24.1.13

Traditional jewelry of the Tharu women of Nepal


I took picture of this lovely girl during one of the Tharu festivals in Kathmandu. Needless to say I was mesmerized by the jewelry she was wearing. I wanted to find out more about traditional jewelry of the Tharu and did some research.
The Tharu live in parts of the Nepalese wet lowlands along the Indian border. Before the drainage of these areas in the twentieth century, the malaria-resistant Tharus lived isolated along the malaria infested jungles and developed their own distinct culture and religion. They usually settle in small villages and make a living from agriculture.
The main characteristic of  the Tharu jewelry is that it is made of silver or silver substitutes and that is worn in great quantity though nowadays it is much less then what was worn in the past.
The hair ornament called ali band is popular with many different groups. It is a metal band that runs from the centre of the forehead over the part of the hair and around the sides of the head. The Tharu version is large with a prominent centre design and may not have the centre band.

photo courtesy Rex Turgano

Tharu woman wearing ali band hair ornament, bir earrings, taunk necklace, bangles

All Tharu necklaces are visually significant. They are often large and heavy and the Tharu wear them in multiples. The har necklace is made up of two large flat triangles from which hang a number of chains of  increasing lengths. The hansuli necklace is a round collar worn tight around the neck or resting on the collar bones. It is made of solid silver and up to 2.5cm in diameter, so can be quite heavy.
The kanthshri necklace is worn by the Rana Tharu of the west. A multitude of repeated small metal elements are strung on two fabric strings.


Rana Tharu women. Photo courtesy Philippe Guy

Rana Tharu woman wearing kanthula necklace, photo by Deepak Krishna Chaturvedi

A necklace of silver coins is called kanthula. The Tharu use silver coins not only in jewelry but as decorations of garments. What is interesting that sometimes Tharu men too wear coin necklaces.

photo courtesy Prakash Kafle

Another heavy silver necklace, taunk, has a lunular shape supporting a fringe of pendants. The lunula is decorated with floral designs. As a nose decoration the Tharu wear a round and fairly large stud, called nagbeshar. In some areas large nose rings, nath, are also worn.
Jimile is the most popular earrings design among the Tharu. It consist of a triangular pendant with rows of chains. In western Nepal jimile is very large, up to 17cm in length. Another popular design is bir - these are round earrings of flower design, quite large and heavy. Besides, the main earring often supports another pendant, a hoop, or a bell.

Jimile earrings. Photo courtesy Prakash Kafle

Anklets worn by Rana Tharu. Photo source www.free-photos.biz

Tharu women wear many bracelets as well: wrist bracelets, upper arm bracelets and anklets. The wrist bracelets are often just simple silver cuffs or bangles. The upper arm bracelets, called teria, are formed from a wide sheet of silver and decorated with fish designs. The anklets are plain unworked silver cuffs worn in pairs on each ankle, making width of 15cm.

Related posts Traditional jewelry of the Newars of Nepal
Ethnic jewelry of the Tibeto-Nepalese

29 comments:

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