Friday 13 March 2015

Shankha and Pola : Customs and Bangles Bangali Women Wear

Customs and Bangles Bangali Women Wear

Hindu Bengali Women: The Symbols of Marriage

All these are symbols of marriage for Hindu Bengali
women. Many believe that wearing these could ward off bad omens. Check out Types of Bangles Worn By Indian Married Women.
Four main Symbols are:
1. Shankha
      Shakha are white bangles of conch-shell.

2. Pola
      Pola are red bangles made of red corals.

3. Loha
      Loha is a bangle made of iron. It is worn only in the left hand. It may or may not be              covered by gold.

4. Sindoor
     Sindoor is vermilion which is applied on the parting of the hair. Usage of sindoor by a
     woman implies that she is already married.

Shakha & Pola are pairs of conch shell specially Shakha the white bangle is made of conch shell, crafted & polished out of conch. Shakha and pola are worn in both the hands. Shakha & Pola are a symbol of a married woman. It is to be seen that within one year of the marriage, they do not break. If anything of that sort happens, it is not considered good omen for the married life of the bride.

Custom of Bengal
This custom is most popular in eastern part of India.In west bengal according to the Bengali culture the Shakha & pola has a great significance. Before the actual Bengali marriage day in the wee hours of very day, married women perform ritual called Dodhi Mangal in which they soak bangles made with shells in turmeric mixed water. Seven married women put shankha pola into bride’s hands. It symbolizes as seven forms of Goddess. According to the folk stories it is believed that this shankha pola custom belongs to poor fishermen because they can’t afford expensive jewelries. The bride has to wear Pola between Shankha or iron metal bangles. It is said that the iron bangle provides firmity to the relation & helps to balance the positive & negative power.

According to me this custom is another golden page of a married life. Shakha & pola are nature's blessing to the married woman. It's a naturally made shell just needs to be carved with care & patience. The Shakha though seems to be firm may get brittle if handled carelessly. Similarly in a married life the bride needs to make sure that she fulfills her responsibility without losing her charm, sensitivity & morals accompanied with auspicious thinking.
It's not mere a decor item but it's a proud for a married woman.
Traditionally whenever a married woman applied vermilion/sindur on her forehead as a symbol of being married she also applies a little vermillion on the left shakha.
Though nowadays Shakha & pola are quite expensive & not that cheap as it was before but still this wonderful tradition goes on without any hindrance.

Bengalis, don't have a concept of the Mangalsutra or Black thread(Nalla Pusa). Thay have the Shakha and Paula which tells others that a woman is married along with sindoor. In case, of death of the husband, a close relative has to break those two bangles with some rock near the funeral. That trend is fast changing now. Modern Bengali women rarely wear it anymore.

Dodhi Mongol(3rd Pre-Wedding Ritual) 
At dawn on the day of marriage seven married ladies adorn the bride's hands with the traditional bangles Shakha and Paula - one pair of red and one pair of white bangles, and feed her a meal of curd and rice, nowadays other dishes as well, the only meal after which the bride and her parents fast the whole day.

Why Shankh and Pola
According to some people, It might be that zamindars' wives used to wear them to match their red-and-white shankha polo bangles that all married Bengali women wear. Their sindoor too which is more reddish than orangey-red - as it is in other parts of India - and their alta. And then it caught on to the lower orders'.

Bengali Saree- Red and White
White represents purity and singleness but a married woman doesn't make a house alone, she has to live with and deal with a lot of people hence the thick border of red.

White is used to indicate purity and chastity of a woman; however, complete white was reserved for widows in Hindu society so for married women the red border was used to distinguish. Bridal wear is red and the red border symbolizes her fertility and fidelity and thus her power.

The fascination for red color in Bengali culture is immense to say the least. Just look at the color of the vermilion that gives the exotic combination of red and black. Also look at their hand, the same red and white combination.

Are you a Bengali? If yes what are your preferences? In not do you want to adapt to Bengali tradition?


  1. Wow amazing collection of women bangles & its color combination is awesome

  2. Wearing the symbols makes a married woman more elegant