On social network one joke is doing the rounds, “A foreigner asked an Indian man – Why do Indian married women have a red dot on their forehead? Indian Man: Because they are recording everything! ” The question came in my mind too, why married women have to wear some sign to show their married status? Do we have something for the single women? Why not? Isn’t that a status as important as that of a married person?
Be it vermilion there on the hair parting or a red bindi adorning the forehead, a mangalsutra( necklace) or the sankha pola ( bangles) or the bichiya ( toe rings) it is so strange that a women has to shield herself using one of these to proclaim to others in the society that now she is married. And God forbid if she forgets to use one of these then that is viewed as a bad omen.
Like if someone forgot to wear the sindoor after taking a bath or if the auspicious bangles break by any chance this can result in a lot of anxiety and even depression to the wearer fearing something untoward may happen and that these are indications.
A thought comes to mind, can any relation be expressed by objects? Then why only marriage has to be expressed in this manner? Why tradition blinds us so much that it becomes more important than self and the relation? These days many women don’t wear any signs of marriage because they think that they don’t need to tell anyone about. But are they appreciated for this? No on the contrary this behavior of theirs draws criticism and raised eyebrows. Even there are snide remarks that these women try to show themselves as single in the society.
Situation gets worse when a women’s husband dies. The ritual of wiping the forehead of the sindoor or breaking the bangles all leads to a traumatic experience for the women whose heart is anyway shattered in pieces after the tragedy. The same objects which adorned her now become her misery. She is reminded each day of the routine she followed all these days and a void fills her heart when she realizes she cannot wear that red bindi, cannot listen to the clinking of the bangles.
I am nowhere saying we should not follow tradition and that a women should not be dressed in an ethnic way but am perplexed with the fact that how come these things get so much importance in such a strong relationship. Is the relation tied to emotions or objects?
Disclaimer: This post is regarding some of the customs followed by Hindu women in India.