The bindi is a red dot worn on the forehead between the eyebrows. Derived from bindu meaning dot in Sanskrit, the bindi is an absolute must for the bride. While it was always a red dot, it now takes various shapes and colours – no bridal attire is complete without it. The bindi could be decorated with red and white dots along the eyebrows and ending at the cheekbones.
The other important piece of jewellery, the mangalsutra or auspicious thread, is a necklace made of black beads with a gold pendant. It is tied around the bride’s neck by the groom during the course of the wedding ceremony and is an important mark of being married – the Indian equivalent of the wedding ring. Its significance is to protect against evil and to prolong the life of the husband.
There are other heavy necklaces of different sizes worn by the bride – those made of gold, or pearl or with precious stones set in gold. These necklaces may be part of the family heirloom and are passed on from one generation to the next. As necklaces are often worn near the heart, they are believed to work on emotions, and to attract or strengthen love.
Earrings adorn the ears of the bride, but their use is not limited to fashion and accessorizing – they have an acupuncture effect on the body for health purposes. In ancient times, ear-piercing was used as a remedy and treatment for menstrual problems. Certain gemstones were used to embellish the earrings made usually of gold or silver – the ruby was used to regulate menstruation and enhance fertility; the emerald to prevent miscarriage and to aid in childbirth; the citrine for boosting sexual energy.
Earrings worn by the bride are very ornate and are coordinated with the necklace and ‘maangtika’. These earrings are usually very heavy so they are sometimes supported by a gold chain that is hooked onto the hair behind the ears. Among the various kinds of earrings, the most popular ones are the bridal jhumkas which are heavy pieces intricate in design and made of gold and precious stones.
The maangtika is a hair accessory worn on the centre of the forehead – the bride’s hair is usually parted in the middle and the tika, which is a string is placed such that it conceals the hairline and ends with a centre-piece that hangs loosely on the forehead. This ornament is the crowning glory of the bride and is supposed to be symbolic of the third eye. This ornament is made of gold studded with pearls and gemstones that are coordinated with the rest of the bridal jewellery and outfit.
The nose ring or nath is another essential piece of jewellery worn by the Indian bride as it is considered to enhance her beauty. It signifies the marital status of a girl, and was never to be removed once the girl was married. Traditionally, a gift to the bride from her maternal uncle, it is available in various styles, designs and patterns that vary with different regions. This piece of jewellery, worn in either nostril, but mostly in the left, is sometimes connected with a chain that links it to the earrings or is clipped up in the hair with the help of a hook. In south India, the nose ring or ‘mukhutti’ has ornate, traditional lotus or swan designs mostly studded with diamonds.
Gold and glass bangles are an absolutely essential part of every bride’s trousseau and are said to bring good luck to the wearer in her married life. The tradition of glass bangles for the married woman dates back to ancient civilization. An Indian bride on her wedding day sometimes attempts to wear as small glass bangles as possible, as smaller the bangles, greater the happiness. After the wedding, the woman continues to wear her bangles as a charm of safety and luck for her husband. In some cultures brides are presented 21 ivory coloured bangles (the bridal chooda) which she has to wear for about six months to a year after her marriage, though 40 days is customary. It is worn to remind people that she is a new bride and should be treated like a princess.
Armlets or baajuband are worn on the upper arms of the bride. They are usually in the form of an inverted V-shaped form to allow for flexibility for different sizes. Armlets shaped like a snake or floral arch are worn by brides in some parts of south India.
The ring, apart from enhancing the beauty of a woman or a man, also presses on the delicate part of the finger and acupressure healing occurs especially when worn on the left hand ring finger.
Payal, or anklets, refer to ornaments worn around the ankle. Anklets are an important part of women’s adornment in Indian culture. Anklets are a part of ornamentation of the bride and have great spiritual and social significance. Traditionally, the new bride announces her entry into her husband’s house with the tinkling of the payal. The payals are made mostly of silver, as gold payals are worn only by royalty. Many people though do use gold-plated payals.
Indian women from the north or west wear toe rings as a symbol of their marital status. Some wear the toe rings in pairs on the second toe of both feet as a symbol of their married state. The toe rings are usually quite ornate in design and are always silver unless the bride belongs to a royal family. As gold is considered a ‘pure’ metal it is not to be worn below the waist. There is a belief that toe rings press on certain nerves that pertain to the reproductive system, keeping it in balance and healthy (it is believed that your prana or life force must be in balance in order for you to stay healthy, and all the paths of your prana run down to your toes).
Jewellery to prepare you for your new home
So sparkle like stars in the clear night sky on your wedding day and make it clear to all that you are a celestial being descended that day to enter into your new home. Make your new home a heaven on earth, and allow your groom to see the special ‘you’ shine through. The beginning is after all mostly an indication of the days to come, so when you are looking a dream, adorned to perfection in the right spirit, surely your dream will come true.