Submitted: July 02, 2023
Accepted: July 20, 2023
Published: August 01, 2023
Dr. Syeda Sadia Sharmin, Md. Hossain Suhi & Dr. Farjana Daood (2023). Glass Bangles as Ornamentation of the women in South Asia . Dinkum Journal of Social Innovations, 2(08):479-487.
© 2023 DJSI. All rights reserved
Glass Bangles as Ornamentation of the women in South AsiaOriginal Article
Dr. Syeda Sadia Sharmin 1*, Md. Hossain Suhi 2, Dr. Farjana Daood 3
Abstract: The ornamentation of the body, particularly the female form, is given a lot of importance in South Asian cultures. This is especially true when it comes to the representation of beauty. Women in South Asia have long been known to wear a variety of different ornaments, including glass bangles. In this study, an attempt is made to examine the symbolic significance that is associated with bangles in various regions of South Asia. In order to investigate the social, religious, and ritualistic connotations associated with the wearing of bangles in these areas, a qualitative methodology with a primary emphasis on content analysis was utilized. The study came to the conclusion that bangles are not only a tool for embellishment but also carry symbolic meaning. This symbolic meaning encompasses the social, religious, and ritualistic aspects of their life in regard to their marital status, matrimonial bliss, as well as a good and bad luck. This study may provide helpful insights that contribute to a better understanding of the symbolic connotations associated with ornaments, as well as the nature and use of ornaments. It could also be helpful for researchers at mail.com and other institutions in the sense that it would allow them to conduct additional empirical research on the subject. The researcher suggests conducting a comparative study of various ornamental objects to determine the degree to which their symbolic significance is similar to or distinct from that of other ornamental objects.
Keywords: neighborhood, diplomacy, China, Pakistan
Decorations are something that can be found in every culture around the world. The majority of people, including men, women, and children, use these for adornment purposes. However, ornaments have symbolic interpretations that act as “powerful communicative tools of culture,” which gives the ornament one of its “most important and most characteristic fits features” (Nikolenko, 2013 p.444). Ornaments can also be used as a tool for embellishment; however, this is not their only function. According to Glaveanu (2014), ornaments are recognized for their ability to facilitate not only the process of cultural identification and intercultural communication but also the generation and individualization of an action and experience. This is one of the many ways that ornaments can be helpful. Bangles and bracelets are both worn as a form of ornamentation in many different cultures around the world. Glass bangles are a common traditional ornament among the women of South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Traditional bracelets are known as bangles, and they can be crafted from a variety of materials including glass, metal, wood, or even plastic. There is a paucity of academic work in the field of ornaments’ sociocultural significance in South Asia, particularly in the subcontinent, despite the fact that research on the topic has been conducted to a high standard in other parts of the world, such as Central Asia and Europe. Because there was a gap in the academic literature, the researcher felt compelled to investigate the symbolic connotations that have been attached to the use of bangles as an article of jewellery.
- LITERATURE REVIEW
According to Collins English Dictionary on the internet (2016), the word “bangle” originates from the Hindi and Bengali word “bangri,” which literally translates to “a ring for the arm” or “colored glass bracelet or anklet.” Bangles are referred to as chura in Nepali, churi in Bengali, choodi in Hindi, and churiyan in Urdu. In these languages, they are pronounced the same way. There are a number of names for bangles, including chudi, kangan, bangdi, Valaya, Kada, Gajulu, and Choodla. Bangles are the most common type of jewellery worn by women in South Asian countries. Bangles have significant cultural significance, and public display of a married woman’s bare arms is thought to be unlucky. Bangles of varying styles are common accessories for women of all ages. In most cases, gold and silver bangles are preferred for toddlers; however, in the lower classes, it is not