While to most a nose ring may seems like a fashion statement, in India, it’s an age old tradition that’s heads back centuries and has significance even today.
Though nose piercing didn’t originate in India, it was brought to the country in the 16th Century from the Middle East by the Moghul emperors. In India a stud called Phul or a ring known as Nath is usually worn in the left nostril, it’s sometimes joined to the ear by a chain, and in some places both nostrils are pierced.
Nose rings seem to be associated with the Hindu religion itself as they are worn by Hindu women more than by women of any other religion in India. However, Muslim women do also wear nose rings.
Nose rings in India can be worn on the nostril, septum(the cartilage between the nostrils) or the bridge of the nose. However, most commonly, nose rings are worn on either the left or right nostril. Typically the left nostril is favored because in Ayurvedic medicine, the left nostril is associated with the female reproductive organs, and a piercing in that position is thought to make childbirth easier as well as lessen the amount of menstrual pain.
Many Indian women, particularly Hindus, have their noses pierced around the age of 16, which was traditionally the marriageable age. Piercings in India, including nose piercings, are one way Hindus honor Parvathi, the goddess of marriage.
In some parts of India the nose ring is never removed once a woman is married, and thus a nose ring is often considered to be a sign of marriage, even though today unmarried women and even young girls in India may also wear nose rings as a fashion statement with no religious or traditional significance.
In diverse states of India this jewel is made differently. The mukhuttis of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have ornate, traditional lotus and swan designs and are mostly studded with diamonds, or the poor man’s diamond, the topaz. Rajasthani women wear the nathuri and the bhauriya. While the first is a small gold or silver ring with precious stones, the bhauriya has a slightly different design. The conventional clove-shaped nose stud is called the laung, while the small pendant suspended between the nostrils is the latkan, because of its pendulous character.
In UP the nath is adorned with two pearls and a pendulous bead to augur prosperity. The Punjabi damsel has a gold ring strung with as many as 20 to 25 motifs. It is the shikarpuri nath. In Bihar the nose stud is the chhuchhi or the laung. In Maharashtra it is the guchhedar nath, which is known for its radiant beauty with pearl decorations. Pullakku nose ring in South India (bulaag in the North) is the pendant suspended from the partition of the nostrils.
Sometimes the septum rings in rural areas and tribal society are so large that they cover a portion of the mouth and often come in the way while eating.