Mangal Sutra

The mangal sutra worn by Santok Sagar.
The mangal sutra worn by Santok Sagar.

The mangal sutra is a necklace worn by married Hindu women to signify marriage and to wish health and prosperity upon their husbands. Within the Sagar family, living in Kodinar, in the state of Gujarat, India, the chain of the mangal sutra had been passed down by the family matriarch to one of her daughter-in-laws soon after marriage, as it had been received by Santok Sagar after her marriage to Bheetalal Sagar. Seeking economic stability, Bheetalal and his wife would travel to Aden Colony (present-day Yemen) in 1956 and Dubai (1964), with Santok continuing to wear her mangal sutra to maintain her religious duty to her husband despite living in multiethnic cities where Hindus comprised a minority. With Santok living away from her husband in India for several years in the 1960s and away from her in-laws, she lived an untraditional life for a Hindu wife, but retaining the usage of her mangal sutra enabled her to affirm her religious beliefs and customs. She and her husband finally returned to India in 1999 and later moved to New York in 2013 to be with their children, who had immigrated earlier. Although her daughters and daughter-in-laws do not wear their mangal sutras, citing detachment from Hinduism, Santok continues to do so, intending to pass the chain of hers to her eldest daughter-in-law. The meaning of the mangal sutra changed across generations with exposure to a globalized world, as traditions were thus modified in response. 

Place(s): Kodinar, Gujarat, India; Aden Colony; Dubai, U.A.E.; Brooklyn, NY, United States of America

– Priya Sagar

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more