I have a few kurtas…. Bought in India. Some are a bit “too India” and doesn’t work at home. But for the most part they could go anywhere. But there is this thing about sleeves…. the length of the sleeves to be specific. Almost all are designed with a 2/3 length of the sleeve, and if you wonder why? To make room for the bangles of course. At least that is my conclusion.
Indian women are among the best dressed in the world. To me, there are two buzz words; colors and match. No need to speak about colors, we all know that Indian women are dressed in either saris or salwaars in bright colors (when speaking about traditional outfits). And every item matches; the kurta (tunic), the trousers and the dupatta (shawl). Because it’s a set. When I dress in the morning I chose a pair of trousers; if they are black I find – for example – a suitable t-shirt and a blazer – but it’s not a “set” in the sense that these three items are bought together. If you go into an Indian shop you’ll see that a lot of outfits are bought as a set; trousers, kurta, dupatta. And then comes the icing of the cake; the matching bangles….
Recently, I visited a bangle shop in Old Delhi. Old Delhi is a huge wholesale market divided into many bazaars: Kinari bazaar for beads and jewellery, or the spice market Kaori Baoli. Suddenly you find yourself in a street lined with shops selling marriage invitations only, or, bangles…. It’s amazing really and one shouldn’t turn down a good guide in this incredible maze. It’s easy to get in, I’m not sure I would find my way out without some helping hands. Old Delhi is crowded; you walk abreast with people, goats, cows, cycle rickshaws, two wheelers, bicycles, ox carts and the minute you leave Chandni Chowk – Old Delhi’s main arterial – you’re a hundred years back in time.
Our guide Dhruv took us to a basement full of bangles. – You can choose some, as a gift he said. Five “girls” panicked simultaneously, what to chose?? I went for brown-ish red-ish glass bangles. The man behind the counter asked me to show my wrist, cast a quick glance and gave me the exact size. I thought the 7-8 bangles I had put on my arm was what I got, but then I was given two boxes full of the same type I had chosen. Excess is a keyword when it comes to bangles… Put them on and remove them all at the same time, we were told. Otherwise they break easily.
Some facts about bangles: Bangles are part of traditional Indian jewellery. They are usually worn in pairs by women, one or more on each arm. Most Indian women prefer wearing either gold or glass bangles or combination of both. Inexpensive bangles made from plastic are slowly replacing those made by glass, but the ones made of glass are still preferred at traditional occasions such as marriages and on festivals.
It is tradition that the bride will try to wear as many small glass bangles as possible at her wedding the honeymoon will end when the last bangle breaks. Bangles also have a very traditional value in Hinduism and it is considered inauspicious to be bare armed for a married woman.
Recommended trip if you’d like to eplore Old Delhi: www.masterjikeehaveli.com
All photos: Anne-Trine Benjaminsen