The traditional Indian attire, across history, has boasted of accessories and ornaments truly unique to the culture. Be it the maang-tika that adorns a woman’s forehead or the payal that tunes her step – every ornament has a historical and cultural significance. One ornament that barely ever goes amiss on the arms of many Indian woman is the bangle.
Historically, bangles have been found to have their origins in the cultures of ancient Mohenjo-daro societies – in fact, a statue that was discovered from the 2500 B.C. showed a dancing woman wearing nothing but a set of bangles along her arm. While other cultures in Africa also consider the bangle an important part of their identity, it has remained an ingrained part of the Indian culture. The most interesting part of this everyday ornament? There are almost hundreds of different kinds of bangles that hold certain significance in different parts of India. Across the country, women hold bangles as a part of their identity and often their aesthetic. Here is a list of – types of bangles and the cultural significance of each.
I. Shakha Pola Of Bengal:
A black and red bangle on the wrist of a married Bengali woman – an overused Bollywood trope has been helpful in making this image popular. In the Bengali culture, the married woman consider this particular combination, called Shakha Pola extremely auspicious. While it is now considered a symbol of marriage, these bangles are rooted in an interested story. Back in the day, poor fisherman used to bring back conch shells for their wives, who powdered it and made bangles out of it. Eventually, it grew to be a tradition across the culture. The woman also wear a simple bangle made out of iron on their left wrist, called Loha. This is to ward off negativities. Shakha, Pola and Loha are the pride of Bengali women!
II. Green Bangles of Maharashtra
The women of Maharashtra, along with parts of Karnataka wear green bangles on their wrists. Green Bangles are considered a symbol of auspiciousness and fertility – and hence only married women wear these. A stand out in the traditional identity of the woman, the green bangles find a home in almost every Maharashtrian women.
III. Choora of Punjab:
Another symbol of marriage, the Choora of Punjabi women is a set of red bangles worn on both arms – the bride often wears them up to a year after her marriage! Traditionally, these bangles were made of ivory – though now it is often made of plastic. The tradition of Choora is adopted in parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan as well.
IV. Baju Band of West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan.
The Bajuband or the arm band is a type of bangle worn on the upper arm. Originally, rural men used to wear it – and in many areas, they still do. However, many women wear it now, too. In some cultures like that in West Bengal, Gujarat and Rajasthan, it is part of the traditional wedding getup. Historically, this was also a popular version of the Bangle adorned by Bharatnatyam dancers of the Dravidan region. This is one bangle that is not limited to marriage in its cultural significance. It is worn both by men and women, and its significance varies from acting as a material of protection in warns to warding off the evil eye.
V. Lac Bangles of Rajasthan
The women of Rajasthan love bangles – visit any local market, and you’ll see it yourself. While the young and old women of Rajasthan love to sport all types of bangles, they hold a certain bias towards Lac Bangles. Lac Bangles, available in a range of colours, are an intrinsic part of the Rajasthani culture. Certain colour combination of lac bangles are considered auspicious for specific occasions – like baby showers or bridal showers – like the Gulaali Choora. The most interesting part of this culture of lac bangles is how they are made. Pure lac is extracted from a special breed of plants that are fed insects like the Laccifer Lecca. The branches of this plant – known as sticklac – are crushed and made into the lac used for Rajasthan’s favourite bangles.
Of course, bangles have always been a fashion favourite for women. During Navratri, boxes and boxes of colourful bangles, all different shapes and sizes, are waded out of the storage in Gujarati households. In other cultures, a single iron bangle is worn around both wrists, called the kada. The bangle makes a colourful journey across the country, a journey through different cultures, customs and traditions. Although different in its colours, shapes and the symbols attached to it, the bangle finds a place of utmost respect and significance in every culture.
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