Coming across this ad for wedding jewellery, I remembered my friend Sai telling me how her mother-in-law had a fit when she left the house one day without her thaali, the traditional necklace worn by married women, also called mangalasutra. An Indian woman is expected to always wear this piece of jewellery which is a sign of her married status, much like a wedding ring in other countries. My friend explained that she only wears her thaali when she is outside the house because she is expected to, but at home she takes it off. She doesn’t feel she needs to show her devotion to her husband through a piece of jewellery which is frivolous compared to the bond that unites them (hers is a ‘love marriage’ in case you’re wondering). In a moment of distraction she left the house without it one day. Her mother-in-law was in tears, accusing her of not respecting her son.
For an Indian woman, jewellery is an important possession to have, not only as a fashion accessory but more importantly as a symbol of marital and also social status. The jewellery a new bride receives at her wedding (worth many hundreds of thousands of rupees) is also an investment which can be used as a type of ‘insurance’ if she ever finds herself in a difficult financial situation. Not surprisingly, India is the largest consumer of gold in the world.
Indian couples literally ‘tie the knot’ when the groom ties the mangalasutra around his bride’s neck during the wedding ceremony. You can also tell a woman is married by the tikka on her forehead or line of red sindoor in the part of her hair and toe rings (which are worn only by married women) on the second toes of both feet.