MARCH 4, 2016 The mangalsutra or mangalasutra – Indian or Hindu?
Here is a letter from Fr. Jacob Parappally MSFS, a theologian of the Missionary of St Francis de Sales order:
From: Jacob Parappally <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: 30 August, 2013 10:38:59 AM GMT+05:30 To:Fr Name Withheld
Subject:Syro-Malabar Synod about the Use of Indian Symbols
Dear Fr Name Withheld,
Greetings of love and peace!
I have found the news item in Deepika about the decision of Syro-Malabar Synod concerning preaching about Indian symbols…
So I am sending you this news item which I translated from Deepika.
You can check in the Deepika Daily, Internet edition of today, 30th August.
With best wishes and prayers,
Jacob Parappally MSFS
Prof. Dr. Jacob Parappally, MSFS, Tejas Vidya Peetha, Kumbalgodu P.O. Bangalore -560074, India.
E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: +91 – 9448908755
No need of intolerance to the essential symbols:
Exhortation of the Syro-MalabarSynod
The Syro-Malabar Church Synod exhorted Christians living in various religious and cultural contexts of India to respect the essential symbols of their context. It is the teaching of the Church to accept and integrate the good elements in the cultures. The symbols and representations from the Indian culture commonly accepted by the general public are also accepted by the Church. The traditional standing lamp, ayurveda, yoga, using Mangalsutra (Tali), gifting of wedding saree etc. are some of the examples of the same.
Those practices and medical treatments which are helpful for the well-being of the body and the mind need not be considered as a part of any particular religion. In retreats, preaching of the word and in seminars if anyone is presenting these symbols and medical treatments as satanic or devilish they must be corrected by their concerned authorities.
Christians must take care that they promote harmony and unity among the members of various communities and religions. The uniqueness of the Christians consists in their practice of love.
The Synod also exhorted the faithful to pray for that the political conflict in Syria may not slip into a danger of war and that the nations of the world may live in peace and concord.
What Fr. Jacob Parappally calls "Indian symbols" are in reality HINDU symbols. India has a vast and wide variety of cultures, one of which is Hindu, but it is precisely and solely those symbols, rites and philosophies of Hinduism that our Church leaders are promoting in the liturgy and life of the Church.
See the list of files at the end of the present article.
The letter shows the horrendous spiritual condition of the Indian Catholic Church where paganism is routinely accepted as Christian and the errors and lies are propagated as truth by top theologians.
It is interesting that the translated information in the attachment is not officially "certified" by any authority of the Church. It is taken from a Malayalam language secular daily called "Deepika".
A discussion in the Konkani Catholics yahoo group on the mangalsutra:
Query on Indian Marital Symbols
KonkaniCatholics digest no. 1699 dated November 15, 2008
9a. Posted by: "Edwin Coutinho"
Hello Austine, I have a few queries on wearing/display of Indian marital symbols such as bindis, mangalsutras, red bangles.
Is it true that these symbols are against the values of Christianity? A spiritual preacher mentioned that the bindi represents tantrik themes, so does the mangalsutra, etc. What does the Catholic Church say about Christian adaptations of these marital symbols? While they may have a certain connotation in Hinduism, does wearing these symbols imply that one believes in these values? Or can one wear these symbols as a matter of choice and disregard their origin? Looking forward to hearing yours and the community's views on this.
9b. Posted by: "Austine Crasta"[owner-moderator of the group]
Dear Edwin, First of all we ought to make a distinction between those symbols that are used in worship and those that pertain to social/cultural customs of the people.
So far as use of the use of symbols in liturgical worship is concerned, the Church is both cautious and benevolent.
The first norm "for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples" says:
"Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples' way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 37)
The words "not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error" offer the key to understanding the Church's mind on this matter.
Whatever is 'not indissoluble' can be 'dissolved'. This simply means that the relationship of such a sign/symbol to any superstition can be broken. So that what is admitted into the Church is a PURIFIED sign/symbol.
This is all the more true where social customs are concerned because their meaning comes from the community in which they are found and practised. Thus for example, the colour 'white' may signify celebration/solemnity in the West but in India it is the colour of a funeral house (where we would wear 'black' instead).
Whether it is called 'bottu' (Kannada/Telugu), or 'Tikli' (Marathi) or 'Chandlo' in (Gujarati) or 'Pottu' (Malayalam), the meaning or symbolism of the bindi (Sanskrit: 'bindu' = dot) is difficult to pinpoint except with reference to a particular community and a particular time. Today's society may consider it no more than a decorative item.
So far as the 'mangalsutra' is concerned, this is not something that was picked up by Christians at the height of the inculturation craze that swept our country. At least here in Mangalore it was used even before the Second Vatican Council when priests were much stricter and the Christians practised a greater separation from the non-Christians.
This obviously means that they didn't take over the 'mangalsutra' with any 'tantric theme' it might have had/represented. The Mangalorean Christians called it the "pirduk" and adopted it merely as a symbol of the married state (society demanded such a symbol then). Among Christians the "pirduk" used to be tied by the mother-in-law (rather than the bridegroom) and was worn by the woman as long as her husband was alive.
Though initially it was only a simple three or one row necklace of black glass beads strung on a thread made from dried pineapple leaves' fibres, a silver pendant ("tali") which was later replaced by a gold pendant and finally a gold medal bearing Our Lady's picture, was added.
The beads which were initially only black (probably because black never fades or changes) saw also the addition of the more shiny gold beads. In some places the "pirduk" took on the form of a half-moon surmounted by a cross and studded with pearls or precious stones, on the top of which was attached the figure of a dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit ("minin").
