Why do Indian women have their nose pierced?
There’s no one answer to this! The practice probably came into India around the 16th century, along with the Mughal invaders. According to another theory, the Sushruta Samhita, an ancient Ayurvedic text recommends piercing the left nostril at a prescribed spot to reduce menstrual cramps in women.
Whatever the original reason, nose piercing is now intrinsic to traditional ornamentation. Nose studs and rings come in a variety of materials, sizes and styles and are an essential item in the Indian bride’s ensemble.
In southern India, the right nostril is preferred over the left. A large number of Hindu women wear them, though it is common practice among Muslims, too. Among Hindus, nose piercing is usually done around 16 years of age, when girls were traditionally considered ready for marriage.
What is a sari?
Five meters of mischief, as one ad-maker described this traditional garment worn by Indian women!
On a more serious note, the word ‘sari’ originated from the Sanskrit ‘sati’, which means ‘piece of cloth’ and evolved into the Anglicized ‘sari’. The tradition of wearing unstitched fabric by both men and women in India is steeped in antiquity and symbolism. Stella Kramrisch, India scholar and curator from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, writing on ancient Indian culture says, “In the Rig Veda and the Upanishads, the universe is envisioned as a fabric woven by the gods. The cosmos… is one continuous fabric with its warp and woof making a grid pattern…Whether as a cover for the body or as a ground for a painting, the uncut fabric is a symbol of totality and integrity. It symbolizes the whole of manifestation.”
In its modern avatar, the sari is worn over an ankle-length petticoat and a close-fitting blouse, the choli. Regional traditions of wearing the sari are varied, but the pan-Indian style of draping this garment remains most popular – pleated in front, with one long loose end (the pallu) across the chest and slung over the left shoulder.
Few garments can match a sari for versatility. While it shows off a slender waist to advantage, it also conceals the plump. Draping preferences also reflect a woman’s personality – sober, sensual, modest or flirtatious!
What does the dot on Indian women’s forehead represent?
The dot or bindi as it is popularly known derives from the Sanskrit ‘bindu’. It symbolizes shakti or feminine energy as represented by Parvati, the mother goddess. Traditionally, the bindi is worn by single and married Hindu women; the application of a vermilion dot by a groom on his bride’s forehead is a highlight of the marriage ceremony. Bindis are also believed to ward off the ‘evil eye’.
Bindis are a fashion statement today, worn by all Indian communities and come in a huge variety of designs. Traditionally made of organic dyes and powders, modern, bindis, made of felt, are self-adhesive and reusable.