Significance of Jewelry in India
Just a few weeks before my marriage, my mom sat with me to showcase my wedding jewelry and I was listening to her just like how I paid attention to the professors during our college days. She had ordered almost everything from tip to toe, from earrings and jhumkis to waistband and toe rings all in silver and gold. After her explanation, I popped the question she least expected “whom are you going to give this to?” and she gave me one of her hot favorites “I-will-kill-you look.” With no choice, I was forced to accept all of them as it’s a ritual at my in-laws that the newly-wed bride should look nothing less than the porcelain models at jewelry shops, all dolled up with gold and silver ornaments.
Well, coming back to the topic, I asked my mom whether she knew why it was sooooo necessary to have all the ornaments in place (a faint attempt to enquire if I can just do with the necklace as that was the prettiest thing I could find in the collection). Although, she knew the actual reason of only half of them, she left me to find out the information for the other half-a-dozen of pieces. Here are some of them:
The tika is a composite ornament composed of a chain with a hook at one end and a pendant at the other. The hook holds the tika at the hair end, while the pendant falls on the exact center of the forehead. This place is believed to house the ‘ajna’ (agya to be precise) chakra. This chakra stands for preservation. Significantly, this chakra is visualized as having two petals, and its presiding deity is Ardhanarishvara, the half-male, half-female androgyne. This represents the ultimate union where no dualities exist. In tantric terms, this signifies the union of the male and female elements in nature, at all levels, including the physical.
Nath (Nose Ring):
Indeed amongst the many jewels with which the Indian woman adorns herself, the nose ornament (nath) is the perhaps the most seductive. An integral part of traditional bridal jewelry, many aristocratic families have a special nath brought out at weddings to be worn by the bride.
This is now perhaps the only occasion on which today’s urban woman wears the nath, evoking its powerful seductive charm.
This was the only piece of accessory I have always had a fascination for. No matter what the shape, size or price be; if I liked it, I wanted in my vanity. According to legend, evil spirits were thought to be able to enter the body through any of its openings and take control. By appending ornaments to almost every part of the ear, the woman also ensured a continuous state of mental and physical well being. Indeed recent studies have identified the ear as a microcosm of the entire body – “the point of vision in acupuncture is situated in the center of the lobe.”
Because necklaces are often worn near the heart, they can be used to work on emotions, or to attract or strengthen love. By wearing a necklace of stones for example, it is believed that we are binding ourselves with their powers. From earliest times, protective pendants, necklaces and strings of beads, as well as elaborate ornamental collars, were worn around the neck to bring good luck and avert the evil eye. The necklace also served as a protection against any attempt at hypnotizing, since such an effort would have had to start with a concentrated gaze at the wearer’s face, an attempt which the necklace effectively undermined. A necklace in this manner acted as a powerful restraint against undesirable gentlemen trying out their charms on virtuous maidens.
When we were leaving for our native for my brother’s marriage, my husband commented probably we’ll have lesser baggage when we return. Almost 180 degrees opposite to his imagination, apart from other loads, the heaviest thing I got back was a big case of at least 7 bangle sets, each of at least two dozen. Indeed more than any other single jewelry form in India, the bangle has been crafted from the widest variety of materials. From simple plain circlets of metal, to ones decorated with etched and repousse designs, to fabulous examples with bird and animal-head terminals and studded with gems, these circlets symbolize the potent energy of the sun. Besides being a mark of a married woman, these have enormous romantic and amorous connotations. The tinkling sound of women’s bangles is full of significant messages expressing her presence, her wish for attention, her anger or desire to exchange glances.
This much for now, will come up with more jewel pieces and their significance for the second part of this article as putting up all the “Solah Shringar” items in one will become another “mausam” type story which can be tolerated only till the interval.
This is me at my wedding, decked up with half the things my mom gave me.
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