Ringing More Than One Bell?
The importance of an engagement ring is immense… even a Pandemic-hit world is not an exception to it! A young Indian-origin gentleman and a lady recently visited a lake in London, for their pre-engagement photo-session. During this time, the diamond-studded engagement ring slipped from the young lady’s finger into the lake, all of a sudden! The prospective groom tried his best to recover the ring, but did not succeed in his attempts. Finally, a diver found the ring after a few hours of search in the murky waters of the lake. This seemingly trivial piece of news may prompt one to blame the custom of exchanging rings during marriage. Others may recall the world-famous novels to find reason behind the custom.
In different versions of the ancient Indian epic ‘Ramayana‘, it has been mentioned that Hanuman (the Monkey or Valiant Vanara) proved himself to be the messenger of Lord Rama, by showing the latter’s ring to Sita, the wife of Lord Rama, at Ashoka Forest (or Ashoka Vatika). In William Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’, the Venetian Jewish moneylender, Shylock, had to face defeat at the court. Still, the climax of the play is the ring episode. The heroine, Portia, asked her husband, Bassanio, why his finger was devoid of the ring that was given to him as a gesture of Love? Bassanio informed her that he was forced to give it to the lawyer. Portia said that had he the slightest respect for his oath and honour, he would not have given that ring to someone else. Even marital relation and the wedding ring become closely involved with one other in Portia’s dialogue. She made it clear that she would not share the bed with her husband, if he failed to show her the ring! Often, the ring becomes the source of Personal or Political Power!
The question arises here: What will happen to those who cannot afford to purchase valuable rings? Was the marriage of the primitive tribal people useless due to the absence of this custom? Actually, the beauty of the ring lies elsewhere. The Greeks were the first to fashion golden rings. In a way, the Greeks had introduced the custom of exchanging rings especially during marriage. In most of the religious practices, it is a widely accepted custom. There is no restriction in exchanging rings in case of institutional marriage or live-in relationship or whatsoever. In fact, a wedding ring is always worn by people on the fourth finger of the left hand. It is believed that there is a vein in the fourth finger on our left hand that connects straight to our heart and makes our bond with our partner stronger. This helps one create a bond that is near to her/his heart, which lasts long and her/his love becomes stronger. Sometimes, the hand varies from culture to culture, but the finger stays the same.
The wedding ring of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton belonged to her mother-in-law Diana, the Princess of Wales. From Shakespeare’s Portia to Kate Middleton, the ring has always been a symbol of women’s strength in the marital realm. The importance or value of a ring has returned to human culture in many ways, time and again.
In Lee Falk‘s adventure comic strip, signature of the character Phantom is his two rings. While one has a pattern formed like four crossing sabres, The Good Mark, which he leaves on visitors whom he befriends, placing the person under his protection, the other, The Evil Mark or Skull Mark takes the shape of a skull, which leaves a scar of the corresponding shape on the enemies he punches with it. The Phantom wears the Good Mark in his left hand because it is closer to the heart, and the Evil Mark in his right hand.
Even before Lee Falk (April 28, 1911 – March 13, 1999), John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (January 3, 1892 – September 2, 1973) narrated the importance of ring in his ‘The Lord of the Rings‘. In this epic fantasy adventure novel, the ring can be used to dominate imaginary humanselves, ghosts, dwarves and all other creatures. According to the author, the ring triggers bloody wars between various countries. One finds the ring after a few millennia. However, he becomes a strange creature, called Gollum, after spending a few centuries in the possession of that ring. Originally called Sméagol, this hobbit (Gollum) went on to become an non-recognisable and disfigured creature under the power of the ring. Although he lost the ring many years ago, it still held its power over him, and he continued to follow the ring wherever it went.
It seems quite obvious that one, who is involved in procuring such miracle rings capable of working wonders, would definitely want to dominate others through it. It is a human tendency to compare it with Democracy (read Elected Autocracy) dominated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In fact, Oxford Professor Tolkien had reportedly penned The Lord of the Rings on the basis of Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitism and the imaginary world after the Second World War.
Once, the English-American actress, Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011), reportedly mentioned that each ornament in her collection had a different story to tell. The diver, who rescued the ring from the Lake in London during the COVID-19 Pandemic, is an environmentalist. He did not demand money from the couple, but asked for donations for their organisation to protect the lake. The story of Portia is of the 16th Century. It is quite natural that the modern tales of ring will be different. Eventually, the environment will be protected, instead of being destroyed. The stories about rings of each era have portrayed contemporary cultures.
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