“Everyone put the essence of the marriage’s contract in a small piece of gold they call thali, which the groom attaches at the bride's neck this custom corresponds to the marriage ring in Europe." The eclectic Venetian adventurer Nicolò Manucci wrote this quote in his "History do Mogol", dated second half of '600, highlighting how the Indian custom of giving a piece of gold jewelry, to seal the marriage, was a tradition already well established. In Tamil Nadu, in southern India, the elaborate thali were, and are till now, in fact jewelry par excellence that indicate marital status.
In India, marriage is the most important event in the social life of every individual, male or female, and there is no wedding ritual that does not see the bride dress at least a necklace in gold, be it small or important, in the form of pendant or necklace, earring from the nose, hairstyle or foot ring, forged by different techniques, with different shapes and symbols according to the religious beliefs and traditions. The custom of giving jewelry to the bride, from the family of the woman either from the groom, has turned into social obligation, sometimes excessively burdensome for the poorest families. This tradition is the basis of the enormous demand for the precious metal from the population and it is so stubbornly rooted in the Indian mentality, that migrants maintain this custom in the new countries of residence.
Marriage’s jewels are the stree dhana of women, the personal dowry that can have for a lifetime, to which only she will be able to draw even in the event of bankruptcy of her husband. It is an inalienable patrimony that the bride will leave only after the death of her husband. All bracelets made of glass or ivory, worn in multiple number to cover at times throughout the forearm, are broken as a sign of widowhood. The wedding day wishes to the bride: "Tere nath churi barqarar rehén", "that your nose ring and your bracelets are preserved," or "you can never become a widow."
In the “Code of Social Law”, or Manava Dharmashastra, the source of Hindu orthodoxy from the second century AD, there is a relationship between "the right way to adorn women and prosperity of their male relatives." The Hindu woman feels undressed and incomplete if deprived of its jewels, though they may pleasure from the point of view of "aesthetic", she treats it as necessary equipment, without it cannot adequately fulfill its role as a woman and bride. In India, ornaments and femininity are intimately linked.
One of the 64 feminine virtues, indicated by Kama Sutra as the arts to conquer a man, is to know how to choose the right ornaments. Even the seduction goes through the jewelry. Indian women devote particular care to the choice and procedure of the jewelry arranged symmetrically trying to maintain a balance in their decorative costume. Each ethnic group or caste establishes a specific sequence of ornaments that become the identifying symbol of their group membership. In Maharashtra, the state of Bombay, the bride receives from her husband a mangala sutram, literally "cord prosperity," a necklace of black pearls holding a small gold pendant, with bring good luck shapes. In southern India the absolute leading role of the thali is left to gold that is forged through the overhang, the chisel and engraving repousse in a variety of shapes and symbols. Each shape is specific to a religious community or caste: the thali with the cross are worn by Indian Christians, the ones with the symbol V by Brahmins devoted to Vishnu, the thali engraved with images of Shiva and Parvati seated on the sacred ox Nandi, who represent the ideal model of the couple, are characteristic of the caste of the Shaiva Chettiar.
Even the nose rings are bridal ornaments. The most common type is the phul, a pin with large head which engages with a screw spiral with a small hole on the left nostril. It can be extremely simple: through the head outside consists of a diamond or a gold disk more or less worked. Others are made up of various elements to compose a precious jewel and original as the dandea, nose rings used by fisherwomen of Konkani coast, south of Bombay. But one of the most popular nose ornaments from across the north-central India is the nath, ring in gold or silver with different decorations, worn in the left nostril. Some nath are true masterpieces of jewelry with enamel and working with intricate applications of precious stones and pearls. In some cases the nath reaches a size such that it becomes indispensable to support its weight, tie it to the hairdressing with laces, chains or even strands by hair. The bulak is another nose ring, usually in gold, which is inserted into the cartilage in the center of the nostrils. It takes different forms depending on the region in which it is created. For example, in the mountainous region of Uttar Pradesh, local people use bulak models that come to touch the chin and women have to move it aside for eating.
The rings of different shapes and materials are worn on all fingers. The stones are chosen based on the relationship with the stars and the zodiac sign. Curious, because of its special features, is the aarsi, a thumb ring on which is fixed a round mirror. Worn by young brides, usually covered by a veil during the wedding ceremony, it is been used to observe, without showing, the groom who had not been known before.
Among the farmers of northern India, also jewelry used in the hair indicate that the woman is married. The tikli or tika is hung to the hair by means of chains, so that it falls at the center of the forehead. More or less elaborate and rich in the processing can be of spherical shape, a flat disc or bellflower.
Often along the pathways that outline the fields, in the streets of the bazaar or inside of shady courtyards comes a fresh rhythmic clink. It is the sound produced by massive anklets, which contain in their interior pieces of metal. At each step the sound takes away unwanted encounters, such as scorpions, snakes. It signals to men the approach of a married woman who could not appear in public, especially in Muslim communities where it is still in force the rule of purdah. It looks like the tinkling of anklets and other jewelry such as foot rings with bells, serve to fulfilling a practical and symbolic purpose also linked to the marital status of the woman, adding charm to the ornaments and have a seductive effect as evidenced by literary sources.
Gold, silver, ivory, glass and lacquer are the most used materials in the production of bracelets. The most common, due to their cost accessible to all, are the glass bangles. In any bazaars of India we can discover thousands of them with different designs and colors that women choose always with meticulous care to match them exactly to the shade of the saree. Usually the vendors of these popular ornaments claim only the payment of those he manage to stick to the wrist of the purchaser, not to mention the broken ones. It is precisely these bracelets that are crushed for the first sign of mourning when the woman becomes a widow.
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