Nepalese ethnic jewelry: nose ornaments

In Nepal, except for the Tibeto-Nepalese and Newar women, all other groups wear nose jewelry. Here it is not just a piece of body adornment but a symbol of marriage as well. Ornaments for the nose in Nepal are of three basic types: the stud, the nose ring and the septum ornament.
The nose stud called phuli (that means "little flower") is worn in the left nostril, the female side in Hindu-Buddhist understanding. Designs and sizes vary greatly according to location. It can be simply a dot of gold, a small diamond or a flat disk whose surface is nicely decorated. In west Nepal the phuli has a shape of a seven-pointed star, sometimes with a red stone in the centre surrounded by more red or red and green glass stones. In rural areas the nose studs can be quite large (up to 3 sm in diameter) and heavy and pull the nostril down.

The ornament that hangs below a hole pierced through the septum is known by the name bulaki. Usually it consist of a ring with pendant. The whole ornament can be as long as 6 sm and needs to be lifted up when the woman is eating. The lower part is intricately decorated with twisted and wrapped wires, scrolls, spheres and stones. Usually the designs are floral. In some areas bulaki is placed into a woman's mouth when she dies and is believed to help her attaining mukti, the state of release. Very often phuli and bulaki are worn together.

The gold nose ring is called nath. In Sanskrit nath means "lord, master, protector" and in Hindi it also refers to a rope passed through the nose of a draft animal. So, the nath nose ring is a symbol of a man's control over a woman after their marriage. The nath can be of any size (3 to 10 sm), from a simple small wire ring to an extraordinary large and decorated one. Usually precious stone beads - rubies, emeralds, pearls and corals - are used for decoration of the nath.


For the wedding ceremony a large sized and decorated nath is often used. In this case a chain connects the hook to the ear or the ear jewelry. After the wedding it is sometimes worn for special occasions, like Teej festival for example.

Nose jewelry in Nepal is associated not only with married status but with the putiry of women. So, in many communities a woman without nose jewelry would not be permitted to serve food and water.

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