Cherished wrist wear

Cherished wrist wear

Cherished wrist wear

Whether we actually wear them or not, bangles have continued to fascinate women from time immemorial.

I still remember my first visit to Benares as a child and what stands out clearly in my memory is the Churiwala Gali, every shop a-glitter with bangles of all colours and kinds.

I remember staring at a rainbow-coloured bunch goggle-eyed and my grandma telling me that those were called reshmi churi because they looked as bright and smooth as silk.

Bangles have been made from varied metals and material including gold, silver, copper, bronze, steel, platinum, ivory, lac, shells, wood, plastic and what have you.

But the tinkling glass bangle with its shimmer and glimmer often steals a march over other kinds even though it breaks so easily. Or perhaps because of its short and uncertain life.

Bangles have been excavated from several archaeological sites all over India.

The famous figurine of the dancing girl excavated from Mohenjo-daro (2600 BC) has a bangle on her left arm.

Others have been discovered at Mahurjhari and parts of the Mauryan Empire, said to belong between 322 and 185 BC.

And gold bangles in Taxila belonging to the 6th century BC. Bangles can be seen in the Ajanta and Ellora paintings in Sanchi and in the figures of gods and goddesses all over India.

In fact, bangles have always been a part of traditional Indian jewellery and continue to remain so to this day.

Fitting the time

Different kinds of bangles have been called by different names.

They have been referred to as kankan, valya, ruchika, manibandha, hastali and by others names in the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana, Jataka tales and plays like Abhigyana Shakuntalam.

The term ‘bangle’ is said to have originated from the word ‘bangri’, which means glass.

They are also called churi. Bangles are worn during many social functions such as weddings and other celebrations.

Sometimes they form an integral part of the ritual itself for which special kinds of bangles are worn. In some states, it is customary for the bride to wear green glass bangles during weddings.

Bangles are basically of two kinds — the solid cylindrical ones or the split ones that operate with a spring.

The designs range from simple one-colours to intricate handmade designs.

Some are studded with precious or semi-precious stones or simply pretty coloured glass.

What makes bangles expensive, apart from the material, is the amount of artistic work done on them.

It could be fine embroidery-like carving or painting or artistic attachments.

Circular make

The making of glass bangles involves several stages.

To start with, raw glass is first processed in the furnace and poured into pipes.

This molten pipe-shaped glass is converted into a spring with the help of an automated roller.

The spring is then cut into pieces of equal length to make the bangles.

The two open ends are joined by a process known as judai and then smoothened perfectly by a process called sadai.

That’s all that is needed for simple bangles. For making more intricate ones, the plain bangles are embellished with golden and silver dust or other material at this stage and the glittering bangle is ready for the market.

Originally, glass bangles were made by the Manihar community, mainly found in different parts of the country such as Rajasthan, Gujarat and Kutch.

Currently, two places in India are specially known for making bangles — Firozabad in the north and Hyderabad in the south.

The Laad Bazaar in Hyderabad, considered the largest of them all, is a sight for the eyes and the sheer variety of bangles sold there is stunning.

Apart from bangles made of glass and metals, they have lac bangles carefully crafted and embellished with different stones, precious and semi-precious, or pearls.

Another popular spot for buying bangles is the 300-year-old bangle market close to the Hanuman Mandir in Delhi where shoppers flock all the year round.

It is especially popular for brides-to-be as the bangles range from the really expensive to the easily affordable.

Some bangle sellers are particularly adept at engraving names on the bangles while there are others who sell highly decorated pieces replete with dazzling stones, glass or crystals.

However, one needs to have a real flair for bargaining for getting a good deal in both these places!