Significance of Bangles for Hindu Ladies (Post No.3378)

Written by London Swaminathan


Date: 22 November 2016


Time uploaded in London: 10-14 AM


Post No.3378


Pictures are taken from various sources; they are representational only; thanks.








Hindu Ornaments- Part 2 (Please read first part of this article posted yesterday.)


Glass bangles


Those who, from poverty or any other cause cannot obtain any jewels whatever, have glass bangles. To be without these is a mark of widowhood. It is a universal rule that all Hindu females, from their very childhood should wear these bangles. A widow may wear gold bracelets, but not glass ones. A little infant of a month old has one or two glass bangles on its little wrist by the fond mother, and number increases with the age of the child. Some females wear a few, whilst others have on a dozen or more, nearly covering the arm from the wrist upwards.


An angry woman will sometimes smash all her loved bangles before her husband’s face. such an act is as much as saying, “I would I were a widow”, and it a very dreadful thing to do. Common bangles will sell at about four for one anna (one penny), whilst the better ones are half-an-anna or an anna each (it was written in 1908). The colours vary, black, blue and green being the usual ones. As a rule, the same colours are worn indifferently by all classes, the better class people having the finer and more expensive kinds.


Decking with Bangles

For a pregnant Hindu lady bangles have additional significance. During the first pregnancy of a Hindu woman, she is decked with lot of bangles on a particular day in the seventh or eighth month of her pregnancy. Lot of ladies will come and adorn her with different colour bangles and they will also get new bangles from the house of the pregnant lady. They believe the child could hear the tingling sound of the bangles every day and feel happy. This ceremony is called Valai Kappu in Tamil (Wearing bangles) and Seemantham in Sanskrit.



Bangles and Castes!


There are, however, a few varieties affected by some of the castes. The females of the cowherd caste, for instance, usually wear a peculiar kind in which the ground is black, but ornamented with green spots or streaks. The toddy caste, again, have a kind. In addition to the glass it is usual for coloured ones made of be lac to be worn, two on each arm; that is the first and last bangle is usually one of this kind. The cost of these is more than those made of glass, and ornamented with various colours and bits of glass so as to produce a very pretty effect. The bangle man is a well-known person and may constantly be met, with his strings bangles over his shoulder. He has his usual rounds and appears to meet with a very hearty welcome.


The bangles are put on by the bangle-man, and it seems a very painful process for the poor female, She sits on the ground in front of the manipulator, and he, seated tailor fashion takes her hand in his, and begins the operation, kneading and pressing with practised fingers. He now and then soothes the sufferer by pointing out the beauty that will be the result of the pain. The wonder is, the circles being so small, how they can be got over the hand at all; but the Hindu hand is very supple the operator knows how to press and squeeze so as to accomplish his purpose. The painful operation must, however, be done, and the sooner it is over and the less fuss made about it the better. The lac bangle is not put on over the hand in this way; it is cut and pressed open and, after a piece or two has been snipped off to make it the proper size, the ends are heated and pressed together when they readily join.

The ornaments hitherto enumerated are ordinarily made of gold, the glass bangles excepted. The body or inner part of the jewel may be of copper or lead, especially in the larger sized ones but silver is only worn by poor people. The women of the Lambardi and some other gypsy tribes are ornamented in most profuse and barbarous fashion, Full blown flower like silver ornaments, with numerous small globular pendants tinkling, softly like little bells fall over their hair; large and heavy bracelets of brass, or ivory, even painted wood are on their wrists. Their heavy brass anklets, which are hollow and contain little pellets give out a tinkling sound as they walk along. The dress of these women is quite different from that of ordinary Hindu females; it is very picturesque even grotesque, in its shape and material.


There is a lavish ornamentation of beads and cowry shells sewn on to the close fitting jacket and to “the bag like pockets which dangle at side of their parti-coloured skirts.


The ornaments for the female waist, are more often made of silver than of gold, especially the anklets and toe rings. A broad zone of gold or  silver, with clasps, is worn round the waist by those who can afford it. This is sometimes plain and times ornamented with raised work. The effect is very pleasing in contrast with the bright coloured raiment which picturesquely envelopes the figure. The anklets are of various shapes and sizes. Some are circular, like the bracelets for the wrists, whilst others are formed so as to curve over the ankles. Some are chains, whilst others have attached to them a number of little bells which tinkle tinkle with a soft and pleasant sound, as the wearer moves about.

(Toe ring picture is from Wikipedia;thanks)

Toe rings

Silver rings of various kinds are worn on the toes. There must always be one ring on the middle toe of one or both feet. If  through this extreme poverty a silver ring cannot be obtained  for this toe, then one of bell-metal will be used instead. The shape of these rings for the toes of females differs from that those for men, in that they are usually shaped like two or three twists of wire; hence the Telugu name for  women’s toe rings is tsuttu, which means a twist round. Married women wear a peculiar shaped ring on the fourth toe which has an embossed ornament on the top. Men’s toe rings are more like ordinary finger rings, except that they can be pulled open and pressed again, when put on or taken off.


All these ornaments are not worn at one and the same time, but it is astonishing how many jewels can be crowded on to the person. So imperative is it at weddings that the bride should be decked out in jewels, that they are freely borrowed and as freely lent by the neighbours and friends upon so important an occasion.

Source The Hindu at Home , Year 1908.


(Please read my research article about Egyptian Mummies discovered with toe rings, posted last year.)





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