So you see, what we took over was not the superstitious practices but a symbol with a purified and elevated meaning.
But the fact of the matter is that the "pirduk" is NOT the official Christian sign of married life. In the Church, it is the wedding rings we exchange that is the "sign of your love and fidelity." That's why only the wedding rings are blessed and also the witnesses testify to having witnessed the exchange of rings but not the "pirduk" which is normally done as part of the marriage function in the hall.
The point is simply this: the "pirduk" is completely non-essential to the Catholic marriage. It is simply part of the social custom of our people who purged it of all its superstitious meanings. Therefore while a marriage without a "pirduk" lacks nothing, a marriage where the "pirduk" is used is still a celebration in the Christian spirit.
I hope that answers your question. Austine email@example.com
The word mangalsutra comes from two Sanskrit words, mangala meaning “auspicious” and sutra meaning “thread”.
It is a necklace that a Hindu groom ties around the bride’s neck in a ceremony called mangalya dharanam (Sanskrit for “adorning the pious thread”) which is the main ritual of Hindu marriage ceremony. The practice is an integral part of a marriage ceremony as prescribed by Manusmriti, the traditional law governing Hindu marriage.
The two strings of black beads in the mangalsutra
As per Hindu dharma, the mangalsutra is an ornament of a woman denoting her marital status.
Each groom makes a mangalsutra for the bride by stringing black beads in a thread.
Due to the mangalsutra, the consciousness of the husband in the form of the deity Shiva remains constantly awakened in the woman.
The mangalsutra is symbolic of the deity Shiva and the deity Shakti. The gold is the form of Shakti and the stringed black beads is the form of Shiva.
The mangalsutra is an ornament that attracts the Divine Principle in the highest proportion. In a mangalsutra, both the cups are hollow on one side and are raised on the other.
The mangalsutra is worn facing the hollow side towards the body. The Divine Principle is attracted in the voids of the cups in higher proportion than in any other ornament.
The mangalsutra is a link that provides the deity Shakti in the form of the Absolute Fire Element to the woman to perform a task.
All of these things are clearly explained by the following picture.
In the left part of the mangalsutra, there is flow of the Energy of Desire, in the central part Energy of Action, and in the right part Energy of Knowledge.
From the mangalsutra, the Energies of Desire, Action and Knowledge are also emitted.
With the help of the Energies of Desire, Action and Knowledge, it becomes easier for a woman to proceed towards the Nirgun principle.
From the above it is very clear that wearing a mangalsutra is a Hindu practice with all its pagan symbolism.
We are reminded by St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians 4:17, 18 that “henceforth you walk not as also the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened.” Also in Ephesians 5:8, “For you were heretofore darkness but now light in the Lord. Walk then as children of light.”
Hence, no Catholic woman should wear the mangalsutra.
Wikipedia concurs with him that the mangalsutra is the “main ritual of Hindu marriage ceremony”. Here’s more:
Mangala sutra literally means "an auspicious thread" which is knotted around the bride's neck 3 times. Three knots symbolize three different aspects of a married woman - the first knot represents her obedience to her husband, the second to his parents and the third represents her respect for God. It is usually a necklace with black beads strung from a black or yellowthreadprepared with turmeric. Sometimes gold, white or red beads are also added to the mangal sutra, depending on regional variation. It is a symbol of marriage, comparable to thewedding ringof theWest, but is only applicable to women, while men are exempt from this tradition. In certain communities, the groom ties the first of the three knots while his sisters tie the rest.
The significance of the mangala sutra was re-iterated by Adi Shankara in his famous book Soundarya Lahari. According to Hindu tradition, the mangala sutra is worn for the long life of the husband. Dictated by religious customs and social expectations, married women have to wear mangala sutra throughout their life as it is believed that the practice enhances the well-being of her husband. It is also believed that the mangala sutra protects the marriage from any evil eye. However, if the husband dies it is removed from her neck as a part of widowhood rituals.
Apart from the mangala sutra, the toe rings (bichhua), kumkuma, bangles, nalla pusalu (black pearls) and nose ring form six symbols that may indicate that a woman is married. While there are local variations with respect to the others, the mangala sutra is nevertheless a custom that most married women have to adhere to almost all over India.
It is called mangal sutra in Marathi, thaali in Malayalam/Tamil, thaali, mangalyasutra in Kannada, and thaali, maangalyamu, mangalasutramu orpustelu in Telugu.
Konkanis(Goansand others, both Hindus and Christians) wear three necklaces around their necks, referred to asdhaaremaniormuhurtmani(big golden bead),mangalasutrawith one or two gold discs andkasithaaliwith gold and coral beads. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana regions, the two coin-sized gold discs are separated by 2-3 beads of different kinds. As per the tradition, one disc comes from bride's family and another from groom's side.
Mangala sutras are made in a variety of designs. The common ones are theLakshmi thaali, pustelu worn by the Telugus, ela thaali or minnu worn by the Malayalees and thekumbha thaaliworn by the Tamils of the Kshatriya caste. The design is chosen by the groom's family according to prevalent customs. Gujaratis and Marwaris often use a diamond pendant in a gold chain which is merely ornamental in nature and is not a substitute to the mangala sutra in the traditional sense. Maharashtrians wear a pendant of twovatiornaments. The mangalya, thaali or mangala sutra ofKannidagasis similar to that of the Maharashtrians, except that it usually has two vatis. Nowadays many fashion conscious families opt for lighter versions, with a single vati or more contemporary style, however these do not conform to the traditional sensibilities or functions of wearing a mangalsutra.