What goes around comes back around. The saying holds true even in the world of fashion. Indian retro fashion looks like bandanas, bugadi ear pieces, haathphool, beehive hairstyles winged eyeliners and more are making a strong comeback with a distinctly modern touch. Speaking of old is gold in fashion, today we are looking at the iconic paranda, the Punjabi hair accessory and its millennial ties, woven with pop culture nostalgia and its renewed identity as a fashion statement.
During my childhood, I used to often visit my Amar’s house. He was my best friend from school and we did everything together, up until his family left for France when we were in standard five. I recall how Noor Aunty (Amar’s mother) and buaji (Ama’s aunt) used to always treat me with the utmost warmth, affection and the best culinary delights. As time passes, memories fade, but there are some childhood memories that are as vivid as daylight. One definite thing I remember from my innumerable days spent in Amar’s house was the way Noor Aunty and buaji (Amar's aunt) would style their hair. Colorful beads and sometimes cowrie shells would hang from the bottom of their thickly braided hair. Hailing from a Bengali household, an accessory like that was new to me — I did not know back then what it was called but I clearly remember being fascinated by it.
Now, years have passed since Amar’s family moved. However, over the past couple of years, the paranda has made its resurgence in both retail and fashion and one can see several artisanal Indian brands promoting it. While each brand adds its own unique contemporary touch to it, it still holds immense nostalgia value and each time I see stylized parandas on Instagram or some fashion magazine, I am reminded of my happy childhood days at Amar’s house.
The paranda or parandi, a traditional adornment, stands as a captivating symbol of South Asian fashion heritage. Handcrafted with care, this exquisite hair accessory conventionally weaves together layers of woolen and silk threads, entwining seamlessly with the wearer's hair. Divided into three distinct parts — the Surahi, Angoori, and the ornamental ends known as the 'Flower'— the paranda exudes elegance and charm. Its vibrant hues, adorned with tassels, mirrors, fabric florals, and gota ribbons, cascade gracefully below the natural hair, transforming the Punjabi gutt (braid) into a poetic masterpiece.
Delving into the rich history of parandas, we discover the craft's origins as a cherished tradition practiced by women in their homes. Patolis, skilled craftspeople from the Patwa clan, have long been entrusted with the art of paranda making. These artisans, found in Multan's Sarafa Bazaar, meticulously work with silk threads to fashion exquisite jewellery and accessories. The paranda, with its intricate designs and meticulous hand-knotting process facilitated by thullu (stone and wooden structures), reflects the shared heritage of South Asian objects and the rituals of shringara (beauty rituals).
While honoring this heritage, contemporary brands like Ziddi have embraced the paranda's allure, infusing it with a modern twist to captivate a millennial audience. Collaborating with Patwa artisans in rural Rajasthan, Ziddi showcases the artistry of traditional threadwork. Their parandas are adorned with ghungroos (metallic bells), cushioned cotton hearts in vibrant colors, metallic bugle beads, and textile charms. The traditionally black-hued extensions, reminiscent of South Asian natural hair, are now dipped in a vivid palette ranging from rani pink to mossy greens.
The paranda's significance extends beyond its aesthetic appeal. It holds a special place in the hearts of many (like me), evoking nostalgia and fond memories. In an insightful article written by Snigdha Ahuja, she mentions how Aashna Singh, founder of the artisanal fashion brand Olio, reflects on her Sikh upbringing during one of her advertisement campaigns. Singh recalls the paranda's presence during family gatherings and celebrations. She marvels at the fact that South Asian culture has ornamentations for all parts of the body and also shares how graceful a dancer looks while wearing a paranda.
Punjabi folk songs, with their timeless melodies, often pay homage to traditional ornaments like the paranda, koka (nose pin), and jhanjhar (anklet). These songs weave tales of love, loss, and celebration, where the sway of the paranda and the luster of its gilded details take center stage. The paranda becomes a visual spectacle, entwined with braids as they twirl and fly in joyful circles during keekli, a playful folk dance move.
As we explore the changing paradigms of the paranda, we witness its influence in various art forms and their intersections, as well. Renowned visual artists like Jasjyot Singh Hans find inspiration in the paranda's celebratory essence, drawing from childhood memories of their shimmering presence in his mother's almirah. For Hans, the paranda represents an extension of Sikh identity, with women depicted in his artwork adorned with serpentine braids that carry symbolic meaning. The paranda, for him, is a fabulous celebration of hair and identity, that also resonates with the queer community and their appreciation for beauty and self-expression.
The paranda has transcended time and continues to captivate hearts with its intricate craftsmanship and cultural significance. It remains a cherished symbol of South Asian beauty, weaving together tradition and modernity. The paranda is a undoubtedly an elegant accessory that can seamlessly fit into your fashion arsenal.
Click here to checkout Ziddi's paranda collections.