I found this very informative article in The Hindu - India's National Newspaper from Jan of 2003. Enjoy!
Bangles that behold!
On most festive occasions, women wear bangles, a symbol of good luck and part of tradition.
Bangles are made from every conceivable material
BANGLES ARE in fashion. Gone are the days when they were worn by few and matched with traditional wear. Today, jean glad girls are wearing it with as much style as what their mothers and grandmothers wore as part of ritual, tradition and occasion. The festival of Sankranti, which just went by is one such occasion when bangles are worn as a ritual.
Be it for their enthralling colours, their lovely designs and patterns, ornamental appeal, their musical tinkle or the traditional value, bangles have survived the test of time. Indian women still consider bangles to be fashion accessories that enhance the way they look, while also helping them remain faithful to long-established customs.
It might surprise some to know that bangles were worn as decorative accessories during the pre- and post-Vedic periods, and they had little or no ceremonial association.
The excavated remains of the Indus Valley civilization bear proof to the fact that women wore bangles on their arms and forearms to make themselves look more attractive.
It is said that medieval India included bangles in various customs and gave the
ornament a ritualistic significance.
As a result, arried women and young girls customarily wear bangles today.
It is considered inauspicious, by those who choose to believe so, to have arms bereft of the colourful adornment.
And yes, it is coloured bangles that are deemed to be more propitious than the gold or silver ones. Green and red glass bangles are auspicious for married women. In Maharashtra, women wear these on all important and special occasions in the family. As a matter of fact, pregnant women are given green glass bangles to wear on both their arms.
In Northern India and in the South, red assumes ritualistic relevance.
In Bengal, married women wear red and white bangles.
The white bangle is beautifully crafted from conch while the red is made either of coral or lac.
While the red and white ones are quite important as a symbol of matrimony, what is crucial is the loha or iron kada that is worn along with them. Some Bengalis get the loha gold-plated rather skillfully, giving it a more contemporary look.
The custom of the bride wearing ivory bangles extends from Punjab to Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Gujarat, the bride receives an ivory bangle from her family just before marriage.
The saptapadi (or the seven rounds around the sacred fire) cannot be carried out without her wearing this bangle. Rajasthani brides wear ivory bangles on their arms and forearms, right up to their shoulders.
In Punjab, the bride is given very slender and delicate red and white bangles in ivory, in multiples of four. These are called choodas. Of course, these have now been replaced with white plastic and red lac bangles, while the Bengalis still stand by tradition.
Bangles are vital not just during weddings, but also on the occasion of baby shower, which in the Indian context can be referred to as the bangle ceremony.
It is believed to be an event held to ward off evil spirits that might be lurking around the mother-to-be or the baby in the womb.
The mother-to-be, full of health and radiance, diverts the evil spirits' attention to her arms full of bangles (glass, silver, conch, or shell bangles, depending on the region and community), thereby deflecting danger to her or the baby.
The only time that a married woman removes her bangles is either at labour while having a baby or when she is widowed.
While the former is significant of an easy delivery, the latter has tragic connotations.
That is why, when glass bangles break, it is thought to portend ill luck.
Bangles (the word having been derived from the Hindi bangri or bangali, which in Sanskrit means the ornament which adorns the arm) have become a fashion statement today.
Young women wear bangles for their
jingling sound and for value as a trendy accessory.
They wear them by the dozen and even match them with their clothes.
They do not restrict themselves to glass, gold, or silver, but buy lac, metal, beaded, stone, conch, terracotta, wooden, pearl, and plastic bangles, as well as those studded with gems and precious stones.
Hyderabad and Firozabad are the favourite haunts for those looking for an amazing variety of strikingly beautiful bangles. If you happen to visit these places, you just might chance upon Kasars there, who specialise in the art of making bangles.
So, when you see beautiful arms with strikingly pretty bangles resting delicately on their wrists, make sure you give them a second look. You might just be inspired to wear some yourself.