Symbols Of Marriage In India

Indian marriages are not just creation of a relationship between two individuals but also result in ethical, social, and moral bonding. Our ancestors have established some Symbols of Marriage to be worn by men and women to highlight this special bonding. Most symbols are worn on a day-to-day basis. Few symbols are adorned on special occasions like Festivals, family functions, Pujas, Marriages or other ritualistic occasions.

In general, the women get to wear more symbols then men. Here are some common and some rare Symbols of Marriage that you come across in India.

1. Mangalsutra/Thali/Thirumangalyam

One of the important symbols of Marriage in India is the Mangalsutra. Literally translated as Sacred thread, it is worn by all married women around their neck.

Types of Mangalsutra:

  • Turmeric dipped thread stringed with two gold Pendants that comes in different motifs depending on the community/caste one is married to is worn. This type of Mangalsutra is very popular in Tamil Nadu.  People who cannot afford gold just tie a Turmeric pod to the yellow thread and wear it as Thali.
  • The Telugu Thali is similar to the above but the pendants are usually in round shape.
  • Some brides in north India wear Black beads attached to a golden pedant called Tanmaniya
  • Taagpaag is a black-beaded chain with a gold pendant worn by married Bihari women.
  • Keralities’ Mangalsutra is called Ela Thali. Ela means Leaf and is the shape of the pendant stringed to the Mangalsutra derived taken from the special wedding saree called Matharakodi.  Minnu is the sacred thread tied by the groom around his Kerala Syrian Christian bride.
  • Marathi people wear Nirgun or Shagun Thallis. Nirgun Thali is wholly made of black beads while the Shagun Thali has 2 golden beads after every set of 9 black beads.
  • The Konkani Thali is called Dhareamani.
  • The Kannadiga bride wears the Karthamani Pathak which is a string of black beads with a golden pendant.

2. Toe Rings

bengali marriage photo
The feet dipped in a mixture of milk and alta(lac dye) by Shounak Ray under CC BY-SA 2.0

Toe Rings are also called Bichiya or Metti.  It is said that eligible bachelors should just look at the feet of the lady to know if she is available. If he finds toe rings, it means that Lady is already married and he needs to continue his search for a bride.

Even men wore Toe rings to symbolize marriage in the bygone era. You may be surprised to know that in remote villages and some temple towns of Tamil Nadu, one can still find few men continuing this practice.

3. Sindoor/Vermillion/ Kumkum

Sindoor is among the more common symbols of marriage in India. It is pigment made from turmeric, cinnabar and lime.  A symbol of Shakti, the mother goddess, it is applied by women either on the parting of the hair area or as a dot on the Forehead.

The color of this symbol changes from deep red to maroon to orange based on personal preferences and sometimes the community.

4. Bangles

In some communities, bangles are more important than the Mangalsutra. Traditionally married women in most communities in India should never leave their arms bare until they lose their spouse.

Each community has its special type of bangle:

  • Some women wear just plain gold bangles
  • Colorful glass bangles are quite popular in the four southern states, where red and green color bangles are considered auspicious.
  • Bengali brides are given white(conch) and red(coral) bangles along with Iron bangles by her Mother-in-law. Shakha, the white bangles are supposed to calm the women while the Pola, the red coral bangles are worn to improve blood circulation
  • A Punjabi bride wears Ivory bangles with red bangles called Chuda which is gifted by their Mamma or her mother’s brother.

5. Nath or Nose Rings

While Nose rings are worn by girls who attain puberty, in some communities it is worn only after marriage.

The bride of Uttarakhand wears a big nose ring called Tehri Nath or Nathuli.  South Indians wear gold nose rings that have single or multiple glimmering diamond or white stones. The Marathi bride gets to wear a special Nose ring or Nath made of gold pearls and precious stones.

6. Finger Rings

Finger rings are not traditionally symbols of marriage in India.  Of late many couples are adopting them, exchanging them during engagements or adoring their fingers with beautiful rings on their marriage day.

However, some south Indian women have traditionally wear V-shaped rings, made of gold and encrusted with gemstones after marriage.

7. Attire

Dress codes also usually change after marriage. The sari is traditionally the most common attire worn by women after marriage.

Pahadi brides from Uttarakhand wear red lehenga or Saree with Pichora. This attire has to be worn again at family- get-togethers, festivals and other social occasions. Certain Tamil brides have to wear a nine-yard saree on all special occasions.

The Gents wear Dhotis-Kurta or Kurta-Pyjama on their marriage day and on special occasions. The draping procedure changes from region to region.

This is an exhaustive list. There are more such marriage symbols and I have just scratched the surface in my research for them. I propose to highlight more symbols of Marriage in another article, someday.

Featured Photo: Symbol of marriage by yue under CC BY 2.0

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