Solah Shringar: Essential Adornments for the Indian Bride

November 1, 2010 - by Nadya

Believed to combat the negative vibes of the phases of the moon (which obviously controls menstruation), the Solah Shringar  is 16 pieces of bridal attire including traditional makeup and jewelry that the Hindu bride must must must wear on her wedding day.

Each item is thought to enhance the natural beauty of the bride and bring out her goddess-like mien. Nowadays, though, brides are a little less scared of the moon (and feel like goddesses regardless) and will cherry-pick from the following items.  We're going to go through them from head to toe.

Gupta_Gupta_Jihan_Abdalla_Photography_18_low width=

{photo by Jihan Abdalla via Nidhi and Avin's Wedding}

 1. Sindoor The sindoor, a bright red powder applied to the parting of the hair, is the traditional signifier for all Hindu wives.  The husband uses his thumb to spread it in his wife's hair parting near the end of the wedding ceremonies.  This act is one of the final rituals that bind the couple for life.  Traditionally, Hindu wives wear sindoor every day of their married lives, reapplying it every morning.

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{photo by Jason Hales via Lauren and Sanjay's Wedding}

2. Keshapasharachana Obvs, hair is a big deal to South Asians, and on the wedding day brides go all out with flowers (usually jasmines), heavy braids, and jewels strung across their foreheads. The three strands of the braid signify the three rivers in India, the Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati, or the holy trinity of Shiva, Vishnu, and Bhrama.  They could also represent the bride's family, her husband's family, and her, the joiner of the two.  This updo probably looks a bit familiar because you've seen it on devadasis and it's not uncommon for brides to tie temple jewelry into their braids.

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{photo by Farnaz K Studio via Shobi and Kevin's Wedding}

3. Mangtikka This giant jewel is worn in the middle of the forehead, on top of the hair-parting.  There are a variety of styles including ones with three chains, one chain, extra dangely bits, and even cone-shaped pieces (usually worn by Rajasthani brides).  The one seen above (three chains) is a special favorite because it frames the bride's face.  Mangtika's are extremely traditional as they hang over the ajna chakra, the home of the body's mind and intellect.

Sona Photography - Florida Hindu Indian Wedding 3 width=

{photo by Sona Photography via Megha and Neil's Wedding}

4. Bindi The bindi traditionally signified the wearer was married though nowadays pretty much all South Asian women, regardless of religions affiliation or age, will don a bindi either for day wear or special occasions.  There are a variety of reasons why Hindus place these jeweled stickers between their eyes, not least of which is the belief that it represents the woman's third eye.  Generally, though, it's a fantastic excuse to frame your perfectly threaded eyebrows (if you go with the bindi strings as seen above) or to just wear more bling.

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{photo by Limelight Photography via Michelle and Jim's Wedding}

5. Kohl Kohl, or Kajal, or just basically super thick and dark eye-liner is applied to both the upper and lower eye-lids for this crazy dramatic, pseudo-raccoon look. Traditional Kohl is homemade - a mixture of ghee, sandalwood oil, and soot.  I think, though, you can get way with some Urban Decay Glide-On instead.

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6. Karn Phool Karn Phool is Sanskirt for 'ear flower' and these earrings can err on the side of ginormous.  Often they are so heavy they hook into the bride's hair for extra support.  They can range in style (from Kundan to Meenakari to Pachchikam to Temple) and there is no single traditional look.

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{via Old Bollywood Glamour}

7. Nath The Nath, or nosering, originated in the Middle East and was brought to the Subcontinent by the Mughals.  It was fully embraced by Indians and to this day the large Nath (which is considerably bigger than the standard Indian nose piercing today) is still a wedding staple.  In some regions, the Nath is meant only for married women who are expected to wear it every day.  And don't worry if your nose isn't pierced, clip-ons are easy to find.

Delhi Indian Wedding by Jihan Abdalla Photography19 width=

{photo by Jihan Abdalla via Caitlin and Vikrant's Wedding}

8. Haar Hindu brides typically wear a range of jewelry which can include any items from the following list: chokers, heavy draping bibs, princess-length jeweled necklaces, long gold chains, or intricate Kundan and Polki collars. In some traditions, brides will layer these pieces while in others it is more common to only see a single intricate necklace.

