our ‘real wedding’ was in Sri Lanka where we had an awesome Buddhist ceremony. Our Buddhist Sri Lankan ceremony was a gazillion times more egalitarian than the arya samaj thing.

    The mangalsutra provided lots of laughs for the most part because we were being really immature–it’s pretty much a necklace with boobs…with jewelled nipples and everything. A year later I did see a really nice, modern take on the mangalsutra that was made with beaten gold.

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    • I’m curious to know more about the arya samaj wedding. My brother is getting married to a american this December and they settled on a Arya Samaj wedding as opposed to a Telugu wedding. Now i’m wondering if they know what they are in for.

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      • I’ve been told it’s still way more modern than a traditional ceremony. It was relatively short but it was still very patriarchal. There’s something else called a Bhramasamaj wedding that I found better.

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  26. Pingback: “Change, if it came at all, would come from within—by a process of evolution.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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