Why Do Indian Women Wear Bangles?

Written by j.c. tolentino
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Why Do Indian Women Wear Bangles?
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Bangles are a type of rigid bracelet jewellery that today comes in many varieties, ranging from colourful plastic bracelets sold at chain stores to intricate, expensive gold jewellery. They are worn all over the world for style and fashion, but bangles originate in a set of specific customs in Indian and Pakistani culture. While some Indian men wear a single bangle called a "kara" after marriage, bangles (or "kangan") are almost always associated with Indian women, who wear them for a variety of occasions.

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Earliest Use

Bangles have been found in many archaeological sites in India, with the oldest examples dating back to 2,000 B.C. or earlier. Those early bangles were usually made from copper, bronze, agate, or shell and some feature rivets or gold-leaf decoration as well.

Marriage

While girls in traditional Indian society are allowed to wear bangles, married women are generally expected to wear bangles. The jewellery is primarily associated with matrimony, signifying marriage in the same way that the Western wedding ring does. Sikh brides wear red and white carved bangles called "chuda" on their wedding day. After a Hindu woman's husband dies, she breaks her glass wedding bangles in an act of mourning.

Color and Meaning

Glass bangles hold different meanings according to their colour. Some regions have specific bangles associated with their local traditions, and there is a more general colour code for bangles as well. Red bangles symbolise energy, blue bangles symbolise wisdom and purple symbolises independence. Green stands for luck or marriage and yellow is for happiness. Orange bangles mean success, white ones mean new beginnings and black ones mean power. Silver bangles mean strength, while gold bangles mean fortune.

Tradition and Beliefs

An Indian bride on her wedding day will sometimes attempt to put on as small a glass bangle as possible; smaller bangles are thought to symbolise more happiness during the honeymoon and afterward. Friends or sisters often aid the bride in this task by sliding the bangle on with scented oils. After the wedding, the woman continues to wear her bangles as a charm of safety and luck for her husband, and if the bangle breaks before the husband's death, it is considered an ill omen.

Production

The largest producer of glass bangles in India is Firozabad, located in Uttar Pradesh. A historical bangle market called Laad Bazar is located in Hyderabad, India, and has been operational for over 500 years. In Pakistan, most bangles come from the Pakistani region of Hyderabad, which is separate from the Indian region.

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