uncommon for toddlers to wear glass bangles on important occasions. However, bangles are still occasionally worn by women in today’s society, particularly during festive occasions such as celebrations and events. At the site of Mehrgarh, Pakistan, archaeologists have discovered bangles that date back to the Neolithic period (7000 B.C.E.). These were crafted using shell circlets or a composite material consisting of shell beads, stone, and shell pieces. During the Indus Valley Civilization (2600-1900 B.C.E), a dramatic increase was observed in the styles of bangles, and a variety of materials were used to produce bangles. In addition, bangles were made out of a wide range of objects. The assortment of materials comprised things like shell, terra cotta, stone ware, and fiancé. Many pieces of glassware were discovered during the excavation of the mound of Bhir. They belong to the eighth and seventh centuries before the Common Era. A large number of glass artefacts, including bangles, bottles, flasks, tiles, beads, and other items, were discovered during excavations at Sirkap. According to Om (2005), on page 379, it is clear that Indian manufacturers of glass articles had mastered the chemical aspect of the technique of making glass because the relative density of the glass that was used in these articles. In the burials at Harappa, the female figurines and some of the male figurines appear to have been wearing bangles. It was common practice to wear three to four bangles on each wrist in addition to two or more bangles worn above the elbow, and typically the same number of bangles were worn on each arm. Because the bangles were discovered in the cemetery excavations at Harappa, one can deduce that similar ornaments may have been removed or broken at the time of death, which is a practice that is common in later forms of Hinduism. According to Mark (1998, page 146), glazed faience bangles could be crafted in a number of different styles. It is significant that the earliest glass objects that are known to have been made on the subcontinent were beads and glass bangles, neither of which require the technology required to blow glass. True glass bangles have been pieced together using shards discovered at archaeological sites such as Hastinapura (1100–800 B.C.) and Texila (700–300 B.C.). During the Mauryan Period (700–300 B.C. ), Stratum II at Taxila produced glass bangle fragments with a combination of colors, including green, yellow, blue, and white. By the eighth or ninth century A.D., which is known as the early mediaeval period in the Subcontinent, the use of glass bangles had practically reached a universal level. The glass bangles that were unearthed in Sirpur, Andhra Pradesh, date back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries A.D. and display a sophisticated level of decoration technology. In the twelfth century, Muslim conquerors first set foot on Indian soil. The cultural life of the subcontinent was profoundly influenced by the Mughal rulers’ aesthetic and rigorously high standards of excellence, as evidenced by their lavish support of all forms of artistic expression. The eras of Jahangir and Shah Jahan were particularly fruitful for the growth of culture during their respective reigns. They encouraged the immigration of foreign craftsmen with specialized skills from other countries, such as glassmakers and enamellists from Persia, to work in the royal workshops (Oppi, 1997, page 182). Castes in South Asia have their origins in occupations; for example, members of the Kachera caste made glass bangles. Kachera, also spelt Kachara, is a caste that is functionally associated with the production of glass bangles known as churigar. It was planned that A Gauri Parvati would marry Mahadeo, but she refused to wear the bangles because they were made by another person. As a result, Mahadeo built a vedi, also known as a furnace, and it was from this that the first Hindu Kachera was born. Parvati commissioned him to make bangles for her. Because his offspring continued the family business, the name “kachera” was eventually passed down through the generations (Russal, 2009).
2.1 Representation of Bangles in South Asian Culture
Bangles have a different interpretation in every culture. Hindu married girls have to wear bangles, because it is believed that bare arms symbolize widowhood. The Kashmiris have the most elegant painted paper mache bangles. A Punjabi bride is traditionally given slender lac and plastic choodas (bangles) in white and red (Figure1a,b,c,d).
