Since ancient times, Thali is the ultimate symbol of a married Tamil woman. It’s the proof of a sacred relationship that the wife shares with her husband from the day of their union.
According to the traditional belief system, Thali stands for both Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, i.e. both the creator and the destroyer.
In its literal meaning, Thali means a pendant. The string used is a special yellow thread that holds the pendant strongly to the wives neck and is symbolic of her matrimony. It’s as precious and revered as her loving husband itself.
It has two pieces that are given by both sides of the family depicting the inclusion of the couple in both families.
Tamil women wear Thali as a proclamation of their marriage and their allegiance to the institution of the marriage, to the entire world. In turn, the Thali is considered as the guardian who protects the beholder from all troubles small and big.
Religious ritual and origin
There is also a special prayer done by women to show respect to Thali. It’s called the Sumangali pooja that is done to increase the lifespan of their Thali (husband).
While in temples, women apply kumkum and vibhuti (holy ash) to the Thali while praying for good health and long life of their husbands.
Wearing a Thali was made popular during the 11th Century AD when its reference was made in the poems of religious Poet - Katchiyappa Sivachariar. In this book of poems on Lord Murgan, he mentioned the word Potrali meaning a gold Thali.
Several other poets in the 12th century have glorified the tradition and written detailed verses on the ritual of tying Thali during the holy moment of the marriage.
Like everything else, the Thali has also undergone a lot of variations over time. Tamils who are devotees of Shiva, have three horizontal lines on their Thali and devotees of Vishnu have three vertical lines.
Many sub-castes have further defined their own designs of their Thalis and every sect has a specific meaning for the design.
In the present times
As of today, no Tamil marriage is complete without tying the Thali. In fact it’s the most important moment of the marriage and it officiates the social acceptance of the man and woman as a couple.
During the wedding the Thali is taken around the wedding hall and it’s customary for the guests to bless the Thali by placing their hands on the tray and praying for a long happy life for the couple.
The husband has to tie three knots with the Thali thread on wife’s neck during the auspicious moment of their marriage day.
The entire process of tying the Thali starts when the bride enters the hall draped in the Koorai saree and sits on the Manavarai. If the bride has an elder sister then they help the groom in tying the knots.
There is a special wedding music played during the knot tying ceremony and the priest usually signals it by saying Gettimelam Gettimelam.
This is done to ward of any negative vibes from anyone while the knots are being tied as its believed that gods bless the couple at this holy moment and no unhappy feeling should reach their ears and only happy and positive feelings and emotions should go to them as they bless the couple.
The thali confirms the marriage and marks the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of the couple who are married as per the rich tradition of the Tamil culture.
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