The tradition of wearing bangles or churi or bangri in India is an ancient custom, with deep significant meanings. Its humble evolvement from terracotta, stone, shell to ivory, lac, glass, metal and to modern-day plastic shows its cultural importance. Bangles are primarily worn to adorn the woman’s delicate wrists, but the deeper significance to protect her from evil eye, to ignite the Shakti and the gunas within hold equal improtance. Bangles are traditionally part of the solah shringar for the bride. How else can she call her beloved demurely other than with the soft tinkling ‘chan chan’ ?
My visit to Hyderabad’s popular Lad Bazaar or bangles bazaar set next to the magnificent Charminar was the place for study. Behind the modern-day cacophony, the old world charm and nostalgia of the Begums and bangle shops is one to be feasted upon visually!
Established during the Qutb Shahi rule in 1500’s the bazaar became famous for its glittering bangles, especially made by Kasars from glass or lac. Hyderabad was first ruled by Kakatiya kings and later the Qutb Shahi rulers who were great patrons of Persian and Indo -Islamic cultures and languages making the city an epitome of Hindu -Muslim architecture and grace. architectural. It became famous for its diamonds, pearls and rubies too. The Nawabi era saw sprawling palaces, rich cuisine, bazaars and parks and lakes. The locals were Deccani Hindus – creating a harmonious society borrowing from each others cultures and traditions.
Indian traditions around the significance of bangles ceremonies abound with celebration of festivals, seasons and events in woman’s life. At wedding, birth ceremony, nuptial, Teej season and prayer times women would head to Lad bazaar: henna for the hands, bangles for wrists, bindis and jhoomar for face uplifts, gotta patti or shimmering gold borders for dresses and dainty anklets for the feet.
The market is a scene of cultural blend. Muslim women in black Abeyyas covered from head to toe contrasted with Hindu women in sarees. Men in ethnic tunics, Lungis or casual trousers walked by. Tourists of all ages, focussed their cameras on the Charminar, unperturbed by the bangles dazzling in the sunlight and shop lights.
Street vendors with carts stuffed with beaded slippers, fake watches, cheap bangles and hair clips jostled for space. Speaking in Hindi, Urdu or local Telugu they knew the character of the place. Errand boys with shoulder baskets zig zagged through the crowds selling souvenirs.
Laughter, whispers, excited children, screaming vendors shouting ‘Chudi le lo…, Bindi le lo…’ lent an air of drama and vibrancy to this bustling market.
Built in 1591, rectangular Charminar, the edifice with four minarets is the focal point of the market area. Its pale yellow walls show chipped construction and a veil of neglect. Its towering minarets rise twenty metres from the roof. There is a mosque and impressive prayer hall on the upper floors. On the outer perimeter of the central chowk, are the four arches or Char Kamans in four directions namely: Machli Kaman, Kali Kaman, Kaman Sher-e-Batil and Mewawala Kaman. Names of the arches show many an interesting story of bravery, traditional beliefs and fortunes.
The street leading west from Charminar, from under the Kaman Sher-e –Batil leads to the Lad bazaar. At once, you are greeted with endless row of shops, competing with their colourful display. Colour coded bangles wrapped around circular moulds stand tall behind glass panes in tight cupboards.
One needs time, patience and colour sense to choose from the myriad options of bangles: family set, wedding set, single kangan, glass bangle, lac bangle, pearl bangles, stone studded, plastic bangles and many more…
Here is the significance of colour:
- Red and gold are prefered bridal colours.
- Green is for fertility or peace
- Yellow and orange auspicious.
- Black, dark green is prefered at henna parties or to match the seasonal monsoon clouds.
- Gold is reserved for weddings, prayer ceremonies and royal fanfare. They are always coupled with other multi colours.
- Violet and blue were the fashion statements of the day
- In Bengal, married women wear ivory and red coral bangle
- In Karnataka and Maharashtra the bride wears green glass bangles
- The Punjabi shaadi choora is an elaborate set of red, white and design
Have you ever seen the churiwala or bangle man at an Indian wedding, especially at the bride’s house? Amidst the laughter, music, garlands of flower and henna, the churiwala is man is important. Sitting traditionally on a soft, floor mattress, surrounded by the household women and bride’s friends, he proves his skill, patience and ability to choose bangles colours and delicately push them on the wrists. Aha!
Bollywood cinema, western fashion, modern office etiquette, lack of time and disinterest in olden traditions has its impact on the wear of bangles and its business.
A visit to Hyderabad is regarded incomplete without buying the pearl bangles.
The Lad bazaar holds a special place in the heart of every woman, especially in Hyderabad. Here history merges with grace and beauty, the bangles continue to dazzle one and all.
Do you wear bangles as jewellery? Why?
I really hope my Indian readers will share some stories and significance about bangles. I’ve spent much time and patience here. Readers interactions only give more positivity and pleasure.
All content and images copyright Veena S. (2013 -2015) http://www.walktomarket.wordpress.com. Please see copyright disclaimer