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{photo by Day 7 Photography via Celia and Amit's Wedding}

BONUS: Mangal Sutra While not part of the Solah Sringar, the mangal sutra, a black and gold beaded chain which is given to the bride during the ceremony and which is worn everyday by her after, is a constant at Hindu weddings.

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{R&L Photography via Diana and Andrew's Wedding}

 9. Baajuband Armlets like the one shown above are worn high on the upper arm, near the shoulder.  They are extremely traditional and can be found in the usual arrangement of temple jewelry worn by dancers.  Variations will also include a simple armband crusted with Polki and gems in traditional Kundan style.  They are thought to ward away evil spirits.

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{photo via Tanishq Bridal Jewelry}

10. Choodiyan No matter where in India you're from, no Hindu bride is complete without her bangles.  Traditions vary as to what color and how many bangles there should be, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a bride with bare arms on her wedding day.  Bangles can be made of glass, gold, metalivory, or lac and will traditionally come in red, green, white, and gold (though modern brides usually match them to whatever color their dress is).

Indian Chinese Wedding by Limelight Photography 62 width=

{photo by Limelight Photography via Michelle and Jim's Wedding}

BONUS: Kalire Kalire, the small jeweled chandeliers that hang from the bride's wrists, are traditional in Punjabi Sikh weddings but have recently become very popular among Hindu brides.  They come in all sorts of colors and are usually made out of gold or metal.  It is customary for brides to continue to wear them for 40 days after their wedding along with the chooda - this is specifically to deter her from doing housework!  Kalire are tied to the bride's bangles during the Chooda Ceremony by the bride's maternal aunt and uncle.

punjabi kalires by Lin and Jirsa Photography width=

{via The Beauty of Kaliras by Lin & Jirsa Photography}

11. Mehndi There are lots of stories surrounding the bridal mehndi - the most common one I've heard is the darker it gets, the stronger the groom's love for his bride. I don't know about that though because if you rub the dried, caked mehndi with lemon and oil it gets a lot darker - just in case, I guess.  Mehndi is applied during the Mehndi Ceremony to the bride's hands and feet and intricate designs represent a variety of things (anything from future wealth to fertility).

Delhi Indian Wedding by Jihan Abdalla Photography3 width=

{photo by Jihan Abdalla via Caitlin and Vikrant's Wedding}

12. Aarsi Aarsi specifically refers to the large thumb ring many brides wear but has been expanded to include the rest of the rings she'll wear on her wedding day.  Tradition dictates that the bride does not see her groom before and during a large part of the wedding ceremony so the aarsi are covered with tiny mirrors to help her steal a quick look of him.

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{via Irfan Ahson}

13. Kamarband A gold belt is tied around the bride's waist to help keep the sari in place and accentuate her curves.  It's typically made of hammered metal and can be encrusted with gems.

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{via Vikram Phadnis}

14. Paayal & Bichus The paayal is a chain that is tied around the bride's ankles, usually with tiny bells dangling from it which chime when the bride moves.  Toe rings, bichus, are worn on the second toe (the one next to the big toe) to indicate the wearer is a married woman.  She is not supposed to remove them until her husband has passed away.

Indian Chinese Wedding by Limelight Photography 63 width=

{photo by Limelight Photography via Michelle and Jim's Wedding}

15. Itar The wedding day can be really long, and spending all that time next to a fire in all your finery can make you pretty gross.  Luckily there's itar!  It's a perfume that maintain's the bride feminine facade of unceasing beauty (basically it keeps her smelling nice).

16. Shaadi Ka Joda The wedding dress can be a sari, a lehnga, or salwaar kameez, depending on what region of India the bride's family is from.  It will usually come in a bright, auspicious color like red, maroon, green, or gold and is embroidered head to foot in gold and silver thread.  They're usually majorly blinged out as well.  There is no simple guide as to what the wedding dress will look like because it depends about 90% (or more) on the personal tastes of the bride. Modern brides deviate often from tradition and will wear dresses in all the colors of the rainbow, dripping in rhinestones or completely modest.

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{photo by IQ Photography via Alok and Venu's Wedding}

The Solah Shringar should be taken as a jumping off point for Indian brides.  Not all in-laws or families will insist on every part, and not all items are exactly comfortable to wear.  Choose what looks good and what fits your idea of what an Indian bride looks like - don't go out and get your nose pierced just to wear a Nath! It's all about enjoying the day, so enjoy it the way you want.

Sources: Cultural India and Yahoo! Lifestyle India

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