The Mangalsutra Necklace
Rituals & Practices

The Mangalsutra Necklace

In Hinduism, when a girl gets married she adorns certain jewelry and observes special customs to make obvious her marital status. Just as a many of you wear the wedding ring after marriage, the married Hindu girl, according to the tradition, has to wear the ‘mangalsutra,’ bangles, nose and toe rings and a red bindi or apply ‘kumkum’ or vermilion on her forehead symbolizing not only her rite of passage from a girl to a married woman but also her heightened position in society as an adult who is respected and is capable of running a household, which is, in a way, the microcosm of the society at large.

What is Mangalsutra?

The word ‘mangalsutra’ is derived from the two words, mangal meaning holy or auspicious and sutra meaning thread. It is a sacred necklace that the groom ties around the bride’s neck on the day of the wedding in a ceremony called Mangalya dharanam (meaning – wearing the auspicious), thereby giving her the status of his wife and life mate. Thereafter, the wife wears the mangalsutra all her life or till the time the husband is alive as a sign of their marriage, mutual love and goodwill, understanding and faithful commitment to one another.

When is the Mangalsutra Worn?

On the wedding day, a yellow thread is prepared by using turmeric paste and is tied around the bride’s neck with three knots during the marriage ceremony while the priest recites Vedic hymns and partakes in prayers. In some customs, the groom ties the first knot and his sisters tie the other two knots. Later, the mangalsutra may be restrung on some auspicious day in the form of a necklace made of gold and black beads strung together on one or two yellow threads or gold chains with an elaborate pendant of gold or diamond. In an arranged marriage, the design of mangalsutra is usually chosen by the groom’s family in keeping with their customs.

What does Mangalsutra Really Symbolize?

The mangalsutra, worn by most married Hindu women across India, is known differently in different parts of the country – ‘thaali’, ‘thaaly’, ‘pustelu’, ‘maangalyam’ or ‘mangalsutram’ in the southern states of India and ‘mangalsutra’ in the northern states. Each black bead in the mangalsutra is believed to have divine powers that protect the married couple from the evil eye and is believed to safeguard the life of the husband. Hindu women are extremely superstitious about the mangalsutra. If it breaks or gets lost it is considered ominous. Therefore, the Mangalsutra is much more than a piece of fancy jewelry, but a sacred necklace of love, trust and marital happiness of a Hindu couple – a vital symbol of wedlock.

Is Mangalsutra Fashionable for Modern Times?

With changing times and varying needs of women, especially in the metropolis, who are no longer stay-home wives, the concept of wearing a mangalsutra has changed visibly. Now, it is more of a fashion than a symbol of marriage. Rarely does a working woman don a mangalsutra over her trendy business suits. Also, there is a dramatic change in the style and make of the mangalsutra these days. Previously, women wore heavy and elaborate gold mangalsutras, but now, the trend is to wear short, sleek and single string ones with small designer diamond pendants. However, the black beads remain to ward off the evil and uphold the sanctity of the institution of marriage.

~ Subhamoy Das


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  • A friend asks me, why only women have to wear mangala sutra/thali? What could be the probable defense/answer or theory behind this?

  • Recently I saw a women forum discussing about Thali(southern india) in Asianet channel from Kerala. There were 20women took part in that forum. This is what they think about Thali:
    1.It has no significance.
    2.It is not Religious. It is personal faith.
    3.It has neither primary or secondary significance.
    4.It is old faith. Old custom.
    5.It appear an outdated habit of wearing Thali.
    6.Life can go on with or without tahali in modern days.
    7.Why it is necessary to wear in the modern days? Why?
    8.Is your Thali is important or the love(Snekam) is important in married life?
    9.What is necessary for a good marriage? Wearing Thali, good mind, or loving person?
    10.Future of Thali is bleak. In the future no one will care about this age old custom for the sake of faith.
    11.Future women take decision for herself like men in the old age for the family. She decides what is good.
    12.We don’t want to be tied up with age old belief or custom for the sake of others.

    When I heard their discussion, I felt that most of the women don’t care Wearing Thali. They believe there is no sacredness in that thread tied to a piece of metal (gold).Its like a jewelry among them today. In future Thali will slowly and certainly disappear from the married women.

    What they believe is to have a good family both people have mutual love, good mind, freedom from both partners and mutual respect. Thali has no significance and no importance in girls’ life. Above all Thali has least significance and least importance in their life.

    We better, the male society, understand the women’s mind and act accordingly. Otherwise, if males hang on to the age old faith, it will be a disaster and disappointment in life. Accept their opinion, respect their views and move forward.