Tribal jewelry of Orissa

photo courtesy Rita Willaert

I continue to tell you about ethnic jewelry of different states of India. Today's post will be about tribal jewelry of Orissa. Of all the states of India, Orissa has the largest number of tribes, as many as 62. Each of these tribal groups has its own distinctive adornments but I will tell about the most typical and interesting ones. The Bondo tribe is the most spectacular tribe of its kind in all India living in the wild hills in the south of Orissa. Bondo means "the naked ones", a name given them by the Indians of the plains. According to legend, Bondo women were condemned and a commandment forbids them either to grow their hair or to wear any clothing apart from a home-woven loincloth.

photo courtesy Rita Willaert

They compensate for this restriction by adorning themselves with a great number of brass or aluminium rings piled on top of each other around their necks and magnificent necklaces of glass beads that cover their naked torsos down to their hips and serve as upper garments. Their shaved heads are also covered with bands of multi-strings glass beads.

photo courtesy EDionisi

The Kondhs are the largest tribal in Orissa. There are several subgroups of Kondh: Dongria, Kutia, Desia, Kui. However, their jewelry is very similar and one can easily recognise a Kondh woman by her adornments. First of all, all Kondh women wear three golden rings in their nose . Secondly, they make their hairstyles more beautiful by using different hair clips and pins made of iron, brass, copper or silver. Kondh girls decorate their heads with as many as fifty types of hair clips and their buns are set with more than ten types of hairpins.

photo courtesy  Raj Kumar

photo from here

Sometimes among hair ornaments there is a miniature version of a ceremonial knife for buffalo sacrifice and a spiral ornament with a scissor-like shape. Numerous (about 16 in each ear) earrings are another typical adornment of the Kondh women.

photo courtesy  Raj Kumar

Girls have their nose and ears pierced when they are still babies. This custom is not simply for decoration but also provides protection against evil spirits that might otherwise penetrate the body's openings. The bells worn by kids are also meant to keep evil spirits away.

Kondh girls also wear coin necklaces made of different, mostly 50 paise and 1 rupee, coins. Girls show their financial status wearing this type of necklace. The coin rings are also common.

photo source

Women of the Saora tribe can be recognized by the large wooden ear discs. The upper part of the ears is also decorated with numerous rings.

photo courtesy Raj Kumar

photo  source

Very distinctive ornaments wear women of the Gadaba tribe. When a Gadaba woman marries she receives thick aluminium neck-rings which she then wears for the rest of her life not taking them off even during sleep. These are complemented with no less thick bangles and enormous copper wire ear-hoops which are supported by a cord passed over head.

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