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Beads and Love and Marriage in India

Small, wound potti beads and imitation gold beads.

In northern India the groom gives his bride a Mangalsutra. It has small wound black glass beads called Potti. "Potti" is an old word; it is listed in Panini's dictionary of 600 B.C. or so. Gold beads and pendants are strung along with the small black beads. The amount of gold indicates the wealth of the groom. The precise fashion signifies the part of the country the couple comes from.

In South India a different string of beads is given at a wedding, a Tali. The word "tali" is also very old, being in the Sangam literature, written in the first few centuries A.D. At the time, it was a good luck charm for women and children. Strictly speaking, a Tali is now a saffron-dyed string. Onto it different beads and pendants are hung for the marriage necklace. Some pendants convey messages of their own, for example, which Hindu sect the couple worships.

Saffron tali and typical beads. The anthropomorphic pendants show on their backs that the couple worships Siva (far left) and Vishnu (center).

 And you thought only hippies had Love Beads.


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