Last week, the Indian bindi went viral on social media thanks to NASA scientist Swati Mohan’s video. The video showed Indian-born Swati Mohan confirming that NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover has successfully landed on the Martian surface. Swati Mohan was responsible for virtually controlling the operation. The Indian bindi was also thrown into the limelight when Twitter went viral about the Lady with the Bindi.

Our rich Indian culture and tradition has given us our own unique legacy of customs and fashion choices ranging from our attire to accessories. We have grown up embracing special ethnic fashion accessories which connects us to our Indian culture and roots. While most of the accessories have lost their presence in our everyday life, we return to the traditional fashion accessories to mark the special memorable occasions of our life. Fashion and culture have managed to coexist in the mainstream.

Here are 5 cultural fashion accessories that uniquely define Indian women’s cultural identity.

The Indian Bindi

The word Bindi is derived from the Sanskrit word Bindu meaning a dot, which in Hinduism denotes the third eye chakra of a person. We place a dot in the center of the forehead in between the eyebrows to mark the mystical third eye. The spot is considered to be the ajna chakra, the seat of emotional and spiritual wisdom. Both men and women apply various materials such as sandal, vibhuti, kasturi or vermillion during spiritual practices in Hindusim, Buddhism and Jainism. Applying the spiritual bindi on the forehead is expected to retain energy and strengthen concentration.

Women in India have been applying bindi for cosmetic purposes since early times. The red bindi is considered a sign of being married in Hinduism. The bindi today has become a fashion accessory gaining popularity across the world. The Indian bindi has gone international and is available in varied hues, shapes and shades.

The Indian Payal / Anklet

Anklets also known as payal is a metallic chain usually with tinkling bells worn around the ankle of the feet. Today, anklets are made of various metals including gold. During the ancient times, the anklet was generally made of silver. Anklets served the purpose of revealing the arrival of a woman through the sounds it makes. It is also believed that wearing silver anklets has medical benefits. As silver is a reactive metal, it radiates the energy from the feet to the body to spread positive energy absorbed from the ground while insulating the body from negative energy. Silver is also considered an immunity booster.

The anklets are an intimate part of different dance forms across India. They are called ghungroos which produce rhythmic beat to the graceful steps of the dancer’s feet. The anklets today are available in various metals laced with pearls, beads or stones in attractive designs. Anklets have gained worldwide fashion appeal as a trendy accessory and is worn popularly on one of the ankles.

The Indian Maang Tikka

Maang tikka is a hair accessory that is placed on the hair with the drop pendant falling on the center of the forehead. The beautiful jewellery is an integral part of the bridal look across India. The Maang tikka also has a reference to the ajna chakra or the third eye which is the place of intuition or the sixth sense guiding other senses. In a wedding, the ajna chakra becomes significant as it is symbolic of the union of Siva (male energy) and Shakti (female energy). The maang tikka symbolises the union of the bride and the groom in a spiritual, emotional and physical level.

The maang tikka today is a very popular fashion accessory to elevate the traditional festive look. There are several kinds of maang tikka from the simple drop down style to the one covering the sides of the hairline. The maang tikka has also made it to the global scene. The most recent being Kim Kardashian being trolled for wearing a maang tikka to church.

The Indian Toe Ring

Toe rings, usually small silver rings are worn on the second toe of the feet. In some parts of India, the toe ring is worn only by married women while in the other parts it is worn by young girls too. The toe rings made of silver connect the body to earth and help receive positive energy to refresh the body. Toe rings are worn on the second toe as its vein connects to the uterus and is believed to regulate the menstrual cycle while also helping ease the menstrual pain. The toe ring is thus associated with maintaining a healthy uterus and ensure fertility in woman.

The toe rings today has gained fame and acceptance as a fashion accessory especially among college going group. After visiting India, Marjorie Bell introduced toe rings in the US. She began manufacturing and selling gold, silver toe rings in New York in 1973. The toe rings continue to remain a popular quirky accessory in the US ever since.

The Indian Armlet

Armlet or armband is a type of bracelet worn on the upper part of the arm to add beauty to the arm. Historically, the armlets have been worn by both men and women since ancient times. It was especially worn by soldiers during war as a talisman to ward off evil eye. Armlet gained acceptance as a fashion accessory when it became an important jewellery accessory for dance forms like Bharatanatyam.

Today, the armlet has become an important part of the wedding trousseau. It is made in very attractive gold designs studded with precious stones. The armband has also gained fame as a contemporary fashion accessory and is made in oxidized metals with exotic designs like snake or peacock.

Get connected with your cultural roots to bring back ethnic fashion in the mainstream!