Friday, November 03, 2006

Thaali aka Mangalsutra- No strings attached?

Have been wanting to write about this topic for a while now, but haven't had the time to do so. In today's modern world, a married woman makes a conscious choice to wear or not wear her thaali or mangalsutra. What does this imply?

For those who aren't familiar with the Hindu tradition of marriage, a thaali (as known in South India) or a mangalsutra (as known in North India) is tied by the groom around the neck of the bride on the day of their wedding signifying their union. The thaali is considered auspicious and is believed to protect the marriage and life of the husbands and was never usually removed in the bride's lifetime, unless her spouse died.

But like all traditions and customs, today this trend is also changing. Although, it is tied at the wedding, the younger generation women of today are choosing whether to wear it all times, or not.

For many women living outside India, the thaali is worn on and off. Some reasons for this are that- First of all, the fear that something may happen to their spouses if the woman takes off her thaali is overcome by the voice of reason and logic.

Secondly, the new era of women are confident that a mere symbolism of the thaali is not an expression of their commitment in the marriage. Most of them feel that loving your spouse and staying married doesn't come with a piece of chain around your neck.

Thirdly, the practical difficulty in wearing the thaali is that it does not blend in with western clothes or go well with party jewellery, silver jewellery, black metal etc. Earlier, the thaali was a traditional thick rope, followed by the thick gold chain and each community has their version for the pendant. Slowly, the gold rope was replaced by the "karugamani" which is made of small gold and black beads and then nowadays women have a "micro thaali" done which is fashionable, much sammer in size and weighs lesser.

Also, during work outs at the gym and other activities such as swimming etc., the thaali is uncomfortable. Not to forget mentioning that some women are allergic to the gold and even have marks on their necks.

But, many women still like to wear it at special occasions and sometimes even on a regular basis and when asked by colleagues at work are proud to explain that it is the equivalent of a wedding ring and symbolizes that a woman is married.

Life is much easier for the women abroad when you don't have a mother-in-law hovering around in the background to express shock and disbelief or a mother to express her concern when you aren't wearing the thaali.

But, for the married women in India, well, I do know some of them who work in MNCs who don't wear a thaali daily to work. But, for the others, it is a constant battle and struggle when the traditional society that is steepled in orthodoxy, culture and values fails to listen to the modern day women's perspective. Also, when the women living in US visit India, they are inclined to wear the thaali more as a way to keep the family members from reacting. Of course, there are still stronger women who hold on to their decision and boldly say that it is a matter of individual choice.

Lastly,how does the husband react to all this? Some of them who are raised in an orthodox background don't approve of their wives not willing to uphold the tradition of being married to them, while others are a lot more open to their spouses making the decision. But, secretly, most men do seem to care about whether their wives want to wear a "thaali" or not, its just that the circumstances in today's lifestyle are such that he has to make his wife have the final word on that!

Happy Friday!


Anu said...

I understand the reasons why most woman nowadays prefer not to wear the mangalsutra. But I prefer to wear it, more than tradition its pride in wearing it. For me it represents responsibility and a different status. Recently in Las Vegas one of the hotel concierges asked me proof of my marriage for a couple pass , and when I showed her my thali that convinced her :)), so i guess its a personal choice.

Shankari said...

Good topic...I believe that you wear it if you want and dont look down upon women who dont...

lakshmi said...

I believe woman should wear thaali and do not look it as a fashion statement.

Ram.C said...

First to react, from the opposite sex... An interesting post, since I had encountered similar situations at my house. My wife's reactions when my Mom is around and when her Mom is around... Anyhow, I left it to her choice..

Balaji said...

interesting topic... but wish u'd written about what u do and why so that we can talk about what we do and why also :)

Krishnakumar said...

Nice post and an interesting subject too :)
Along with thali, I would also add "metti" and even "bindi" to this list. I have heard people saying that “It doesn’t suit my attire”

mitr_bayarea said...

Yes, good for you and kudos to your thaali for proof to enter as a couple.

I concur with you on not looking down upon women who don't wear it.

More than looking at it as a fashion statement, it is being viewed for other reasons as well.

Good for you that you left your wife to make the decision!

Aaha, the whole point of the blog was to write from a neutral perspective and not reveal what I do :)

Again, true. Bindi doesn't come to a woman with being married, its already there since she was single. As for the metti, modern gals of today wear it as a fashion symbol more than it being put by the husband at the time of the wedding for the first time.

tt_giant said...

enakku kalyaanam aaga pogudhungaradha manasula vechundhu ezhudureengaLa? Just kidding!

I was brought up in a family where womenfolk wear it. But I don't know what would be in my particular case though.

Raju said...

Believing in equalness (sometimes atleast.. hehe), I dont care whether my wife wears thaali/metti (she hasnt worn metti a single day fully). Its all personal choice. For those who like to wear lot of gold around their neck, it is fine. But, for someone who isnt used to it, konjam free-ya vidanum. Living abroad certainly helps in that, since it is only the understanding b/w hubby and wife, as u mentioned.

mitr_bayarea said...


Aaha..apdi ellam illa, just wrote about some "modern mangathas" of today's world. Don't let small things like this ruffle your, when is the d- day???

Raju: Yes, Raju. I agree that the understanding between the couple is most important in this case. Metti-ellam came off a few days of the wedding!

