How Bugadi Ear Pieces Came To Be Coveted By South Asian Communities

How Bugadi Ear Pieces Came To Be Coveted By South Asian Communities

Jewellery has always occupied a special space in South Asian culture and femininity. As these pieces hold onto a part of the past and reveal many insightful details about the shared heritage. While culture in South Asia is vibrant and diverse, oftentimes we can notice an overlap of aesthetics in many artistic areas, especially jewellery and ornaments. 

One such ornament being a two sided ear piece, known as Koppu, Bugadi and Bugudi in various parts of India. The innovative ornament was worn by women all over Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and more. These ornaments are also worn by Raja Ravi Varma’s artistic muse in almost every painting, as they were used to denote a certain kind of women and aura. 

Worn in the helix region of the ear, this single ornament has such intricate handwork that their rare pieces are stored in Victoria & Albert Museum (taken during the British rule). The basic pattern is a thin, long, hollow plug with screw which is secured by little spherical designs at both ends. According to present day researchers, wearing a Bugadi was a social custom during olden times but remains relevant in Maharashtra even today.

L: V&A Collection (Tamil Nadu, c.1885) ; R: Maharashtrian Lady painted by Raja Ravi Verma

There is some correlation between specific castes in the Hindu tier and their connections with Bugadi, however they have now dispersed over to many communities. According to Waltraud Ganguly, author of the book ‘Earrings: Ornamental Identity and Beauty in India’, the disc shaped Bugadis with geometric designs were probably worn by Non Hindus of Kerala and Sri Lanka as well. 

The special ornament is not as prevalent in South Asia anymore however many contemporary labels are resurrecting this part of our heritage through their modernised Bugadi’s. Visual photo series by pages like Papreeka Tales are also documenting their rare presence on the streets of India. With the growing resurgence, we can hope to understand the origins of the unique ornament better. 

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