Book on the distinctive ear ornaments of the northeastern “Seven Sister States”: Proudly worn by women and men – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura

Woman from the Dhebaria Rabari tribe with the typical, now extinct nagali 
earring. She wears an additional thoriya in her concha

Read the full article by Dr. Waltraud Ganguly titled “Earrings in India”:

Earrings have a special status in Indian jewellery; they are highly decorative and beautify the face. Moreover, they are a sign of identification for their wearers or for a geographic region. These signs of identity and social status are mostly given up in urban areas, where earrings are mostly machine-made fancy items without any particular meaning. […]

Earrings can be used as investment, although the material value is often very little. A jeweller often functions as a pawn-broker or banker.

Evolution from natural models 
Ideas for Indian ear ornament designs are mostly taken from nature. Adivasi still use natural materials as ear ornaments, like palm leaf scrolls, bamboo sticks, wood or shola pith. The reason for using metal instead is primarily the wish to stabilise the fragile natural pieces and to gain prestige by using silver or gold. […]

Even snakes were in several areas used as models for earrings. The kings of the snakes are the Nagas, who guard the treasures of the nether world. Nagas are esteemed as the guardians of life energy and thereby a symbol of fertility.

Earrings of the North-East 
The “Seven Sisters” have their very distinctive unmistakable earrings, which all have a longstanding tradition and are still proudly worn in many regions.
Assamese jewellery tradition dates back to the Ahom kingdom. Jewellers started a revival of old designs in the 1960s, which has produced such interesting earrings as the lokaparo (pigeon), the joonbiri (crescent) or the dhol (drum). […]

All artisans are native Assamese.

From the Brahmaputra valley different are the hilly areas, which are inhabited by several tribal groups who have their own ornaments, like the Karbi Anglong with their huge silver ear-stud nothengpi.

The Ahom kingdom was extended to Arunachal, where Aka and Mishmi women wear srombin, trumpet like tubes and gichli, wire rings of ten cm diameter. Thuria of Assam are also worn in Arunachal, in addition to bamboo plugs and nadaung, bright pieces of amber in the earlobe. Similar earrings, made of burmite, are worn in Manipur by the hill people.

In Meghalaya, Garo men and women wear brass rings in the lobe, sometimes ten and more of them. In the upper ear are worn nadirong, which are also brass rings. Penta are small pieces of ivory for the upper ear, projecting upwards. […]

In Nagaland the jinung is worn by Chang, Khiamniungan, and Yimchunger. It is made of shell and suspended from the cartilaginous part of the ear. The typical decoration in V-form is supposed to represent the loins from which fertility spreads.

The tongpang, which is made of rock crystal or glass, is worn by Ao- and Konyak Naga. The weight is 85 g – 100 g, it is suspended in the distended lobe, the opening showing downward. […]

In Tripura, the Reang (they call themselves Bru) wear warik (long silver studs) in the upper ear. […]

The Chakma mostly follow Hinayana Buddhism. The filigree convex stud raijyore of the Buddhist Chamkma looks alike from front and back; the two separate identical parts are connected by a thin screwed plug. A jhumki-like pendant jwanka may be attached.

Dr. Waltraud Ganguly is a retired medical doctor, who is married to a Bengali. She has vastly travelled all over India since 37 years, the last ten years spending only to collect information about traditional Indian ear ornaments. She published the results 2007 in her book “Earrings, ornamental identity and beauty in India”, published by B.R.Publishing Corporation, Delhi. Contact: [email protected] Read her article about snake earrings

Source: “Earrings in India” by Dr. Waltraud Ganguly, December 2009
Address :
Date Visited: 14 February 2023

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