Me too said...

I am reminded of the thaali scene from 'Alaipayuthey'! :)
I think we are this 'rendunkettaan' generation caught in between!

Jinguchakka said...

The last para is good. Hitting the nail on the head. Hmmm...
do you know that the metti(toe ring) was worn by both the sexes in ancient times?

tt_giant said...

Dec 6th is the day when give-and-take policy starts. If I dont give, she will take!


Amen to Aparna's comment!

Marutham said...

:O Aha,,, Where is this going??

It was considered as a great respect for women to wear their Thaali/Mangalsuthra.... I have seen women who take great pride in wearing Thaali/Mangalsuthra. However yes today many do use it as yet another party ornamnt which is ofcourse worrying...
In indian tradition certain formalities are not to be changed....and this is one i feel!!
But, well.... perceptions differ & people may start cursing me.. ;) So ladies!!, go ahead do what u feel is right!

mitr_bayarea said...


Yes, definite-a rendungettan generation thaan nambo!


Enjoy your remaining month of being single :)


Toe ring was worn by ancient men too is it? Thatz some news to me.


No one is going to curse you. Of course, you have ur priorities clear and good to know that you feel proud of it. Keep it going!

priya said...

To wear or not depens on that persons interest adn we cannot decide others persons tradition. Some reasons people avoid depend son which corporate and what type od dress youw ear. A thali doesn't mean just with 2 coins but soem people wear with black beads and other small gold coins. It can be heavy and made noises when you walk or bend right.

I think a thali coin as a ring shud be accepted when people migrate and wear a small chain with a coin in it.

Jothi said...

Quite surprising that many of you don't know that both thaali and metti are worn by man and woman. However, somehow, Thaali has been specified to woman only as man find it difficult to wear ornaments. But metti is worn to the groom during wedding by the bride's brother (groom's bestman).
Even in Malaysia, it is practised. but only wear metti for few days as it is unconfortable with shoes.
SO, if man can choose on what to wear and not, why not woman. It is just matter of comfortable with it or not.

Stuart said...

Hi I have inherited a Thaali or Mangalsutra from my mother. She is english as am I. We haved an idear that it comes from the Tamil tribe as I have a friend who wears one (all be it a new one where as mine shows sins if being very old). I cant sent a drawing vis this site but I would love to know more about it.

RajuReshma said...


I understand the importance of Thali and never take it out, we are from Karnataka and the shape of the Thali is like a women's breast- any idea what the shape signifies?


Nisha said...

Hi Mitr,
I am a tamil girl about to shortly get married to a punjabi boy. Hi mother very lovingly has purchased a maharashtrian thali for me although they dont have a custom of wearing mangalsutras. Although I will accept it with all due respect for her endeavour, I somehow feel commitment n love in matrimony are beyond symbols like the thali, which i feel is more like an advertisement saying the person is married,the same holds for marriages being held like public events. It is more a matter of convenience & perspective than anything else for me. And I dont see myself wearing a thali 24/7 like my elders have all their life.

Stuart said...

Ok I feel that I must first declare that I am a resident of the UK from English extraction (white) and have a number of Indian friends around the world. There are a number of issues here. The public wedding is I believe important as it is a public declaration to all your families and friends that you are making this commitment to each other. Unless they all accept this commitment you and your partner will never really be accepted into either of your in-law families. When you hit difficult times it’s these family members and friends who will help you through. The wearing of a Tali, Mangalsutra or a wedding ring is a continuation of this public statement. I value my wedding ring above all as it holds significant and sentimental meaning for me. I would not be seen without it. I can understand how some young people may feel that is may be interpreted as a sign of ownership but after 30 years of marriage I still wear mine with pride.

Jen said...

I have a mangalsutra similar to the one on the upper right corner of this post. My MIL bought it for me. They are from Chennai and I am from California. I wore it initially all the time. My husband laughed when I took it off to blow dry my hair. Gold heats up fast! Anyway, I work with tons of Indians at my job and they treat me with more respect when I wear it and give me grief in jest when I do not. But no one gives me true trouble for not wearing it. I have had my share of Indian mothers glare at me for it though. I say let each make their own choice.

karjo said...

a ring is much more convenient. Thali will be poking on the body. will not stay at place as it is a long chain. Sometime it will cup any one side of breast making embarrassment. Also make noise. you will only know if you have tried wearing a long chain right up to under breast with a heavy locket. One can never involve in any physical activities such as gym, yoga, swimming, push up, warm up, fast run, jogging etc. Please do not compare a thali and ring. also nowadays, it is very unsafe as gold price has increased and it attract thief.

jake tyler said...

In India wedding is such a big occasion that people spends 1lmost one year in its planning and execution.
Jewellery is also an integral part of it and mangalsutra has great significance in it.From now we can choose easily new designs of mangalsutra from internet for our soul-mate.

john rose said...

This is such an insightful blog on the thaali and mangalsutra. True, many of us feel this traditional symbol of marriage is cumbersome and gets in the way of our daily living activities. But there are many online jewellery shopping stores in India that offer practicality along with mesmerising Designer mangalsutra designs. The next you travel to India check out Silver mangalsutras that look great at parties and with regular outfits too.

RockRushIndia said...

Nice post. Buy online mangalsutra.