Just read this news article about this festival where couples have decided to promote gender equality by discarding their thaalis and the Court approving of this. The thaali, for the uninitiated, is neck piece usually made of gold worn by married women. For centuries it has been seen as a symbol of marriage and prosperity. When the husband dies before the wife, a ritual is carried on, whereby the thaali is taken off the woman’s neck. This is usually a unpleasant event whereby the woman is informed that she is the unfortunate being whose husband has left for heavenly abode before her. A woman who dies before her husband does, is therefor held in highest regard and burnt along with the thaali. She is dressed in finery and flowers to symbolize how well she has lived her life and applauding her on the appropriate timing of her demise.
I have always found the concept unappealing and partial. For a person like me (as I see with many young women around me) who abhors jewellery, the thaali does not signify love or relationship. Instead it is an uncomfortable neck piece to be worn around the neck to keep up with the dictum of the society. When one does not believe the thaali’s purpose, why wear it? Of course, if people want to wear it, that is totally up to them.
The purpose of the festival mentioned in the article though is gender equality. This is a significant as well. If anything, the message that one is married needs to be worn by both spouses.
I am plain happy that something of this sort is being carried on in place like TN. Currently reading Wild Swans and loving it. The changes which our neighbours experienced 50 years ago have still not been introduced in our country. They have faced far more wars than us, so let that not be an excuse. I see small change coming, albeit late.