The rich heritage of traditional Indian bangles

by Ethan More

Each one of us has worn bangles at least once in our life. 

Derived from the word ‘bungri’ meaning glass, they form a favourite accessory for girls and women of all ages without which no look is complete. And have been that for almost 5000 years! The earliest bangles during that time were made of terracotta, shells, and metals like brass and copper. 

So what’s so special about bangles? 

Bangles, in the rich tapestry of Indian heritage, symbolise a very beautiful juxtaposition of culture and heritage. Besides, just being symbols of women’s marital status, here are some unique traditional dimensions that bangles hold in our country:

  • In ancient times, women used to follow the tradition of covering their faces with a ‘pardah’ to avoid intermingling of the two genders. Bangles played a part in announcing the arrival or presence of a woman in the room so that the menfolk could get careful about their presence.
  • In Indian households, it has been a strong belief for thousands of years, that bangles affect your acupressure points on the wrist. Their movement around these points is believed to improve your blood circulation and make your body and mind healthy. When worn by the lady of the house, their clinking sounds are believed to ward off negative energies. For unmarried girls, glass bangles are considered to induce positive and pure thoughts. 
  • Every region has its significance and traditions when it comes to bangles. In the southern states, gold bangles in intricate temple designs, interspersed with green glass bangles, are considered to be auspicious and signify fertility and affluence. In Gujarat and Rajasthan, married women wear bangles made of ivory in different colours. In Bengal, bangles made of red coral and conch shells along with ones in gold are considered to be a symbol of women’s marital status. In Punjab, a bride is supposed to wear 21 ivory bangles as a part of her ‘choora’.
  • In our Indian culture, every colour has a different significance. While red bangles symbolise energy and opulence, green bangles stand for fertility and luck. Yellow bangles signify happiness and laughter and white ones are for new beginnings. Silver bangles stand for strength and simple and trendy gold bangles symbolise opulence and good fortune. 
  • Depending on which state you are looking at, bangles form a major part of our customs and rituals. A woman about to get married is not supposed to buy bangles for herself and is gifted these by her parents. During a baby shower or ‘god bharai’ as it’s called, the expecting mother is gifted bangles by her husband’s family. It is believed that their tinkling sound calms the baby and invokes energy and activity in her brain. Giving bangles also forms an important part of our festivals such as Diwali when daughters and daughters-in-law of the house are gifted with gold bangles. Brothers often gift bangles to their sisters at ‘Rakhi’ festival and vow to safeguard them. 

However, bangles today have come of age and are adorned by women of all ages. From statement gold and stone-studded bangles, you can now find them in chic and bold designs and materials such as thread and wood. Keeping in line with the lifestyle of women today, bangles are sleeker, more functional, and go with a variety of accessories. You can now choose from options such as charm bangles, kada bangles, and many more to match them with simple pendant designs for women. 

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