Until about 40 years ago, most women in the south sported multiple nose piercings. These piercings were often adorned with elaborate nose rings.
Even today it is not unusual to see women from the older generations and belonging to certain communities sporting 8-stone besaris.
For years, piercing of the nose has been associated with marriage. While piercing of the ear happens when the infant is a few months old, parents often waited for a girl to attain “marriageable age” before piercing her nose - so much so that the nose piercing was regarded as a symbol of domesticity.
Traditionally, nose jewelry was part of the dowry given to the woman at the time of her wedding.
Chennai based artist, Pavithra S says, “I got my nose pierced just a few days before I got married at the age of 25. Well, to an extent I was compelled by my mother-in-law to get it done due to obvious cultural reasons. I kept saying no and I got weird stares during my engagement for not having a nose pin.”
A few months down the line, however, Pavithra herself felt that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get her nose pierced. Her fiancé (now husband) told her to give it a shot and to remove it if she didn’t like it. So she went ahead and did it.
Until a few years ago, the concept of nose piercing was alien in the west and was considered to be a sign of rebelliousness and non-conformism.
Image courtesy: Priyanka Raman
Today, it has become popular enough to be considered mainstream and as a result, NRIs are happy to sport them, too.
Dallas based Srividya V says, "I pierced my nose after my engagement with much reluctance. Of late, piercings have become a style statement. I see many people in the west with nose piercings. Silver rings looks so classy that I feel piercing my nose was indeed a good idea."
Srividya, then, began liking the nose piercing once it became a style statement and was no longer associated with a tradition she was forced to follow.
Swapna Mohan, another US resident, got her nose pierced recently. Swapna says, "I got my piercing done in the US. I've never received any weird looks. People either assume it's because of culture or I am trying to be one of those young kids. A lot of young kids do get their nose pierced here now. With friends at work who think it's unlike me to do something like this, I joke saying it's an affordable midlife crisis."
Harini Raghavan, founder of Coloured Earth, a jewelry store, says, “I pierced my nose at 26 although my mom wanted me to pierce my nose since the time I was 13. Today I love sporting nose rings and pins and have a wide collection. From silver nose pins to diamonds, I have them all.”
Some women see the nose ring as a piece of jewelry that highlights their personality.
Singapore based doctor, Amudha Aravindhan, says, “I just wanted to shine. I am dark and thought simple jewelry will look good on me. Got my nose pierced when I was around 23 years old. Best decision ever!”
Though Amudha got engaged a couple of weeks later, her decision to pierce her nose was driven by her own ideas of what would look good on her.
Amudha goes on to add, “I like to keep my nose pin simple to maintain my professional look and match my work outfit but I do play around with the colours - green, blue and white stones.”
Though nose piercings are still fairly common in rural areas, in urban spaces, it has come to symbolise individuality and independence.
Veena*, a Malayali journalist, takes great pride in her nose ring.
She says, “My parents were against it, especially my dad. So of course, I had to do it. I got myself a gold nose-ring as soon as the piercing healed.”
Veena was advised to exchange her nose-ring for a stud at the time of her wedding as it would make her look more “homely” but she refused.
“Yeah, people do see a stud as being more traditional and cultural and interpret the ring to be rebellious,” she says.
Hyderabad’s Sania Mirza is often credited for making the nose ring a cool accessory in sports. She certainly rocked the look with her tennis outfits and made it her personal style statement.
In recent years, Bollywood stars like Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Vidya Balan have carried the nose ring look to the red carpet and given it a new lease of life.
Image courtesy: Coloured Earth; German Silver nose ring
Rakshita, founder of Hani’s Jewellery, says, “People now approach me asking if nose pins will suit them. Customers are willing to try new designs, bigger and more prominent nose pins. They like to experiment with motifs – both traditional and modern. Super Singer Pooja is a regular client and the younger generation is making nose rings and pins a cool accessory to sport. One can rock a nose pin without a piercing, too, and those designs resonate with those sitting on the fence.”
Harini adds, “We stock a lot of German Silver nose pins. These can be matched with a variety of outfits and have made the current trend more accessible to the masses. First time users and even skeptics give these a shot when they know doing so would not burn a hole in their pocket.”
From being considered a symbol of domesticity to striking a note of non-conformity, the nose ring has indeed come full circle.