Figure 01: Different Types of Bangles churiyan, Kashmiri Paper Mache, lac and Plastic Choodas
The rural tribes – Ahirs of Rajasthan and Rabaris of Gujarat prefer wearing fully-armed bone-made plain bangles. However, there is a pattern of use: those who are not married use them up to the elbow only; whereas, the married have to start from the elbow and carry them to the underarm. In Bengal, bangles dubbed as the iron kada also known as lohas (Figure 2a,b,c) stand for marital status, and thereby worn by married women only
Figure 02: Types of Bangles in different Materials Bones, Loha and Kada
A few communities of Madhya Pradesh prepare bangles from coconut shell. The Gurung women wear gold necklaces to reflect their husband’s wealth, while the Limbu girls are adorned with silver, gold or glass bangles. Bangles are also worn by men for functional as well as symbolic purposes. Among Sikh communities the man’s iron bangle is worn as both a religious symbol as well as a protection of the wrist in the course of battle. Holy men in Hinduism also used specific types of bangles to identify their religious order or status. These bangles were made from gold or silver, glass, shell and metal etc. Bangles are prepared in the diverse techniques in South Asian countries. In Kashmir bangles are made from wood. In Assam the rhino horn bangles are very famous and in Rajasthan lac is a favorite material. There is apparently an endless diversity in bangles such as in metals, plastics, silk threads etc. In Maharashtrians green colored glass bangles indicate the pregnancy of a woman and is considered fortunate for a woman (Maharashtrian Wedding & Ceremony, 2016). Usually before the marriage the ladies perform a ritual chuda for the bride and her friends to celebrate the exciting moments of wearing green bangles. A bangle seller is called at the bride’s home to help women choose a design of their own. Design (the chuda) and communal identity are synonymous for every tribe in Maharashtra, and these designs are generally referred to as Pichchodis, Patlis, Gotes, Bangdi, Phul Bangdi, Tode etc. The unmarried girls are allowed to wear multi-colored glass bangles that suit with their costumes. In South Asia, wearing bangles has a significant historical background starting from the Indus Valley Civilization (2300-1000 B.C.) as is visible in the “Dancing Girl” sculpture found in Mohenjo-Daro. Her arms are coved with bangles. In Ajanta and Ellora caves, paintings are also depicted in the tradition of wearing bangles (Bangles and Indian Women, 2011). During the excavation, bangles were common artifact in all major Indus Valley settlements. In many Indus burials sites of Harppa, Kalibangan and Lothal the thin shell bangles were also found which were attached with dead bodies. In South India, a Devi (goddess) is presented glass bangles in different colours with diverse symbolic meanings and in Maharashtra, Devi is presented green and in Calcutta Devi is offered red bangles (Figure 3a,b,c).
Figure 03: Dancing Girl from Mohenjo Daro, Figures display bangles in the cave paintings of the Ajanta and Ellora, In the South India a Devi (goddess) is offered Glass Bangles
In the northern India, red glass bangles suggest promising for the married women. After the wedding, the woman have to wear her bangles as an amulet of protection and good luck for her husband.
2.2 The Process of Making Glass Bangles
The winter months in South Asia bring two valuable gifts – cooler air and weddings. In wedding season, the demand for glass bangles increases. About forty kilometers east of the Taj Mahal and the city of Agra along National high way, there is a glass bangles capital of India – Firozabad. The glass industry here began during the sixteenth century under the Mughal ruler and has flourished ever since. Wedding-related glass items are among the most popular in Firozabad, so much so that the nick-name for Firozabad is Suhag Nagari or the city of married woman (Kara, 2014). Similarly, Hyderabad (India) also boasts a very old bangle market called Laad Bazaar. In Pakistan, glass bangles are mostly produced in Hyderabad (Sindh, Pakistan). After partition, the bangle masters from Ferozabad moved to Hyderabad in Pakistan and established bangle-making business whose growth is on the continuum ever since. It employs mostly women who work from home. There are 28 stages of production before the bangle finally reach the market (Muhammad, 2012). The main body of production is completed in home-based workshops where the raw material is prepared, shaped, designed and colored. There are two types of bangles –jointed and joint-less bangles. Joint-less bangles were made by an old technique and now this technique is rarely used today (Oppi, 1997, p.183). Glass is primarily different from a glaze in that it is made without an underlying body of quartz or terracotta. Other differences between glazes and glass are apparent in their overall physical structure and chemical composition. The preparation of good quality glass requires the preparation of a frit (semi vitrified silica) mixed with colorants followed by the cooling and regrinding of the frit to homogenize the mixture and finally, the melting of the powdered frit to produce a molten glass. In antiquity, the glass was more opaque due to many tiny bubbles and impurities; however, modern glass contains lead and other additives to create clear and uniform colors. Using metal tongs, hook, blow pipes, the molten glass can be made into beads, glass bangles, vessels, flat sheets or mirrors. After forming the glass. must be annealed and cooled slowly to relieve stresses and avoid cracking. More valuable beads and bangles are coated with gold or mercury to produce brilliant gold and silver ornaments (Claus, Diamond & Mills, 2003)(Figure 4a,b,c).
