Bangles and Bangali belles
Trambunctious rallies, elaborate spreads, music and poetry, and traditional garb...all work together to make the celebration of the Bengali New Year a truly unique one. The streets are filled with Bangali belles, elegant in their red-and-white saris, flowers in their hair, red alta on their feet, and of course, a rainbow of glass bangles adorning their wrists.
This year too, our girls and women are making preparations to welcome the Bengali New Year 1413. Besides purchasing red-white saris, women are crowding places like Gausia Market, New Market, Piraan, Banglar Mela, Mayasir, Jatra, Deshal, Ideas etc to get hold of the latest bangles.
The custom of wearing bangles by women is centuries old and the tradition is still going strong thanks to our fashionistas. If you want a little folk saying on bangles then know that gold bangles are believed to herald prosperity and well-being for hubby dearest. Thereby, gold bangles are usually seen on the hands of married women. However a dozen of blood red reshmi churis look more romantic than gold ones, but we must admit nothing beats the traditional gold kongkon.
Let’s get back to our favourite reshmis. There was a time when reshmi churi was highly popular among young girls. A visit to the Gausia Market will introduce you to glass bangles of numerous colours and designs. A dozen such bangles will cost you around tk.15 at Gausia. In Gausia, Indian glass bangles are also available in all possible shades. At this time of the year, opt for red and white to complement your Boishakhi attire.
Besides glass, bangles are now made from plastic, terracotta, beads, metal, stone, wood and pearl. Plastic bangles of numerous shades with rotund, triangular and hexagonal shapes are available within tk.30 to tk.100 per pair in most of the local stores selling jewellery for women.
A new addition to this domain are wooden bangles. Piraan, located in Dhanmondi, can be considered as the ultimate place for wood ornaments. Wooden bangles are usually thick and thus look good on slightly full hands. While some are buffed and smooth, others are slightly rough and unpolished. However, both kinds are exquisite in their own way.
Bangles made from metal can be worn on all occasions. They not only complement your red-white cotton sari but also saris made from material like georgette, silk or crepe. If you are planning to go for material other than cotton this Pohela Boishakh, opt for metal bangles. Metal bangles are widely available in diverse colours, sizes and styles in all the renowned malls of Dhaka city. Prices will vary from tk.100 to tk.200 or even more. Needless to say that most of the metal bangles are imported from India. While some are decorated with stones and metal wire, others are plain and delicate. For simple yet stylish metal bangles, you can pay a quick visit to Piraan.
For wooden bangles painted vibrantly in eye-catching colours, you can stop at the outlets of Deshal. Jatra too has introduced wooden bangles featuring black and natural wood colour. Prabartana, Bibiana too have attractive collections of exclusive bangles in their showroom. If you have the time then stop by Rangs Anam Plaza located in Satmasjid Road, Dhanmondi. Maduli situated on the second floor of Rangs Anam Plaza might be called the heaven for jewellery lovers. Check out their collection of bangles to add colour to your Bengali New Year festival.
Terracotta bangles look fantastic when complemented with block printed cotton saris of appropriate colour. For terracotta bangles, you can check out Banglar Mela, Rong, Kay Kraft and Anjan's.
Silver bangles would also look great if matched tastefully with your Baishakhi sari. For silver bangles, pay a visit to the outlets of Aarong. A single silver bangle may even cost you as high as tk.500 at Aarong. And don't miss out places like Mayasir and Jatra for elegant silver jewellery. If you are planning to wear some truly lovely ceramic bangles this Pohela Baishakh, do pay a visit to the outlets of Aarong. Colourful and solid ceramic bangles in bright shades could make your Pohela Boishakh trendier this year.
The definition of bangle has certainly changed over time. While at one point of time, bangles were chiefly made from gold, silver and glass; today bangles are manufactured from beads, plastic, wood, terracotta, porcelain and even cement.
A large segment of the young people of this metropolitan city is unaware of the existence of this beauty product that once dominated the lifestyle of Bengali women. Descriptions of restless young village girls in Bengali poems and stories never forget to highlight alta.
Although young girls living in the rural Bangladesh still take delight in painting their finger tips and toes in bright red, only a handful of girls living in the urban Bangladesh have ever used alta. As a matter of fact, alta is mostly used to celebrate weddings, Bengali festivities like Pohela Boishakh and dance performances in Bangladesh. Alta isn't even very widely available here in this capital. Only a couple of stores selling jewellery and cosmetics sell alta. Bottles of alta are usually available in Gausia Market, New Market, Mouchak Market and in other not-very-posh shopping centres.
The tradition of wearing alta is almost forgotten in our town culture. Since the theme colour of Pohela Boishakh is usually red, it's beyond doubt that alta-red toes would beautifully harmonise with your Boishakhi attire.
In the local markets, brands like Nova, Nilkomol, Nirma, Chomok et cetera are available. Some of the locally available brands have bottles like felt-tips, which relieves you from the trouble of looking for cotton and stick to prepare the customary means of putting on alta. While some of the available brands are made locally, others are imported from India. Makes like Nilkomol and Chomok have felt tips and are thereby simple to use. Price of a bottle of alta will usually vary between tk.25 and tk.45. The Indian brands usually cost higher than the local varieties.
Painting feminine toes in deep red alta could be a fashion statement this Bengali New Year. Not only as an icon, but the use of alta would also help us revive an almost forgotten custom and mark the Pohela Boishakh this year.
A big red hibiscus is tucked neatly at the ears, resting against the thick natural wavy tresses that are all gathered at one side, she is all smiles. Her big red bindi on the forehead highlighting only the red and subtle shades of orange in her white sari, her big starry eyes lined with pitch dark kajol, the tinkle of her bangles only reminds us that boishakh is here.
The aura of her unpretentious happiness is contagious and everyone around her is drenched in it celebrating Pahela Boishakh.
By Wara Karim
Photo: Munem Wasif
Make-up & Styling: Farzana Shakil