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The  attack  on  the  office  of  Puthiya  Thalaimurai,   a  Tamil  news  channel,   for  planning  to  telecast  a  debate  on  the  need for married  women  to  wear  a thaalis indicative  of  cultural  and  religious  intolerance.

The thaali (mangalasutra or  the  sacred  thread  tied  by  grooms  around the  bride’s  neck)   was  not  referred  to as  a  symbol  of  marriage  in  ancient Tamil  literature.   The  great  epic Silappadhikaram describes  the  marriage  of  Kovalan  and  Kannagi,   which was  a  simple  ceremony  without  a thaali. Sanskrit  epics  also  tell  the stories  of  princes,   and  none  of  them tied  a thaaliin any swayamvaram. So the thaali is  not  a  symbol  of  the  ancient  culture  of  Tamils  or  of  Hindus.

We  have  earlier  references  in  Sangam  literature  about  an Aimbadaiththali, a  pendant  for children made  of  five  major  metals,   considered  to  be  good  for  health.   Thus,   the thaali was meant  for  children,   not for  women  in  marriage.

Poems  from  a  later  period  narrated  how  the  hero  presented  a  nail  or  a tooth  of  a  tiger,   killed  by  him  in  a one- on- one  fight,   to  his  lady  love  as  a gift.   The  heroine  preserved  it  close to  her  heart  by  tying  it  around  her neck  as  a  precious  jewel. That concept faded away long back. It  will obviously  not  fit  in  the  present  day context  because  no  man  will  bring  a tiger’s  tooth  or  nail  —   attempting any  such  thing  would  land  him straight  behind  bars.
Individual’s  desire

So,   in  no  way  is  the  present- day ceremony  of  tying  a thaali connected to  Tamil  culture.   Even  if  it  is  proved to  be  of  Tamil  heritage,   wearing  any cultural  symbol  reflects  an individual’s  decision.   This  cannot  be  forced on  anyone.   Our  dress  code  today,   for instance,   was  not  there  100  years ago.   If  anybody  wants  to  follow  it,   he or  she  has  every  right  to,   but  no  one can  force  force  or  criticise  a  person who  does  not  want  to  wear  it.

If  it  is  argued  that  the thaali is  part of  Hindu  culture,   it  can  be  asked which  scripture  in Hinduism  made it  mandatory  for  marriage  and whether  it  has  a  binding effect  on  all sections  and  schools  of  Hindu  religion.   Who  made  the thaali or mangalasutra sacred?   Who  associated honour,   pride  and  dignity  with  this rope,   to  be  tied  to  the  Hindu  woman who  was  likely  to  be  treated  badly anyway  and  prevented  from  making public  appearances  after  her  husband’s  death? Why  should  a  woman  wear  this symbol  and  bear  social  ignominy when  it  is  removed  in  the  most  cruel manner  after  her  husband’s  death? 

Ultimately  the  debate  on thaali cannot  be  closed  without  referring to  the  historical  role  of  the  Self- Respect  Movement  and  its  founder  Periyar,   who  fought  for  women’s  rights in  all  spheres  of  life  in  the  1920s  and 30s.   It  was  the  relentless  struggle  of Periyar  that  was  instrumental  in  the amendment  of  The  Hindu  Marriage Act,   1955,   which  included  Section 7( A) to  declare  that  the  marriage  between  two  Hindus can  be  solemnised  by  exchanging  garlands,   rings and/ or  by  tying  the thaali.

We  should  remember  that  thousands  of  self- respect  marriages  have taken  place  without  waiting  for  legal sanction.   My  parents’   marriage  was one  among  those. Thanks  to  the  first Chief  Minister  of  the  Dravida  Munnettra  Kazhagam,   C. N.   Annadurai, who  was  known  as  Anna,   this amendment  was  brought  about  with retrospective  effect.   Otherwise,   I would  have  been  termed  an  illegitimate  child  even  though  my  father tied  the thaali to  my  mother.

The  self  respect  marriage  is  a  legal form  of  marriage.   We  have  a  long history  of  performing  the  marriage without  the thaali. It  is  all  the  more valid  in  terms  of  equality  and  self respect  for  women.

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PRECIS WRITING -- PRACTICE EXERCISE BASED ON CURRENT AFFAIRS Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan on 6:08:00 PM Rating: 5

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