Figure 04: Glass bangles Making Process
- MATERIALS AND METHODS
The researcher adopted qualitative methods applying extrinsic and intrinsic approaches of data interpretation. More specifically, following Voitiuk (2019), comparative, formal and structural (semiotic-hermeneutic) analyses were used. The data was collected from secondary sources such as books, art reviews and reports. In the process of date collection, the books and online resources were the main source of information. All the local terms were explained in the glossary. The images were collected from online resources.
- RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The data analysis revealed that glass bangles do not merely contain ornamental value; in fact, they symbolize various facets of the socio-religious activity in contemporary South Asian communities, and are worn to mark important festivals or special social events. The styles of bangles not only signifies native identity but can also be related with occupation and social status. In traditional community’s the wide, heavy bangles which are not easily broken are generally worn by women who are involved in heavy labor work, while thin, delicate bangles are worn by the elite class. In contrast to this, relatively cheap and glass-made bangles are worn by women of all classes. Different colors associate different meanings to glass bangles. In some areas, it is the indigenous custom that defines the specificity of the bangles which is mostly conveyed through a color code. The symbolic notions of energy, wisdom and independence are communicated through red, blue and purple bangles respectively. Similarly, matrimonial bliss is represented by green and general happiness by yellow bangles. In addition, orange bangles suggest victory, white refer to new openings, black indicate power, silver symbolize strength, and gold stands for luck. In order to ensure security, marital unity, and good fortune of their husbands, an Indian woman is expected to use region specific colors such as the green or red. Unanticipated cracking of glass bangles is marked for bad luck signifying an untoward occurrence for the husband. In the Hindu traditions women wear bangles to identify their marital status and call them Subhagya. Subhaga is considered a favorite wife beloved by her husband and the honored mother of a family. Subhagi is an adjective meaning “ lucky”(Oppi,1997,p.185). Bangles hold sentimental value also. Glass bangles are often broken intentionally to show anger and sorrow (Claus, et al, 2003). The death of a woman before her husband is interpreted as a reward for her goodness. When a woman’s married life ends with her husband’s death, she enters the sad condition of widowhood and called her vidhava. A widow would break the bangles from her own hands. It is described in local Hindi/ Urdu language as churi thandi hona. This custom was already common during the Mughal period, as confirmed by the statements in the writings of contemporary European travelers in India. For instance, John Huyghen van Linschoten – a Dutchman in the subcontinent in 1588 – recorded in his journal that when a husband dies, a Brahman wife breaks all her jewels (bangles). Glass bangles are commonly considered the symbol of marriage in Hinduism and described as churi pehnan in local language. It is customary to find a woman with glass bangles on marriage ceremony when the culmination of honeymoon is signified by the breaking of the last bangle. In hindi and Urdu proverb Churi pahnana means to marry a widow. Dewar pae churiyan pehn liye means to marry husband’s younger brother after husband’s death. It is usually said to show coward expression of a man or if a man is behaving like female as churiyan pehn rakhain hain. To show anger and want to hurt anyone, this proverb is used in subcontinent Moi sutan ki churiyan torun. All rituals in an Indian wedding have special significance, so is the chooda ceremony, which is an essential feature of Punjabi wedding. The small family ceremony happens on the morning of the wedding day or sometimes the previous evening. The bride’s maternal uncle and aunt bring 21 bangles in red that the bride will wear. The number of bangles varies in different community’s oras perthebrid’es choice. Traditionally poja or havan is conductive as the part of ceremony and chooda is cleansed in milk. The bride is not allowed to see chooda until the marriage ceremony and wrist is covered with cloth. The chooda is considered auspicious for couple relationship. The women believed that chooda complete the solah singhar of a bride. The red colour chooda symbolizes fertility and prosperity, and bangles are worn for a year or minimum of 40 days after the wedding. By the end of 40 days, the bride is settled in a new house and ready to take the responsibility of kitchen and other household works. A small ritual ceremony is also held at home at time to remove bangles (Haute Brides & Honeymoons, 2015). A bride is gifted ivory bangles by her mother in Gujarat and Rajasthan which are mandatory for the couple to complete the saptapati. An interesting feature of an Indian wedding is the attempt by a bride to wear the smallest sized bangles by lubricating