The bangle is a very popular jewelry piece which has been worn for thousands of years in different cultures. However, while some cultures only use bangles as decorative jewelries, others include it in many traditions.
In India, it is a well known fact that bangles are associated with married women, a fact which is emphasized by the wedding ritual where women wear numerous bangles and paint their hands with henna. Given the fact that these jewelry pieces have been worn since ancient times, it is quite hard to determine what is their original meaning. Almost all woman shaped artifacts which were discovered in the Indian Culture, featured bangles. Furthermore, not one divinity has ever been portrait without this essential jewelry piece.
As we mentioned above, these jewelry pieces are meant for married women but there are numerous customs and traditions that are tied to them. For example, in some parts of India, women never show there bare arms and they wrap their polka around their arm when they are changing their bracelets. Furthermore, there is a rather complicated matter regarding widows, who in theory are married women. While it is acceptable for widows to sometimes wear gold bracelets, it is forbidden for them to wear glass bangles.
When it comes to the bangle trends, the Indian culture highly promotes the-more-the-better concept. Therefore, in order for a woman to follow both the trends and the traditions she has to wear numerous bangles on both arms. The bangles can be simple hoops or sophisticated jewelry pieces decorated with intricate designs and precious gemstones.
All married women must wear bangles in order to show their marital status to the society. The most common materials are lac, shell and glass but each region has its own preferences. For example, most parts of northern India prefer ivory bangles, also known as chuda. Other parts prefer the lac pieces (made from corals), known as pola, or the shell pieces, known as Shankha. The matter of preference is a relative term as in some parts of India, the traditional bracelets are mandatory for married women. The materials of these jewelry pieces also wary according to the financial status of a woman. Furthermore, the personal taste of the women can have a certain influence on the style of the bangles. For example, certain women who are more extravagant, even wear bracelets made of elephant teeth.
Ivory is the most common material for Indian brides who must wear their wedding bangles for at least one year after the wedding. It is also traditional for the uncle of the bride to give the bride 21 red and white ivory chudas after he previously washed them in milk. There are many more bridal bangle rituals and they all differ according to each region.
As you can see, fashion is a rather complicated concept for Indian women, since it is so closely linked to tradition. Fortunately, most women around the world can wear whatever they want. Still, all women are fascinated with Indian bangles which they wear for stylish purposes only. Although it is fashionably acceptable for women to wear as many bangles as possible, most women prefer to abide by the less-is-more motto and wear only one or a couple of such bracelets.