Adorning the Indian bride

The significance of jewelry and adornment
Adorning the Indian bride
Bejewelled brideNitin Saxena,

The wedding day is a special day for the bride when she gets married, as it is for the groom. And it is important that she is at her best; after all, she is getting ready for a new phase in life, a life of adulthood, a life of responsibility and of being a joint partner in Marriage Inc.

The bride is bedecked in various pieces of adornment known as solah singhaar or sixteen embellishments as prescribed in ancient Indian scriptures. However, they are more than just a prescription for making the bride look beautiful. While they ensure that she looks her best, they also have special properties to ensure her overall physical and mental well being.

The sixteen pieces meant to adorn the bride are the bindi, necklaces, bracelets or bangles, earrings, flowers in the hair, hairline-piece (or teeka as it is known in northern India), rings, armlets, waistband, anklets, kohl, toe rings, henna, perfume, sandalwood paste, and the bridal garments. There was a time when these were suggested for wealthy women most days of their lives; now they only form part of the attire of the bride.

Modern Indian brides however often only wear some of the sixteen, which earlier were part of a ritualistic beautification by women even when attending weddings and on special occasions, but nowadays only when they are getting married.

The bedecking of the bride is a ritual that is said to correspond with the sixteen phases of the moon that have a supposed negative effect on the woman’s menstrual cycle. The entire process of solah singhaar is said to nullify this effect. Most of the adornments are certain symbols of marriage and there is a sacred aura attached to each of these symbols. The bride is compared to Goddess Lakshmi, who is a model wife and the representation of female beauty, good luck, prosperity and fertility. The bride as goddess is expected to command due respect in society after she gets married and announces this to the world through the marital symbols.

Bedecked hand of the bride
Bedecked hand of the brideMarcus Lewis,

The sixteen symbols of ornamentation or solah singhaar

1. Wedding dress – This could be a saree, lehenga or salwar-kurta. Red is an auspicious color and together with gold threadwork/embroidery is preferred for the wedding dress. Other colors such as crimson, maroon, magenta, gold, or green are also used. Also, more than one outfit is used and the bride is made to change into several different outfits/sarees for different types of rituals – yellow in a pre-nuptial ceremony, red for the nuptial ceremony and green for a post-nuptial ceremony.

2. Flowers in the hair – The bride’s hair is styled and adorned with flowers and jewellery. The face is then powdered, the cheeks rouged and lipstick applied.

3. Kohl lining the eyes – The eyes are highlighted with kajal or kohl to enhance their attractiveness and appeal.

4. Bindi – The bindi or red dot is a sacred symbol of a married woman and is put on the bride’s forehead.

5. MaangtikaMaangtika is a hair accessory that is worn on the central parting of the hair of the bride; it is made of gold and embellished with semi-precious stones, pearls or diamonds.

6. Nose ring – The nose ring or nath gives the bride a traditional look. This ring is made of gold with pearls or other precious gems.

7. Ear rings to adorn the ears of the bride.

8. Necklaces and chains of different lengths usually made of gold and embellished with diamonds, pearls or other precious stones are also worn by the bride. The Mangalsutra or sacred thread is one important necklace worn around the neck; this is tied by the groom during the course of the wedding ceremony.

9. Armlets or baajuband are worn on the upper arms of the bride.

10. Henna or mehendi is another significant part of the ensemble of the bride. This is applied to the bride’s hands and feet as part of a special pre-wedding ritual in India.

11. Bangles – The bride wears bangles or bracelets made of gold, glass or other metals depending upon the custom. Both gold and glass are part of an essential attire in most parts of India.

12. Rings – A bride wears a special piece of hand jewellery or hath phool, which is a set of five rings in each of her hands, each ring being attached to a central flower or medallion and to a bangle at the wrist.

13. Waistband – The waistband or kamarband is a beautifully designed gold or silver belt is worn around the waist of the bride studded mostly with beautiful gems. The belt enhances the waist area and also helps in holding the saree or dress in place.

14. Silver anklets are worn on the ankles of the bride and toes are adorned with toe rings made of silver. The feet are also decorated. In some regions a thick red line is drawn along the outer border of the foot.

15. PerfumeIttar, perfume that uses oils instead of alcohol, is used to keep the bride smelling fresh and fragrant.

16. Sindoor is applied to the central parting of the hair during the wedding ceremony.

The power of metal

The preferred metals to be worn by the bride or married woman are gold, silver, copper, and iron. Each metal has special properties that help in her overall physical and mental wellbeing. Wearing jewelry can actually make you healthier. It can give you physical strength, energy and stamina. Wearing gold, silver, copper, or platinum helps energize your body’s electromagnetic field by attracting energy to it.

Gold is considered to be a sign of prosperity and is said to bring good fortune. Gold was traditionally attributed to be useful in curing heart disease, asthma, melancholy and to cleanse blood. Platinum is a pure metal and therefore is hypoallergenic – people who are prone to skin allergies can safely wear it. This is one of the reasons that makes Platinum among the most expensive metals, even more so than gold. Wearing silver helps in maintaining good health. According to medical research, silver has the property of balancing various body elements – it keeps the blood vessels elastic, and facilitates bone and skin formation and healing. It even acts as a pain killer for muscular aches, and also is an effective remedy for arthritis.

In these times, women prefer jewelry with gemstones and diamonds especially at their wedding reception. Yellow gold has become less popular among the younger generation. Some even repurpose their old antique jewellery which has become quite trendy nowadays. A bride is always wanting to look her best and dazzle on her wedding day and experimenting with different types of make-up, hairdos, jewelry and wedding couture in a way that they gel with one another are ways to ensure that unique personalized look for her special day.

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