her arms by perfumed oil. Successful wearing of these bangles ensures both ravishing honemoon and matrimonial bliss. Bangles also symbolize certain pregnancy relatedrituals in Hindusociety.For instance, the seventh month of a woman’s pregnancy is marked by a ritual known as Valaikaapu. Thefamily celebrations involve crowding the woman’s arms with bangles of various colors and designs. These ritual is based on the premise that by doing so evil spirits will stay away from the expecting mother. In certain areas, green bangles are also used as a sign of good omen for childbirth. Moreover, bangles are associated with religious sentiment. In a Hindu goddess temple, hundreds of all-coloured glass bangles hang on a long strings along one wall in front of the deity chamber, garbagraha. Hindu world has been made and remade through exchange. Hindus not only have connected intimately to deities but have articulated polity, social order and self. Hindu worship begins and ends with exchanges. The return of the deity gift is called Parsada. Darsana, act of seeing and being seen by the deity (Mittal, 2009, p.139)
4.1 Glass Bangles as a source of energy for females in Hindism
Bangles are also conspicous for their symbolic representation of energy in women. The word Shakti which means strength is materialized by wearing bangles known as Kankan. Hindu mythology ascribes spiritual energy to bangles which manifests itself in the form of waves carried by a Devi. These waves are activated more strongly by green and red color than by the others. The waves are received by the wrists and transmitted to the hand. Negative energies are obstructed by the sattvik which produces a security circle around the wrists and fingers. Glass bangles, especially the green colored have been reported to be more conducive to capturing the the Sattva attribute as well as ward off negative forces. Plastice bangles, on the other hand, create Raja-Tama waves which cause fatigue on the body and head of the women. The unanticipated breaking of the bangles also has symbolic meaning. Strong negative energies from the fourth level of Patal (hell) which are violently impactful are transmitted through Mantriks (sorcerers). Close proximity between thesoundand the bangle causes the crack which, according to Hindu mythology, signifies the conflict between the negative forces and the bangles (Spread spirituality, 2016).
4.2 The Role of Odd Numbers in Wearing Glass Bangles
In Hindu Dharma, the use of bangles is a significant Achar (Conduct). Generally, between eight and twelve glass bangles are worn on each wrist. Bangles are also sold in twelve, eighteen and twenty-four in two matching sets, but no rigid rules about numbers exist (Oppi, 1997, p.180). The smaller size bangles are symbol of soft and delicate hands which is considered a sign of feminine beauty. Some regions typically recommend the use of glass bangles in odd numbers which must be different for both hands such as 7 in one and 9 in the other and so on. Each number has a specific effect or power i.e. Shakti. As a matter of fact, numbers such as 3, 6, 8 and 12 create waves of different intensity which in Hindu mythology are referred to as Tarak, Tarak-Marak,Marak-Tarakand Marak respectively. For further illustration, the case of Marak (Destroyer) waves can be observed. These waves are produced when glass bangles are worn in large quantity which help the woman stay safe against the evil eye and negative forces. The use of bangles by women as prescribed by Hindu Dharma is an activity that facilitates them to derive positive energy as well as safet from the negative ones. South Asian societies have drawn great inspiration and influences from glass bangles and, thereby, established an extrinsic as well as intrinsic association with them culturally, ritualistically and religiously. Even Mahatma Gandhi went on to explain the philosophy of life with the reference of glass bangles: “This earth existence of ours is more brittle that the glass bangles that ladies wear”.
In South Asia, glass bangles have played an important role in the region’s ornamental tradition at every time period, from the prehistoric to the modern. In this article, the historical background, manufacturing process, and origin of glass bangles are dissected and discussed. According to the findings of the analysis, not only does their wearing indicate female inspiration for beauty, but it also symbolizes multifaceted diversity that is veiled in the sociocultural, religious, and mythological context of the region. The use of bangles provided women with many benefits, including social status, matrimonial bliss, physical and spiritual strength, and a great deal more. As a consequence of this, bangles have always been an indispensable component of female life, as they cover a variety of facets of both their physical and spiritual being.
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Submitted: July 02, 2023
Accepted: July 20, 2023
Published: August 01, 2023
Dr. Syeda Sadia Sharmin, Md. Hossain Suhi & Dr Farjana Daood (2023). Glass Bangles as Ornamentation of the women in South Asia . Dinkum Journal of Social Innovations, 2(08):479-487.
© 2023 DJSI. All rights reserved