The northern Karnataka districts of Ballari, Koppal, Davanagere, Chitradurga and Raichur witnessed over the past two days thousands of married women destroying red coral beads on their mangalsutras, following a rumour that those with these beads on mangalsutras could lose their husbands.
The smashing of beads stopped only on Wednesday night only after the women learnt through television channels that the rumours were fake.
The latest episode is not a first in these districts, where people are poorly educated, but have access to communication devices like cellphones. Earlier too, superstitious rumours have driven people to bizarre acts in these areas.
“I got a call from a woman in my village around 3.30 am on Wednesday. She asked me to destroy red beads in my Mangalasutra, warning that my husband could die if I did not do it,” said Leela Mallikarjun, a resident of Karatagi village in Koppal district. Another woman from the village, Sharanamma, said she destroyed the beads despite being separated from her husband for over a year.
Mallikarjun said that she did not heed to the rumours since they were nothing new in the area. “Recently, there was a rumour that if married women beg for one rupee coins from at least five houses and then offer them at a temple, all their problems would be solved. There was another rumour this year that women must throw silver footrings into a river for the well-being of their husbands. A few years ago, a rumour spread that women must gift their nephews a bracelet for their good health,” she said.
“Nobody knows who starts such rumours. But they seem to profit some people. Each bead in a mangalasutra costs around Rs 400. Now, thousands of women who have destroyed them will buy new beads once they are convinced that it was a rumour,” she said. Following the panic, the state Women and Children Welfare department has asked officials to take steps to prevent the spread of fake messages in northern districts.