Tribal jewelry of Rajasthan

photo credit  Evgeni Zotov

I love ethnic jewelry. I like its simplicity and at the same time complexity, its uniqueness and beauty. I've already posted about Tibetan and Nepalese ethnic jewelry and today's post is about tribal jewelry of Rajasthan, India.
Tribal women of Rajasthan like to adorn themselves with lots of silver jewelry. Most of those, however, serve not only as decorations but have a special meaning: protective or signalling about marital status.
Protective role is played by metal plaque amulets bearing an image of a Hindu deity usually accompanied by its animal vehicle. Instead of one deity there may be as well a group of them or even only the symbol of deity, for example, footprints of Vishnu. Such amulets are called madaliya in Rajasthan. They may be of different shape: rectangular, square, round, in the form of yoni or temple-shaped.

Silver plaque amulet with an image of Hanuman

Silver plaque amulet with an image of footprints of Vishnu. Both images from here

In many Rajasthani tribes married women have to wear ivory bangles. An ideal set includes 17 bangles worn on the upper arm and nine on the lower arm, a total of 52 on both arms. They are never removed, not even during sleep, and are worn during a woman's entire married life. They are supposed to have a magical effect that protects against the evil eye and eases birth pains. Nowadays expensive ivory bangles are replaced with cheap plastic ones.
Women of Bhil tribe instead of ivory wear silver upper and lower arm bangles often decorated with images of tiger's, elephant's, snake's or dragon's heads or with represented head of Bhairava, a form of god Shiva.

photos credit Tetyana Pryymak

Other ornaments of a married Rajasthani woman are: a nose ring, a central forehead ornament, silver toe rings on the middle toes and silver anklets with attached bells.
A forehead ornament bhor can be made of gold or silver and decorated with silvered glass beads and mirrors. Usually it is spherical but may be flat. Some other jewelry can be attached to the bhor on the sides.
Nose rings are of various designs but most commonly worn are the ones in the shape of a waxing moon and those representing the sun and the moon (the large circle represents the sun and under the nose is the hemispherical moon). 

photo credit fulvio

The neck is often the most heavily adorned part of a Rajasthani woman's body. Chokers  necklaces of different design, chains of different length with pendants - there are many varieties of neck jewelry.
One of the most popular is hansuli - a solid silver torque of hollow construction resting on the collar bone. Sometimes hansuli can be made of coiled silver wire wrapped over a solid-core wire. Actually, Rajasthani men also wear hansuli. 
Another type of necklace is timaniya which means "tin maniya - three gems". The name refers to the three central ball-shaped units. Actually, if there is five balls, then the name will be punch (five) maniya. It is typically supported at the sides with multi-strands of glass beads. It is often presented to a bride as an auspicious gift.

photos credit Shreyans Bhansali

Banjara women have a very unique styled necklace consisting of silver discs and a central square pendant.

Banjara woman

Silver and gold earring

 Tribal Rajasthani ring. All three photos from here

Most widely used earrings are large, with additional small decorative chains and hanging miniature pendants, often in small leaf shapes, balls, bells or peacocks. Some earrings are so heavy they are supported by a cord or a chain to the hair.

photo credit Tom Maloney

Fashions change somewhere but not for these Rajasthani women whose chunky silver pieces of jewelry has been unchangable for centuries.

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    Marcia Moran

    1. Stunning jewelry!! I'm always amazed to see these women wearing at least 2 or 3 kg of silver...

      Great article.

      Leonor - www.ethnicadornment.com

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