Long in use in Rajasthan and Gujarat, in fact since ancient times, these bangles were then carved out of elephant ivory and dyed a deep maroon using natural madder. Usually the preserve of the well...
Long in use in Rajasthan and Gujarat, in fact since ancient times, these bangles were then carved out of elephant ivory and dyed a deep maroon using natural madder. Usually the preserve of the well-to-do, they were considered auspicious and were given to brides. Seventeen upper-arm 'chura' and nine 'muthia' worn on the lower arm made a set that each woman was expected to wear on both arms through their married life. It turned out a bit much for those who weren't tribal or provincial in thought and the cumbersome nature of bangles stacked all over the limbs all the time seemed daunting. Nowadays,'churas' are what you see most women from western India wearing on their forearm, during and after marriage.
The Bengali 'pola' has a role here too in that it parks itself between a shankha and a loha and is always witnessed in tandem with the former. Coral, the original material, has given way to plastic a long time ago and these usually are tubular in form while the shankha's flat.
The red plastic bangles you see in the picture are made like 'churas': flat, with a depression along the middle into which the gold sheet with requisite decorations –– in this case, tiny double ball-jhurs –– is laid. Only two from the set, made for a determined young girl getting married in the first week of March, have been photographed. Not conforming to 'churas' and certainly not anywhere close to the traditional pola, these bangles are sweet symbols of suitable sentiments and culture with the fun of 'reshmi chooris' mixed in.
Easy to wear and take off, and without the sombre weight of social customs attached to them, this pair's quite a delight. While providing the auspiciousness of colour (red) and precious metal (guinea gold), each bangle is extremely light and has a certain charm to it that respects tradition and also breaks away from it, all with a merry spontaneity that's impossible not to smile at. Even hardened critics of such licenses taken from age-old mores will sanction these in place of the usual kind of hefty polas. And even if they don't, who cares? We're supposed to wear our ornaments out of love, not because we have any compulsion to adhere to stringent social norms and an imposed morality.
The next time you consider red bangles around your wrists continually for a year after your marriage to commingle with your shankha, think of some such as these. They're so lovable that you'll probably end up wearing them for much longer than you, or anyone else, had ever imagined. Besides, the 'Soubhagya' of their name indicates clearly that we're in control of our destinies. Good fortune will shine upon us not because of any red or white bangles. In fact, it's the chooris that are blessed with the 'soubhagya' of decorating us, our arms, and, having done so, become themselves ornaments of clear and positive energy.