Bangles, necklaces, and garlands play an important part in Indian wedding ceremonies. Bangles are key pieces of Indian
wedding jewellery for Hindu and Sikh women, and an essential part
of any wedding costume.
Bangles are made from a huge range of materials including glass, ivory, gold,
iron, shell, plastic, and lac (a natural insect resin).
A Hindu bride often wears glass bangles along with her gold ones. Coloured
bangles are a sign of marriage, with red and green glass bangles being seen as
essential. Red symbolises life and joy, while green symbolises fertility.
Glass bangles are worn by women of all classes of Indian society. Although
girls are allowed to wear them, bangles are considered essential for married women.
Usually eight to twelve glass bangles are worn on each wrist, but there are no
When a Hindu woman’s husband dies, according to tradition, she will break
her glass bangles to mourn him. After his death, she will remove all wedding jewellery
Sikh brides wear the chuda, a set of bangles traditionally made of ivory, but
now usually made from white and red plastic. A bunch of dangling kalirei –
thin pieces of silver or gold – is tied onto a thin iron bangle that she
wears on her wrist. This is done by friends and relatives at a Sikh
wedding, and it is seen as a blessing to the bride. Traditionally,
a Sikh bride wouldn’t have to do any work until she took off her bangles
and bunches of kalirei.
During the Hindu marriage ceremony,
the groom will tie a mangalsutra (marriage necklace) around his
bride’s neck to announce their union.
A mangalsutra (mangal means auspicious; sutra means thread)
is a necklace of small black beads, which are believed to ward of evil spirits,
with gold cups or other pendants in the centre (called thaali). A mangalsutra
is first made with yellow thread, as this is considered an auspicious colour.
However, it may later be restrung on gold.
A thaali is a gold marriage pendant worn on a necklace or
a yellow thread in place of the mangalsutra. A thaali is mainly worn in southern
India. Sometimes necklaces of coral beads are also worn by brides from the south,
as red is considered the most auspicious colour for marriage.
During a Hindu wedding, the groom will also place sindoor (red powder) along
the parting of his bride’s hair. Both the mangalsutra and sindoor symbolise
his love for and devotion to his bride, as well as her status as a suhagini (a
woman whose husband is still alive).
The thaali and mangalsutra are worn throughout a woman’s married life.
In some parts of India, if a woman’s husband dies, then one of her female
relatives will cut the mangalsutra from her neck. This symbolises the end of her
married state. She may keep her mangalsutra as a family heirloom, or throw it
into flowing water, which is considered to be one of the five sacred elements.
The father of a Sikh bride will give the groom a gold ring, a kada (steel or
iron bangle), and a mohra. A mohra is a necklace consisting of a number of gold
coins strung onto a black thread, and placed by the groom around his bride’s
neck after the wedding ceremony. The mohra fulfils a similar purpose to the mangalsutra,
though the bride only wears it for the wedding and on formal occasions.
Garlands are normally made of flowers, and are often worn
by the bride and groom in Indian marriage ceremonies.
Flowers form a very important part of Indian weddings. They are the symbol
of creation and regeneration, and are believed to bring good luck and happiness.
They are considered pure, and therefore an acceptable offering to ancestors, spirits,
During the Hindu wedding ceremony, the bride and groom exchange garlands, which
represent free choice and acceptance of each other. Simple marigold garlands are
also given by the close male relatives of the bride to the close male relatives
of the groom.
Different types of flowers can be used for a garland, some of the most popular
being marigold, lotus, jasmine, and rose. While garlands of fresh flowers are
the most important for rituals, novelty garlands are also made, usually from synthetic
materials such as plastic and tinsel. Grooms sometimes wear garlands
made from unused Indian banknotes, and silver and gold tinsel.
When flower garlands have faded, they are placed in water, which is considered
to be one of the five sacred elements.
a set of bangles worn by a Sikh bride
a necklace made of flowers
steel or iron bangle given to a Sikh groom by his bride’s father
thin pieces of silver or gold tied onto the iron bangle of a Sikh bride
a natural resin secreted from an insect (Tachardia lacca)
necklace worn by a Hindu bride, consisting of small black beads with a central
gold unit (thaali)
a gold-coin necklace worn by a Sikh bride
red powder placed by a Hindu groom at the parting of his bride’s hair
a woman whose husband is alive
gold marriage pendant often worn in southern India
The following publication can be found in Te Aka Matua Te Papa Library and
Information Centre on Level 4.
Untracht, Oppi. (1997). Traditional Jewelry of India. New York: Harry
N. Abrams, Inc.