If you ever find yourself at a real Indian party you will be amazed not only with the richness and brightness of the women's outfits but you will also be bedazzled with the jewelry they wear at such occasions. Here are a few photos I took at different Indian parties that I was lucky to attend. It is always entertaining for me to look at the jewelry that women wear, all different in design, massive, made of solid gold or embellished with precious stones and enamel.
In India the custom of wearing jewelry has an unbroken history of 5000 years. No other nation in the world can challenge this impressive record and India is unique in that even today. Wearing of jewelry has been obligatory in India for all important occasions, even if the ritual be private or a family affair.Till recently women in Hindu society could not inherit property. So their ornaments were often their only resource, their "life-belt".
For Indian women fine clothes and jewelry were and still are the means of showing social position of themselves, their husbands' and their families. For example, in Bengali Hindu society a woman who wear only 1 lb of gold (though solid and 22 carat fine) on her person on formal occasions has a respectability which is of the average order. To be of consequence she has to carry at least 2.5 lb (1.16 kg). (source Culture in the Vanity Bag by Nirad Chaudhuri)
And look what the Laws of Manu says: "Women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands and brothers-in-law for their own welfare...men who seek their own welfare should always honour women on holidays and festivals with ornaments, clothes and food".
In general, except at the highest levels of society in Indian culture, personal appearance is more important than the appearance of the environment in which one lives, and a proportionately larger percentage of money is spent for personal dress than to home embellishment.
Although men's ornaments are not as numerous as those worn by women, it is common practice on special occasions (especially weddings) for a man to wear jewelry. In Northern India the groom often becomes a "Mughal prince" for the duration of the event and so he is dressed and adorned accordingly. Worn by men jewelry symbolizes power and wealth.
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