By Ashok Bhargava
VANCOUVER: Have you ever heard of lovelocks? Don’t bother if you haven’t.
Until recently I too hadn’t heard of lovelocks either. On my last trip to South Korea, I found thousands of padlocks hanging on fences with short messages, names and pictures of hearts drawn on them at various places. It was amazing to see so many lovelocks at so many different places that I became curious to find out the reason for these colorful padlocks at public places.
I found out that lovelock is a custom by which padlocks are affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or a similar public fixture by sweethearts and the keys are thrown away to symbolize their everlasting love. This custom is based on the belief that the only way to break the seal of love brought on by this lovelock act is to find the key and unlock the padlock.
Of course, that is nearly impossible, since the keys have been thrown away. The lovelocks have been a phenomenon in various cities in Europe but it is a relatively new custom in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, which I did not know.
Although lovelocks can be tied anywhere, somehow certain spots seem to become popular and many lovers flock to those places to tie their padlocks.
While in Korea I read in a local newspaper that the love-lock-fences at some of the tourist places were in danger of collapse due to the weight of the padlocks. I am not sure what city authorities have done to handle that problem in Seoul.
For those of you who haven’t heard of them, here’s the story I found by doing some research on the lovelocks. I found out that there is a Bridge of Love named after the love padlocks in Serbia that was built before the Second World War. A tragic love story is associated with this name. There was a schoolmistress named Nada who fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they committed to each other Relja went to war in Greece where he fell in love with another woman. As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered from that devastating blow, and after some time she died due to heartbreak from her unfortunate love.
As young girls from Nada’s town wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names, together with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and affixing them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet. The story of Nada and Relja is very similar to stories of Heer and Ranjha, Sohni and Mahiwal & Sassi and Punnu from south Asia.
The custom of lovelocks reminds me of places in India, usually a tree or a stone statue where people would tie a thread and make a wish. The idea that a wish would be granted by a tree or a stone statue originates in the belief that deities live in them and possess the power to grant wishes.
These colorful threads hanging and swaying in wind present very soothing scenes. I think it has been a common human desire to have their wishes come true and their love for sweethearts immortalized.
This new phenomenon of lovelocks may have historical and psychological roots in ‘thread tying customs” of India. The Mughal Emperor Akbar of India, seeking a male heir to his throne visited a well known Sufi saint Salim Chisti and soon a son was born to him. Now many people think that if they tie a thread to the marble windows of Chisti’s Dargah (mausoleum) their wishes will be fulfilled.
A wishing well is another custom where a well is thought to have power to grant any wish. People would throw coins and make a wish. The Germanic and Celtic people considered springs and wells sacred places. The custom of throwing coins seems to have come from the Germanic people who would throw the armour and weapons of defeated enemies into the wells, bogs and other pools of water as offerings to their gods to please them and bestow good luck on them.
These days, I have seen people tossing coins into fountains in shopping malls to make a wish.
The futility of urge to tie lovelocks to seal the love relationship is captured in the following poem:
Lovers can hear whispers of sweet hearts, loud and clear
to pursue their conviction without a flicker of doubt or fear.
Love can travel out-of-body through time and space
to find out palpitation of a beloved hidden in any place.
It can walk on water, read minds and speak tongues
unwittingly enter the war zones to fight the mightiest guns.
True love entwines souls together and never passes away
its spell binding charm never ever decay.
So why tie threads or locks, loyalty alone endures
even in the darkest moments love-candle burns bright and pure.
(Ashok Bhargava is the president of Writers International Network Canada)