The traditional and religious significance of rings
if fast diminishing, giving way to trendy international designs
emphasis on style.
No other nation in the
world can surpass the 5000 years old record on India with its
unbroken history of the custom of wearing jewellery. The women of
this land are unique in that, even today, for various reasons the use
of ornaments continues with undiminished vitality. Of these the
ring in its various forms adorns the nose, ears, fingers and toes.
Amulets worn as charm against evil also come in the form of rings.
Usually at the childs naming ceremony performed on the 12th
day after the birth, a small ring or stud is inserted into the ear
lobe or nose toes as a protective amulet.
widespread use of nose ornaments in India today has created a
misconception that wearing of these an ancient Hindu custom based on
religious sanctions. Yet French historian-writer I.L.Blanchol says,
the Muslim ladies also perform certain vows in the name of
renowned saints and make their children wear nathunis (nose rings).
Going back to ancient
Indian civilization, there are no nose rings on the stone and clay
sculpture of Indus, Sanchi, or at Ajanta, Ellora and Badami. Neither
is there evidence of the use of nose rings from the plaques, seals or
coins excavated from Mohenjodaro, Harappa or the Kushan and Gupta
dynasties. Similarly, the bronzes of the Apsaras of the 9th
century, or the 11th/12th century Uma of the
Pala period and Parvati show an absence of this ornament of the nose.
Evidence of nose rings and studs appear only in the 15th
and 16th centuries.
Thus, nose ornaments
which are commonly worn as marriage ornaments today one can
conclusively say, appeared around the end of the 16th
century and are believed to have been introduced by the Mughals. The
most common type is not a ring, but in the form of a stud known as
phul. This is worn through a hole in the left nostril an
secured by a screw fitting on the inner side. Its size varies from a
small gold ball or diamond to a flat disc with a highly ornamental
surface. Additionally, the stud may have small attachments like a
fringe of hanging chains or small pendants.
Large nose rings are also
worn. They may be plain silver or gold hoops but they may also be
extravagantly ornamented with enamel, pearls and precious stones.
Heavy nose rings are usually supported by cords of fine chains hooked
to the hair or head covering to hold the ornament flat against the
cheek, otherwise their weight would distort the nose. The bulak
from Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, won by the local Dogra women is one
of the largest loop nose-rings worn in the country. It is decorated
with granulation and set with stones, covering a large portion of the
cheek and mouth.
The third basic type of
nose ornament, usually of gold, is pendant hung from a hole in the
central septum. Single rings are most commonly worn but some
pendants may be so large and complex that they hang over the mouth
and must be lifted up when eating.
To persons outside this
culture, nose ornaments must probably seem the strangest of all
Indian jewellery, although in context they are extremely feminine,
attractive an meaningful.
sculpture, as early as the 3rd/4th century A.D.
is characterized by the presence of ear ornaments. The Buddhists were
said to have favoured massive earrings.
The forms and size of ear
ornaments vary enormously. They can be decorated in an immense number
of ways including embellishments with enamel, stones or pearls.
Almost any type can have additional small decorative chains and
hanging miniature pendants often in small leaf shapes, balls or
bells. Some earrings are so heavy they must be supported by a cord or
chair, often elaborate, that passes over the ear or is hooked to the
hair. Other types of unsupported ear ornaments are worn from a hole
in the lobe, which as a result is permanently stretched to an
unimaginable degree. The large disc plug of Gujarat and the various
kinds of heavy earrings worn by the women of Tamil Nadu are examples
of these. Women of some regions had ears pierced with holes of a
diameter which almost amounted to mutilation and wore enormous
pendant earrings made from gold and inlay.
Fingers: Rings for
the hands have been found at practically all levels of Indus Valley
Civilization. Mohenjodaro excavations have brought forth copper rings
with several coils, yet none of gold and very few of silver were
discovered. Perhaps there was religious prejudice against gold rings
Rings, over the ages have
been worn on all the fingers including the thumb. They fulfilled the
triple function-decorative, talismanic and signatory. These are made
of various materials. The innumerable forms of metal rings can
broadly be divided into those with and without bezel (the part of the
ring meant to hold a decorative decree, stone or seal). While rings
set with personal seals are less common today than formerly yet rings
set with stones are ubiquitous. The particular stone may be chosen
for reason other then mere appearance. According to Hindu astrology,
each of he nine planets in the Universe is represented by a specific
stone. Most Indians are aware of the planet dominant at the time of
their birth. It is believed to exert a strong influence on the
persons life. By wearing the stone associated with ones
planetary sign, it is believed that the effect can be enhanced or
mitigated according to the nature of the planet. A very popular
arrangement of stones called Navaratna (nine gems) is used in rings
and other ornaments. By wearing an ornament with these nine stones
the wearer is believed to be provided with universal protection.
In a special category is
the larger thumb-ring or arsise with a circular mirror. A rural bride
wearing such a ring during her marriage ceremony, her eyes downcast
in modesty, can see in it the reflection of her husbands face,
sometimes for the first time! Other thub-rings, unequivocally courtly
pieces in shape and material were worn from the late 16th
to the mid 18th century during the reign of Shah Jahan.
They were considered the finest examples of Mughal Jewelled gold. Yet
another type, now obsolete, is the Archers ring of jade or
gold, at times set with gems and embellished with enamel. Its Central
Asian origin accounts for its popularity among high ranking men
during the Mughal period. To the Romand the ring was the most
important item of jewellery. Theirs was the first civilization to use
it as a sign of betrothal.
Today the rings have only
fashion value. The traditional significance seems to have
diminished. With the international tends influencing the domestic
fashions designers are going in for trendy rather than the
traditional. Manisha Khaiyam, Chief Designer with RB jewellery Corp.
at SEEPZ, Bombay was one of the two winners at the jewel yatra 92.
Designing primarily for the western (American/European) and
mid-eastern markets, she finds a great deal of difference between
the two. The upmarket American and European buyers go n for sober
elegant styles with the accent on high quality stones. Whereas the
Mid-East buyer is still influenced strongly by Persian, Islamic and
Indian designs. They prefer a continuity of old designs mainly with
coloured stones and a larger amount of gold. The trend in the local
market, in India is again predominantly for old designs with a modern
touch. Consciousness of design is coming in and the woman in India
also want the designs that we do for the foreign market. This could
be due to the exposure via the media. Where the cost factor matters,
many are prepared to settle for American diamonds (cubic zirconium)
as long as the form is trendy! She reveals.
Specifying further about
the different kinds of jewellery, Minisha points out that jumkhas
are still favoured here as studs are abroad. Danglers are in vogue,
but more as costume jewellery. We play more with metal and coloured
stones and minimize diamonds to cut down costs, she aves.
For the nose, single
stone studs rate high, or the traditional design with a few diamonds.
Lops are on the decrease, unless they are family heirlooms used for
weddings and other ceremonies. For the feet, due to more women
wearing closed shoes, the touring in most cases is now a take-off
accessory and not necessarily a symbol of marriage, except among the
more orthodox and conventional woman.
A set of rings gaining
great popularity are a combination of four-into-one. separate old
bands with different coloured stones, the usual being diamond, ruby,
emerald and sapphire.
These can be worn to
match any ensemble or all together to give a rainbow-like effect. In
the west they are known as a Game of Rings she says.