The myth of Indian beauty, which has led so many authors to describe it, could hardly survive without sarees and other clothes but also without jewels!
We've talked about bindi already, but do you know the jewels that you can see on Indian women's arms, ankles, noses and hands?
An everyday care
Jewels are like words, for they convey much information about the woman wearing them. The amount and the worth of the jewellery will be different from one social background to the other; from one state to the other. Indian girls' dowries are partly made of jewels, hence the relation between gold jewels and high statuses. Gold is seen as a protective and purifying material; thus, if they can afford it, girls will choose to wear gold for special events.
Furthermore, some jewels are reserved to married women. Through the wedding ceremonial, many jewels are shown and will be worn during all the time of the marriage. When the husband dies, the woman ceases to wear and breaks them. To put it shortly, wearing jewels is a ritual in India and it means a lot to Indian women.
Let's see what jewels we're dealing with, and what they represent!
From head to toe
First, the head is tediously decorated. Apart from makeup, jewels are much more numerous than in our western culture!
During the wedding, a mangatika is put in the parting of the hair, with a pendant on the forehead called tikli.
In every day's life though, women only wear a bindi. The nose piercing is called moke ani and it is very frequent, for it is a sign of purity, and it is sometimes worn with a chain that goes up to the ear.
Ears are also pierced, from the youngest age. In Tamil Nadu, when the child has her ears pierced a ceremony called Kadhu Kuthu or Kadhani Vizha is organised. With a flower garland around the neck, the young girl (aged around 3) sits on her uncle's lap. He holds her through the time of her ear's piercing by another adult. It is around this period of time that parents begin to gather what is necessary for the dowry.
On the neck, in South India the married woman wears a tali, a gold chain that is the equivalent of western countries' wedding rings, for it is worn from the day of the wedding to the husband's death. At the bottom of the gold chain, gold and black beads separate several pendants, which are given by the mother through the generations. In other states, women wear a mangalsutra, which is a black beads necklace.
Indian women's arms are famous for their recognizable tinkling. They indeed have many bangles on, called churiyans, made of gold, silver or most often of glass. Before, those bangles were said to protect the husband and they were a symbol of his well-being. Today though, unmarried women wear them as well and they are just worn to be pretty.
But Indian women do not stop at the arms; they decorate their whole body! Indeed, many Indian women wear anklets. This tradition comes from ancient times in Tamil culture, for those anklets are described in one of the five most renown epics of Tamil literature entitled Silappatikaram (the Novel of the Ring) It is interesting to notice that in Hindi those anklets are called payal, which means chains and which were worn on the day of the wedding... Nowadays the anklets are worn only because they are a symbol of femininity.
Indian women take care of their appearance to the last detail: even toes are decorated with rings, which emphasize the marriage.
A women-only concern?
Not at all! Men also take care of their appearance and you can notice how proud they are to wear their famous moustaches!