The Nath: Traditional Indian Nose Ring

The nose is generally considered to be an organ used exclusively for smell and breathing. But in India, the nose also has some emotional, sexual and romantic connotations within the context of Indian culture.

El Nath: what and why?

The Nath, or nose ring, is an essential part of the Indian bride’s look. Almost always made of gold, which is considered the purest metal, the nath is usually worn in the left nostril. A bride usually wears it held up by a gold chain, which is attached to a lock of hair behind her left ear (for extra support in case the nath adornment is heavy), or to a part of the left earring. Other family celebrations, such as the birth of a child, religious occasions, and the celebration of other festivals, also warrant married women wearing the nath. Nose ornaments come in two forms: the nath (a ring) or a phul (a simple earring). In some regions, both nostrils are pierced.

Among all the jewelry and ornaments for various parts of the body, nose ornaments are believed to be the most attractive and seductive. According to Indian marriage traditions, a nath is also the symbol of the bride’s virginity. So much so that, once she deflowers a virgin, it is symbolically referred to in most of the Indian subcontinent as removing the ‘nath’. The oldest Vedic scripture referring to medicine, Ayurveda, is believed to associate nasal piercing with the female reproductive organs. Nose ornaments are believed to have scientific benefits for the women who wear them. Apparently, piercing the nose to wear earrings or nose rings also protects women from a myriad of nasal infections. A nose piercing is supposed to ease labor and reduce cramping and discomfort during menstruation. The left side is the most common to be pierced in India because that is the place associated in Ayurveda (Indian medicine) with the female reproductive organs.

Piercing and Variety of Jewelry

Experienced goldsmiths are connected to pierce the nose or ear. These professionals can know, simply by touching the skin, whether or not a nerve passes through the specific portion to be pierced. The important thing is that while getting your ear or nose pierced, it is very important that any passing nerves are not injured or damaged in any way, therefore great care must be taken with the piercing.

In India, nose ornaments are available in a variety of designs and shapes, from delicate jeweled earrings that sit just on the curve of the nostril, or large hoops that encircle the cheek with delicate charms or pendants, or simply dangling pearls. in a way that they just touch the upper lip line. Maharastrians wear a larger nose ring in the shape of a handle, decorated with a heavy pearl that hangs down to the chin!

Throughout India, as an integral part of traditional wedding jewelry, many aristocratic families have heirloom naths worn by the bride during weddings or by a newlywed woman on special occasions. Depending on their wealth, they decorate this ornament with expensive jewelry or precious stones. The size of the nath also determines the socioeconomic status of the bride’s family.

In various states of India this jewel is made differently. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka nose ornaments are called mukhuttis and those worn by brides during a vivaah have ornate, traditional designs that mimic the lotus flower and graceful swan. These ornaments are usually studded with precious or semi-precious stones, depending on their financial and socioeconomic status. While diamond is the gem of choice, considering its purity, topaz is also preferred by those who cannot afford diamonds. Women in Rajasthan wear the nathuri which is a small gold or silver ring set with precious stones and the bhauriya has a slightly different floral design. The laung is a traditional and common nose ring that is shaped like a nail, while an Iatkan is a small pendant suspended between the nostrils, due to its dangling nature. In Uttar Pradesh, the nath is adorned with two pearls and a dangling bead to signify multitude and prosperity. The Punjabi bride wears the shikarpuri nath, a gold ring strung with up to 20 to 25 motifs or charms, including tiny birds, mangoes, leaves, flowers, pearls, etc. Pullakku is a type of nose ring seen mainly in South India (bulaag in the north). This is basically the pendant suspended from the nostril partition, the part that extends from the septum.

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