Popular Indian Hair Accessories to Wear

Hair accessories can hold great cultural significance in South Asia. DESIblitz looks at the most popular Indian accessories.

Popular Indian Hair Accessories to Wear - f

They have been used by women as symbols of femininity.

Styling hair can be an increasingly important task but in South Asian culture, accessorising the hair can be even more important.

Hair accessories can hold a significant cultural and spiritual connection for South Asian individuals.

They have been used to symbolise various aspects of Indian identity for centuries.

DESIblitz looks at which hair accessories and head jewellery hold this significance and the history they reflect.

Maang Tikka

Popular Indian Hair Accessories to Wear - 1The maang tikka is one of the most popular and traditional pieces of Indian head jewellery and is typically worn on the forehead.

The jewellery piece consists of a chain worn across the hairline with a pendant or embellishment that dangles down the chain’s centre and sits on one’s forehead.

The word ‘maang’ means forehead in Hindi whilst ‘tikka’ often refers to a decorative dot or Bindi worn on the forehead.

In ancient Indian spirituality, it is believed that the centre of the forehead is home to the ajna chakra also known as the third eye chakra or sixth chakra.

This chakra is believed to guide self-realisation, intuition, clarity, and spiritual awareness, making it one of the most transcendent chakras.

Therefore, the connection between spirituality and the maang tikka makes the accessory more than just a decorative piece of jewellery as it has such a deep-rooted auspicious and spiritual significance in South Asian culture.

This piece of head jewellery is also considered to be a symbol of femininity and grace in Indian jewellery.

It is supposed to enhance the beauty of the individual who wears it therefore it has commonly been worn by Indian women during weddings.

Today the maang tikka has evolved beyond a traditional Indian accessory as it is worn globally across different cultures.

Individuals have even taken it into modern realms and worn tikkas as fashion statements at festivals instead of just weddings and traditional Indian occasions.

However, there have been several instances where South Asian individuals have expressed outrage at the cultural appropriation of this accessory by celebrities and other influencers.

For instance, Kim Kardashian has come under fire for wearing a traditional maang tikka on more than one occasion.

In 2019, she posted an Instagram photo wearing a gold and ruby maang tikka with the caption, “Sunday Service Vibe”.

Netizens called her out for appropriating South Asian culture.


Popular Indian Hair Accessories to Wear - 2A jadanagam is a traditional piece of hair accessory that is most popular in South Indian cultures like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

This hair jewellery is commonly characterised by its intricate design which often resembles a serpent-head figure or has serpent-like qualities.

This characterisation indicates where the hair accessories’ name originates as jadanagam loosely translates to mean hair-serpent.

This history of the jadanagam can be traced back to ancient India whereby Indian royalty wore the adornment as a symbol of fertility, wisdom, and power.

In these ancient days, the jadanagam would have been constructed from pure gold and infused with rare and precious stones such as emeralds, rubies, and diamonds.

The chains would also be intricately designed and marked with serpent-like patterns and even other decorative symbols like peacocks and elephants.

The roots of the jadanagam can be traced back to Hindu mythologythe serpent qualities of the jewellery were associated with the Hindu God, Lord Shiva who is commonly depicted with a snake wrapped around his neck.

However, in South Indian culture, the jadanagam is believed to represent the Kundalini which is a form of divine energy that lies coiled at the base of the spine.

Many South Indians believe that the serpent holds this divine energy and symbolises transformation therefore the jadanagam is often given as a gift at weddings and is a treasured possession passed down through generations.

Today, the jadanagam is still worn widely by brides across South India.

The traditional designs of the adornment have taken on modern qualities which make it lightweight to sit on the head and more affordably bought at markets.

Jewellers have also moved away from creating this ornament using pure gold, choosing instead to use materials like silver, copper, and brass so that it is a more accessible accessory.


Popular Indian Hair Accessories to Wear - 3A passa, also known as jhoomar passa, is a fan-shaped jewellery ornament that can be clipped into the hair and is worn on the side of one’s head and dangles over an ear.

The word passa has Urdu origins and is loosely translated to mean ‘one-side’ which is usually how the traditional jewellery sits upon one’s head.

Contemporary wearers have also chosen to wear the ornament in the centre too.

A passa can be made out of a variety of metals and is most commonly made from either silver or gold and embellished using beads, stones, and pearls.

A passa can be made with Kundan in them, which is a traditional form of Indian gemstone jewellery where uncut or rough stones are set in a metal base to create intricate and beautiful designs.

The history of this accessory can be traced back to the Indian Mughal era.

Rulers and nobility wore eccentric passas decorated with gemstones and pearls as a sign of their immense wealth and status.

Women nowadays continue to wear a passa during weddings and other formal events as the jewellery has taken on more modern styles and is no longer associated with wealth or status.

The hair accessory has also been associated with the art of classical Indian dance as many Indian performers choose to wear them to draw attention to their facial expressions and movements during dance.

In classical Indian dance forms like Bharatanatyam and Kathak, the hair accessory is considered an essential item as it is paired with other jewellery like earrings and necklaces to enhance and create a traditional Indian look.

The passa continues to have a rich cultural significance for many Indian women and is still a popular accessory symbolising beauty, luxury, and elegance.

Hair Gajra

Popular Indian Hair Accessories to Wear - 4Hair gajras are traditional Indian hair accessories that have been used for centuries to adorn and embellish a veni, which is a hair braid, or a bun.

These hair accessories are believed to symbolise purity, beauty, and sensuality and have been featured in various Indian literature and artwork that dates back centuries.

For example, in Raja Ravi Sharma’s art piece titled Shankatula (1898), an image is illustrated of Indian women wearing pink and white gajras not only in their hair but on their necks and wrists.

Historically hair gajras were worn by aristocratic Indian women, however, over time they have been worn by women from all classes unlike other hair accessories made from gold or silver.

Typically, hair gajras are made using a string of beautiful flowers, usually including jasmine in them as their scent is considered appealing and the flower has great historical value.

The use of jasmine in these hair adornments has great Indian ayurvedic value as well as cultural as the flower is believed to have therapeutic qualities having been used in many South Asian remedies and rituals.

Nowadays, gajras are still commonly worn by Indian women during weddings, festivals, and various auspicious and special occasions.

Their cultural significance is still held to this day in many South Asian communities.

They are still gifted and worn by women during wedding ceremonies to bring forth good luck, prosperity, and happiness.

Hair accessories can be a powerful tool in showing off one’s identity, and this is certainly true of these South Asian accessories.

Not only does their cultural relevance span centuries but they have been used by women as symbols of femininity and power.

Whilst it may not seem like a hair accessory could have a such great history, these Indian hair accessories do.

They tell stories about the identities of South Asian women tracing back centuries and continue to be used as forms of self-expression.

Tiyanna is an English Language and Literature student with a passion for travel and literature. Her motto is ‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive;’ by Maya Angelou.

Images courtesy of Bees, Pinterest, EverGold Beauty & Diaries of Nomad.

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