The Art of Bangle Arrangement

Ash with a fabulous set of bangles
This post is about the art of bangle assembly, and it is drawn from one of my favorite scholarly studies, The Grace of the Four Moons:  Dress, Adornment, and the Art of the Body in Modern India by Pravina Shukla.  (You have to admire a woman who gets funding for and publishes a scholarly study about what women wear every day in Benares, also known as Varanasi, and why).  The bangles on the wrists of a woman in Benares often denote her marital status, region of origin, and possibly her region of residence as well.  Bangles are one of the cheapest ornaments regularly worn by women in India, which means they're easily replaced and highly fashionable- bangle style shifts often based on current trends in Bollywood movies.  Bangles come in glass, metal, lac, or plastic.  Depending on personal preference and social status, a woman may wear 2 to 3 or 6 to 12 bangles on each arm.  Women also buy bangles specifically to match an outfit for special occasions.   In creating a set of bangles to be worn, smaller bangles are interspersed between thicker bangles, all arranged symmetrically.  Certain bangles, often with pearls or rhinestones, are chosen for the outside of each stack of bangles on each arm.  Certain salesmen in Benares are known for their ability to create bangle sets that are particularly attractive.  Bangle color also carries some meaning: red is considered an active color, green is considered fresh, white denotes peace, blue is considered cold, and black is considered spiritual.  Green and red tend to be viewed as winter colors, while pale colors are worn in the summer.  However, personality is always expressed through color and bangle arrangement, and usually trumps other considerations.