The Nagali!

The Nagali are striking earrings which have originated from western Saurashtra and Kutch. Adorned by the women from the Dhebariya, Bharwad, Rabari and the Ahir community, these earrings are created from metals like gold and silver. They also show presence of glass stones in various colours and enamel work.

The nagali are worn in the ear lobe and get their name due to their coiled nature and its resemblance to the coiling of a snake. The nagali appear like two cone structures joined to each other by means of a horizontal loop of wire or coiled wire at the centre.

In spite of bearing a close resemblance to each other, the nagali are differentiated based on their design details, structure and the tribes adorning the nagali into 3 main types; namely the Kacchi nagali, the Dhebaria nagali and the Bharwad nagali.

1. The Kacchi Rabari nagali - The Kacchi nagali is majorly adorned by the women from the Rabari tribes and have a simple coiled loop structure. These are often worn by the woman on her marriage and are given to her by her husband. The ornament is further inserted into the bride’s ear by another woman belonging to her new family. These type of the nagali require stretched earlobes so as to enable the central coiled structure to easily slip through. This enlarging procedure is thus carried out during childhood by inserting rolled metal strips into the ear lobe piercing. The nagali once worn cannot be removed as the horizontal part of this nagali has to be threaded inside the ear lobe with each twist. Each nagali pair requires around 13 metres of wire and this ornament has to be worn with a ‘kunti’ (another ear ornament) in the helix.

2. The Dhebaria Rabari nagali - This nagali does not have a horizontal coiled structure and has a single nagali metal loop instead. This metal loop is said to have sharp edges and can damage the ear lobe when worn which is why the women wearing these cover the loop with thread. The cone structures simulate small baskets which the women sometimes fill with cotton soaked in perfume. These nagalis are very attractive in their designs and detailing which is what makes manufacturing them a task. This is why these nagali have been forbidden by the members of the tribe and are almost extinct now. These had to be worn along with the ‘vedhla’ and the ‘pandadi’ (other ear ornaments).

3. The Bharwad nagali - These nagali are made from silver and are less attractive than the other types. The women wearing these do not associate the nagali with the snake but with the Rajasthani ‘Nagala’ earrings. Their migration from the same might have caused this. Meanwhile this ornament is worn with a vedhla (ear ornament) by older women and a ‘pokhani’ by the young ones.

The nagali is an ornament which requires a lot of skill and patience to be crafted and clearly shows the expertise of our Indian artisans.

Picture credits: Earrings Ornamental Identity and Beauty in India by Waltraud Ganguly.

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