In a country as vast and diverse as India, ornaments vary from region to region just as much as language and customs do. However, one ornament that is used widely all over India is the bangle – whether made of gold or glass, bangles are an inevitable part of a woman’s jewellery, especially during her wedding.
Bangles are considered auspicious, and at one time, it was considered inauspicious for a woman not to wear bangles. I remember my grandfather ruing the fact that I studied at a convent school and couldn’t wear jewellery to school, and that my hands were always bare! I was secretly pleased, because I hated ornaments of any kind! I still do, but over the years, I have developed an affinity for bangles – but only the ones made of glass... and I never take them off! At one time, glass bangles could be found easily... and in various designs, but today, my options are limited. In Mumbai, all I get are decorative bangles, which look great for weddings or special occasions, but are no use for daily wear. Which is why, whenever I am travelling in smaller towns, I always keep my eyes peeled for bangle shops. Like this one at Ambejogai near Nanded.
Ambejogai houses an important temple of the goddess, which is probably the reason there were so many bangle shops there. I was spoilt for choice, and I eventually landed up at this one, which was the biggest in the area, and came back my hands full.... literally!
And then, there are these ‘mobile’ bangle shops... or bangle sellers, who carry delicate glass bangles in wicker baskets on their head, and go from house to house, not just selling the bangles, but also helping the customers wear them! In fact, it is quite a tradition to have the bangle seller fill your hand with bangles...as is done at weddings, and many other occasions. They have a great idea of what will suit you, help you pick the right size, and help you wear bangles which seem too small, fit just right.... and in an aside, it is actually better to wear glass bangles a size smaller, for then they don’t break as fast! It has been a long time since I saw any such door-to-door bangle sellers, but on this trip, I saw quite a few.. especially in buses, where it seemed a miracle that the bangles emerged intact even after the most lurching rides in buses packed to capacity! The only one I managed to click, however, was this one, whom I saw at Shegaon.
“Zara thaamb re, mala pallu theek karu de na” (wait for a moment. Let me arrange my pallu (end of the saree) properly ) was what the lady wearing the bangles told me, when I asked if I could click a photo. And then, she made me click more, till she was satisfied with how the photo turned out!