Despite the Western influence these days, Indian women still turn to traditional jewellery options when accessorizing especially for social occasions. Some items are worn on a daily basis too. In most Indian cultures, jewellery is exchanged as a gift during the wedding but most women continue adding to their collection, be it made of precious metals or costume jewellery to accompany a specific outfit.
Indian jewellery art forms also vary from one region to another, with some prominent ones being Kundan, Meenakari, Jadau, and Filigree work. So what are some of these traditional Indian jewellery pieces? Here’s a quick run-through of some of the more common types and from where it originates. The names of some of these items may vary by region and dialect.
Maangtika and Jhoomar
The maangtika is a traditional head piece worn most often at weddings, traditionally by the Hindu bride. It consists of a metallic string, with an attractive pendant attached at one end, which may be of any shape and adorned with precious or semi-precious stones. The maangtika is worn at the middle parting of the hair. Muslim brides wear a jhoomar, which is a similar beautiful ornamental head piece, on one side of the forehead.
This is the traditional Indian nose ring, most commonly worn on the left nostril. Designs vary, based on traditions followed in different parts of the country. The Punjabis of north India wear the Shikarpuri nath, consisting of a big golden ring with a slender chain connecting it to the hair. The nath is often adorned with precious stones and gems, even along the connecting chain.
A simpler version of the Shikarpuri nath is the nathni, popular among the women of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The Mahatashtrians wear the guchhedar nath, which comes in interesting shapes and is adorned with gems, stones, and pearls. Among the women of Kerala and Karnataka, the nath takes on the shape of a lotus or a swan and is known as the mukkhutti.
Bajuband and Vanki
These are traditional armlets worn on the upper arm. They often have to be secured in place with a gold string. Armlets were traditionally worn by Indian men and women. Some common designs on them include creepers or snakes entwining.
This is an attractive band worn around the waist, over the traditional Indian outfit. The traditional ones are quite heavy, consisting of intricate patterns and designs. This jewellery piece draws attention to the waistline, and is therefore associated with sensuality.
Jhumkas and Balis
These are traditional Indian earrings, intricately designed and decorated with stones and gems. Jhumkas consists of a small upper portion, connected to a bell-shaped structure below it. Balis, on the other hand, are traditionally ring shaped earrings, offering the right ethnic touch to traditional Indian outfits.
Mangalsutra and Thaali
Indian necklaces are of different kinds, such as the hasli (a small collar neckpiece) or the longer kantha necklace. However, the most traditional of all is the mangalsutra, a necklace of black beads and gold worn by married women. There are regional variations here too. The Tamils and Malayalis of south India wear the thaali, while the Goans wear the dhaaremani.
This traditional Indian anklet is often gifted to baby girls. It is usually made of silver and contains a small bell which makes a jingling sound.
The traditional Indian bangle, made of gold or silver, is known as the kangan. The bridal kangans are more ornate, with a clasp for fastening it securely. Punjabi brides also wear chooras, traditionally made of ivory, and available in a combination of red and white.