In India, a Hindu woman isn’t fully dressed for her wedding unless she is wearing sixteen adornments, but even in everyday life, Indian women are bejeweled and bedazzled.
Bring on the bangles…
The one adornment that all Indian women wear, whether young or old, rich or poor, is the bangle. Typically worn in pairs (and usually many pairs), they are made of glass, metal, stone, or lakh, a material that is like bakelite.
The varieties are endless.
Bibaji Churi Wale is a 100 year old family store in Jodhpur that has supplied bangles to royalty and celebrities, including Elizabeth Hurley for her first wedding.
Prices for a pair range from 30 cents to $12. I sat with Mr. Sattar Biba and his wife and look at their vast selection.
Even in the humblest of surroundings, Indian women wear bangles with their colorful sarees.
This woman working in her home is wearing baajuband, armlets that are worn on the upper arms.
The bindi is placed in the spot between the eyebrows known as the sixth chakra, the place of concealed wisdom. As a “third eye” it is said to enhance concentration and ward off demons. Originally it was a spot of vermillion powder, but now there are adhesive felt bindis, like the ones these women are wearing in Jodhpur, or jeweled bindis, sold in little packets in the bangle store.
In many of the hotels, a bindi is applied on the foreheads of women guests as a gesture of welcome.
Not a jewel, but every bit as exquisite, elaborate henna designs are applied to hands, arms, and feet. The dye is squeezed out of a tube in delicate patterns, left on for a half hour or so, and then the residue is washed off. It lasts for about two weeks.
This woman I met in a store had intricate patterns on her hands that looked like lace.
Necklaces can be magnificent and pricey, especially if they come from the famous Gem Palace in Jaipur. These “knock-offs” were being sold on the street in Jodhpur.
Girls start wearing jewelry at quite a young age. The adorable two year old daughter of our guide, at home in Jodhpur, has pierced ears, and is wearing the traditional red string bracelet, tied onto her wrist by a priest to protect from evil.
Around the neck of this little girl in the Old Delhi market is a silver amulet that contains a blessing from a priest. I saw them on boys and girls alike.
Ankle bracelets are often embellished with tiny bells.
These women in a jeweler’s shop in Narlai tried to convince me to buy those jingle jangle ankle bracelets, but they’re not for me…I don’t like the idea of making noise when I walk. (I have to be able to sneak around and take those photographs I’m not supposed to take.)
With rings on their fingers and toes, you can see how it’s not that difficult to add up to sixteen adornments for a wedding.
The sparkle and splendor of the bangle stores, and the array of fabulous adornments was unforgettable…but even more memorable was the simple beauty of these extraordinary women.