Sunday Debate: The Mangalsutra Mix

  • Does the Bvlgari piece marry tradition with today, or does it take forward archaic ideas of patriarchy?
Bvlgari’s launch of their mangalsutra with Priyanka Chopra Jonas sparked a debate on its patriarchal symbolism
Bvlgari’s launch of their mangalsutra with Priyanka Chopra Jonas sparked a debate on its patriarchal symbolism
Updated on Sep 11, 2021 10:25 PM IST
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By Sujata Assomull, Eshaa Amin

“The reinterpretation of the mangalsutra is culturally insensitive”

Sujata Assomull
Sujata Assomull

In an Instagram post, Priyanka Chopra Jonas says she has been discussing making a mangalsutra for “almost three years,” with Bvlgari, yet when she got married three years ago, she had Sabyasachi create a bespoke mangalsutra. Do the math.

In another post, she says, “I’m a longtime fan, not only of their designs, but their love of my country and their celebration of the most natural resources of India.” This reinterpretation of the mangalsutra is about Bvlgari cashing in on the multi-billion dollar Indian wedding market.

Only to be worn by married women, the mangalsutra has been called out for being a symbol of patriarchy. But, those who want to wear one, should. I wore one when I was married, for traditional occasions. As for this piece design, as someone who does own Bvlgari jewellery, I do not find it aesthetically pleasing. But today’s brides are questioning such symbols, I have heard some young girls call it “a dog leash”. Bvlgari’s reinterpretation of the mangalsutra is culturally insensitive.

It seems less about paying respect to Indian culture than about a foreign brand cashing in on the multi-billion dollar Indian wedding market.

If Bvlgari had really wanted to show their love of India, why did they not work with Indian artisans to make the piece?

--Sujata Assomull

 Sujata Assomull is a Dubai-based fashion journalist, author, and the launch editor of Harper’s Bazaar India

“Modernisation is not a big deal. I had a local jeweller make me a bracelet mangalsutra”

Eshaa Amin
Eshaa Amin

The fact that Bvlgari has modernised the mangalsutra has caught eyeballs across the world, bringing up again the issue of whether the mangalsutra is a symbol of patriarchy or simply a tradition that can be continued in modern times.

Modernisation is not a big deal. I had a local jeweller make me a bracelet mangalsutra which I wear regularly, stacked with my watch and other bracelets. I own a traditional mangalsutra for functions and festivities.  

A lot of jewellers make modern mangalsutras with a simple gold chain, two black beads, and maybe a diamond in the middle. My mother has one.  

Bvlgari has pretty much done the same thing. Its mangalsutra is an interesting concept, definitely a statement piece that stands out. You can’t team it with a simple T-shirt, but it works as something brides can wear during pheras. I would have considered if it had been around when I got married! 

The mangalsutra is not a symbol of patriarchy but tradition, and wearing it is a personal choice. The fact that Bvlgari has designed one shows the continuing evolution of design and how our culture has gone global. I won’t be surprised if an international celebrity wears it at a wedding.   

--Eshaa Amin

Eshaa is a Bollywood celebrity stylist, fashion director, wardrobe and wedding stylist

From HT Brunch, September 12, 2021

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021