Threads that Connect watercolor and ink by Meera Rao
India Art Journal 2015
I was attracted to the orange cloth glowing in the sunlight and all the shadow play I encountered at the top of the Chamundi Hill (Mysuru) near temple premises. There were a few others who were also selling these threads(Mauli) but only one was in the traditional sacred orange clothing and working diligently organizing his threads of different colors. Each color sacred thread has significance of its own in Hinduism. They are usually tied to right wrist (usually for both genders) or left(certain occasions for women) to ward off evil eye or for prosperity and good health and for smooth completion or progression of any important ceremony. The threads are used during pooja by the devotees, by bride and groom during wedding, and for "rakhi bandan' by sister on brother's wrist as a talisman - for protection and well being. The threads tether us to other humans, to the sacred spirits; to the yearning for a universal connection.
In my research I discovered that this custom is followed by others as well - around the globe, across cultures and religions: From wikipedia : Wearing a thin scarlet or crimson string (Hebrew: חוט השני) as a type of talisman is a Jewish folk custom as a way to ward off misfortune brought about by the "evil eye" (Hebrew: עין הרע). The tradition is popularly thought to be associated with Kabbalah and religious forms of Judaism.
More interesting information from Sean Doyle's article on Sacred Thread:
"Throughout Indian history the exchange of a thin cotton, wool or silk thread tied kingdoms together and sealed political alliances. In one recount of the Battle of the Hydaspes River, it is said that the King Porus refrained from striking Alexander the Great, because the Alexander’s wife had tied a scared thread to Porus’ hand, urging him not to hurt her husband.
A scarlet or red thread runs through many cultures.
The red string of fate or the thread of destiny appears in both Chinese and Japanese legends. According to myth, the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles of those that are destined to meet each other or help each other in a certain way. In one myth, two people connected by the red thread are destined to be lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The cord may stretch or tangle across the years, but it will never break.
In traditional Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies, the tying on of holy cotton threads restores the natural order of things and brings people closer together. The red thread is specifically associated with bravery.
And this sacred tie is not limited to East Asia.
In Greek mythology, Theseus rescued himself out from the labyrinth of the Minotaur by following a red thread that was given to him by Ariadne. Nikos Kazantzakis, in making myths modern again, points to the scarlet tread that runs through and connects all people, friends and strangers, regardless of culture. It is our common humanity.
In Judaism, wearing a thin red string on the left wrist is an old custom thought to ward off misfortune brought about by the “evil eye”. Rahab tied scarlet rope to two scouts so they could enter Jericho unseen. Jabob’s wife Rachel, the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, wrapped a red thread around her son’s wrist to protect him from evil. Still today, we tie a long red string around her burial stone. This sacred symbol recalls Rachel’s selflessness, reminding us to emulate her modest ways of consideration and compassion for others, while giving charity to the poor and needy. More than a way to protect one from evil or harm, the crimson thread is an internal reflection that inspires good deeds and kindness."
Measuring and Selling 5.5x8" watercolor and ink on 140 lb Strathmore visual Journal