Married women cover their heads with a ghoonghat… out of sight, out of mind. If you happen to catch them without one, you would see a bright red mark (sindhoor made from lead oxide) to warn you to look away. For those who like to check out the torso before looking at someone’s face… there will be a mangalsoothra hanging. If you observe from the side, there will be chuda (6-8 inches of bangles.. white red). For those with foot fetish, there are silver toe-rings worn only by married women.
All this makes me wonder why would anybody go to such lengths to make sure that their marital status is rightly advertised? Irrespective of from which angle you observe, whether its a shadow or a partial glimpse… there is no excuse for a a guy to confuse a married woman with a bachelorette.
On the other hand there are no corresponding marks worn by men. Due to Christian/Western influence some men do wear rings/bands, but this is more out of fashion and not due to cultural/religious beliefs.
In my earlier post, I wrote about how some woman make sure that their presence if felt (even when they are away). But except human beings, no other animal mark their body or wear signs to show their relationship status. But again man is an aberration as no other creature on this planet practices anything remotely close to a marriage.
As many feminist argue, marriage is a remnant of patriarchal institutions that existed for millenniums. Through a public ceremony, the whole society was notified that the women is in a relationship. This allowed men to travel for war & trade for extended periods without the fear of returning to an empty nest. (finding that their wives have eloped elsewhere). Even today’s Indian laws on adultery highlight the same perception… men are punished for having sex with someone else’s wife and not the adulterous wives. (even though, in the true sense its the wife who broke the contract not the outsider)
Although humans developed a concept of kinship & family early on, the early hunter gatherers developed marriage only around the time of extended military campaigns. Yes, you would blame me for linking wars & military history with everything.
A nice article on how the institution of marriage has evolved in the past 2 decades