I believe that truth should be spoken and uncomfortable questions should be asked. This is about one such question – Why do married people (mostly women) need to wear signs indicating their marital status? What is “ek chutki sindoor,” (one pinch of vermilion) all about? Are the wedding symbols just a label that reads ‘unavailable’ or is there actually more to it?

Married women are asked to wear a mangalsutra, sindoor (vermillion), rings, bangles and other talismans throughout their life as it is believed that the practice enhances the well-being of her husband and the family. It is also believed that the mangalsutra protects the marriage from evils.

Many Vedic experts say that sindoor is placed on the parting of the hair to signify that the wife is now under the protection of her husband. Fast forward to the 21st century, if I don’t put sindoor would my husband not care for me?

I am not opposed to these signs, neither am I a stickler for them. I follow what I like and discard what I don’t. I feel that this should not be an imposition but left to the individual to decide. In my opinion, symbols are now just symbols to be displayed on symbolic occasions.

I got married a few months back and talking about wedding symbols, well, for me these are just accessories and does not signify anything else. I wear my wedding ring all the time not because I am expected to, but because I like it. I don’t wear a bindi or apply sindoor simply because I don’t like the idea. But that doesn’t mean I dislike these marriage symbols. I do wear a few pieces of jewellery on some occasions to complement my outfit not because they symbolise my marriage.

“You are married? You don’t look like you are,” is a phrase I have heard many times since I got married. I really don’t know whether to take it as a compliment or not. For some people, a married woman is supposed to look different, as if her appearance announces her marital status. Are these symbols a stamp on ones’ commitment to marriage? Just because one does not happily adorn these accessories doesn’t mean they don’t consider their marriage important.

There are people in our society who keep asking about the absence of bindi/sindoor on a woman’s forehead and a mangalsutra around her neck, and I really don’t understand the intention with which they question and what they possibly allude to. There are gossip mongers who go like:

“She doesn’t wanna look married.”
“She doesn’t love her husband enough.”
Or my personal favourite, “She is a rebel.”

But none of the above lines are true, all she is doing is being herself. These symbols actually should not be a scale to judge someone’s character.

There is no doubt that a woman looks beautiful in her wedding dress, jewellery, and make-up. The vermilion on her forehead, the bangles, anklets and other accessories highlight her attributes. The rituals are said to cement a relationship of seven births and are made complete by tying the mangalsutra and applying sindoor. Yes, I know all of that but why has it become a necessity for women to wear all these symbols every day even when they are not comfortable?

It should rather be a matter of personal choice and should not be forced. I have nothing against women who wear a mangalsutra/sindoor/bindi, and it’s their personal choice. Personally, I can’t stand jewellery for a very long time. It irritates my skin. But someone else may love wearing jewellery and may even take pride in sporting the so-called essentials of a married woman. Moreover, the baseless “suhaag ki nishaani” (a sign of marriage), stories should not be propagated. It is more important to love and care for your partner than indulge in materialistic things to prove your commitment.

We have been following these traditions for a really long time, and it’s high time now that women be allowed to choose what is best for them.

Live your life in its entirety, not through symbols. With time, the value of these symbols have diminished, and I believe, marriage is more than just a symbol, isn’t it?

The article was published in Woman’s Era.