Knotty Boys: And they live unhappily ever after

SUNAAD RAGHURAM writes: If the mangalasutra is the symbol of Indian matrimony, the essence of Indian womanhood, the very identity of an Indian woman’s marital status, a community living in the Paduvarahalli-Vontikoppal-Kumbarakoppal belt in Mysore just doesn’t think so.

Numbering just about 700 or so, members of this community, like most of the world, firmly believe in matrimony all right, but the problem lies in their unshakable resolve not to tie a mangalasutra around the bride’s neck to solemnize the marriage.

The reason: The elders believe that the boy runs the risk of dying prematurely, thus rendering his wife a widow, if he were to drape the mangalasutra and tie the knot at the back of her neck! 

The consequences, in present times, on the eligible males in the community are sadly evident. Quite a large number of men, some in their mid 40s, are going through life with the definite inclination to marry but not being able to really do so for the elders in the house forbid them from physically tying the knot.

And which present day girl would normally accept a nuptial arrangement without proof of her wifely identity? 

Why such an impossibly weird practice came into force is simply not clear. But legend has it that most members of this community served in the maharaja’s infantry. And in times of war, the risk of death, to state the obvious, was real. 

In order not to render the wife’s life a wasteful, vulnerable and sorrow ridden heap in the event of her man’s death, it was decided to do away with the one most conspicuous accoutrement of marriage, the mangalasutra. So that the world would never attach the tag of widow to her.

It’s not that the elders didn’t understand the desires of the young. They tried making slightly agreeable alterations to the scenario to suit modern times.

Like having Mahishasura ‘tie’ the knot to the girl!

In other words, the girl would be symbolically given in marriage to the demon’s statue atop the Chamundi Hill. And any misfortune that could occur as a result of the tying of the mangalasutra would befall Mahishasura. Not the groom in real life who had married the girl. But even this didn’t work for long.

Soon after a few such marriages were solemnized, in the mid-1990s, it was noticed that the demon’s statue had been vandalized and his sword damaged. The elders, who saw this as an evil foreboding, gave up this practice as well, much to the frustration of the eligible bachelors in the community.  

Life, as a result, for most of the young men in the community has become one long wait for a girl who could say ‘yes’ to marriage, but without the mangalasutra.

Going by the long list of men with the ‘not married’ tag, living listlessly, there aren’t too many young women willing to sing along.