Are Sindoor, Mangalsutra A Choice Or Regressive?

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by Rihana, Aug 3, 2022.

  1. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Educated, independent women start to wear sindoor, mangalsutra when they get married.

    Big thick red sindoor even with western clothes.

    No compulsion or subtle expectations to wear these from husband, in-laws, society or parents.

    They follow Karvachauth or Varalakshmi pooja type rituals by their own choice.

    Is this their choice or regressive?

    What about social responsibility? What about being the agents of change for the less fortunate?

    When educated independent women willingly adopt these patriarchy symbols, then a woman in a traditional household who does not like these customs gets told:
    "Look, that modern woman follows it, why can't you?"
    .
     
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  2. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    I never thought too deeply about my wearing sindoor and mangalsutra. I just thought it makes me look pretty and a resultant feel good.

    Only more recently my daughter and sometimes also son ask pointed questions about the significance of these things. My daughter to whom I once read aloud Ganesha, Shiva, Rama and Yayati amar chitra katha comics and who still has those precious comic collections with strict instructions that I cannot ever give them away, this young lady asks me, "Amma, don't you realize that by wearing sindoor and mangalsutra like you do, you are contributing to the practice of the sindoor being wiped or bangles being broken when a woman becomes a widow?"

    I have to agree with her.

    My voluntarily wearing any suhagan symbol is contributing to a regressive patriarchy based practice.

    If at this moment any woman in India is being forced to don a symbol of widowhood, I am contributing to it when I deck up with suhagan / sumangali symbols to attend a pooja this month.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2022
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  3. MalStrom

    MalStrom IL Hall of Fame

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    I don’t see it that way.
    If women want to wear bindi and mangalsutra and observe rituals out of their own volition then it is their choice.
    If other women are being oppressed in the name of these same symbols and rituals then the fault lies with those who force these traditions on women, using the generational excuse.
    It is not the fault of the women with free choice, and they should not be made to feel guilty because someone else holds regressive views. Blame the perpetrators, not the victims and bystanders.
    In your last example, you would be contributing to injustice only if you actively participated in degrading a widow’s sense of worth.
     
  4. hrastro

    hrastro Platinum IL'ite

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    I disagree.
    During Sravana maasa, I invite all women, whether married, unmarried, mother, childless, widowed or kanya or little toddlers - I offer them gifts and sweets and prayers ! Last week all kinds of women came home and participated in my pooja.

    It is a celebration of womanhood, it is a celebration of auspiciousness and all things feminine - bountiful fertility and generosity and beauty and kindness and love and peace and sunlight and warmth !

    If you look at the kind of women we pray to: - this is the pancakanya stotra

    अहल्या द्रौपदी सीता तारा मन्दोदरी तथा ।
    पंचकन्या स्मरेन्नित्यं महापातकनाशनम् ॥
    ahalyā draupadī sītā tārā mandodarī tathā |
    paṃcakanyā smarennityaṃ mahāpātakanāśanam ||
    Meaning: Let us remember the five ladies (kanya=unmarried/virgin) ahalyā, draupadī, sītā, tārā, mandodarī regularly as their character can provide strength to get rid of sins and ill feelings.

    Look at these women: Ahalya had an affair (or raped/seduced), Draupadi had 5 husbands, Sita had lived as a prisoner, Tara was a widow, Mandodari was the wife of a villainous king
    Kunti is sometimes in this list - even she was an unmarried mother and had children through 4 different men (or Devas) who went on to become powerful kings...
    - where is the so-called patriarchy ??

    Patriarchy is the word used to kill all native customs that the "colonials" could not understand!

    If we dont like a custom, we dont need to reject it, we can improve and change it...
    How to change:
    Invite all women, dont just limit them to sumangalis !
    If some widows dress up, dont judge or comment! Let them be.
    Invite unmarried women, dont ask when they will get married
    Invite single moms & childless women & pregnant women with equal enthusiasm!
    Invite little girls and teenagers and young women! (and their little brothers if any too - they dont want to be left behind)
    Celebrate all feminine energies !
    (That will probably also shut up those shouting patriarchy! Win win!!)

    What about our collective responsibility to our civilisation and our ancestors who have followed and fought against all kinds of unimaginable terrors to keep a tradition alive for more than 5000 years ?
    Why should we throw it all away just because we cannot fight the unfair censure and condemnation of "patriarchy"??

    By stopping all celebrations and pooja in the name of "social responsibility" we would only throw the baby out with the bath water! Keep the good parts and celebrate the joys of our festivals!

    Keep smiling and happy sravana maasa!
    HR
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2022
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  5. hrastro

    hrastro Platinum IL'ite

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    ...added to the prev post...
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2022
  6. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    That is how I used to look at it too for a long time: Each woman be free to follow what she wants. Don't stop a woman from following what she wants. Don't force a woman to follow something against her will. Don't force a married woman to wear those symbols against her will. Don't force a widow to take them off. To each their own.

    But I am not so sure any more. This is a touchy topic so I will use only I, me and mine:

    1) I started to wear those symbols only after and because I got married. These are the socially accepted symbols of a married woman. I am choosing to wear these. Why? Like really why?
    2) My unmarried and unattached daughter asked me if she could wear them just like that. I said a sharp no. She pushed for a reason. I said ok fine wear what you want. Just don't put those pics on FB or family WA. I will have to answer n questions from both sides in India.
    3) When a woman in my extended family becomes a widow, why is there even a question of she taking some symbols off? IMO, that question arises because all of us women in my family (i) chose to start wearing them, and (ii) we chose to start wearing them on marriage only.

    My daughter put it more simply:
    "The privilege of wearing them goes hand in hand with the requirement to take them off."

    Sometimes I feel she has a point. It's like I get a govt job. I have the choice to take govt. housing or stay in my own home. I choose govt. housing. On retirement, I will have to relinquish the govt. housing. When I get married, I choose to start wearing some things. When the time comes, I no longer qualify and have to relinquish those.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2022
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  7. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Thanks for the post, hrastro. It's beautiful and recounts how inclusive our history and mythology are, and how we can follow those ourselves now. But, I don't see how it relates to the questions in the first post. Must be a limitation on my part.
     
  8. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    On a lighter note, this is one of my favorite collages:

    sind.PNG
     
  9. hrastro

    hrastro Platinum IL'ite

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    It was in response to your subsequent post about how during this pooja season you / your daughter feel that you are not including all women in the pooja ...

    It was in response to the overuse of "regressive patriarchy" to attack a beautiful tradition and make both educated & uneducated women feel ashamed of doing something so loving and so natural and enjoyable....

    I responded to the specific questions that I quoted in the post ... maybe I didnt understand some part of your questions?
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2022
  10. hrastro

    hrastro Platinum IL'ite

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    Exactly !! I feel the same... Each to their own

    Sigh!! I understand your question !

    But, is anyone stopping birthday parties just because there is a death in someone else family ?

    Many of my relatives who never married or are widows use a gold chain, bangles and bindi and payal on a regular basis - you cannot really differentiate ... I used to love wearing them even before my marriage...

    It is the maang me sindoor and mangalasutra chain and toe ring that are traditionally used after marriage - the mangalasutra chain is mostly hidden inside, you see only the gold part outside...
    and maang sindoor and toerings many married women also dont use ...


    In fact, although no one talks about it, it is the same with men too (widowers)
    My wedding happened when my MIL had already passed on... My DH refused to participate in the wedding if his dad was not allowed to participate - the poojari and his dad had to change many rituals so that my FIL participated in each and every ritual - snathakam/naandi, appagintalu etc...

    We can only make changes in our own lives.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2022

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