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The elderly village woman was a few rows ahead of me in the jostling crowd. I reached over a few heads to take this shot of her earrings and hair ornaments. The man behind her is probably her husband. We were all pushing forward into the temple ,on the occassion of Holi and Shigmo, the new year by the traditional calender.

Her hairdo is the one  typically sported by local women,  traditionally. The long hair is oiled with coconut hair and combed smooth. Then it is twisted into a bun at the nape and ornamented with flowers. Richer house wives would also sport a few ornaments of gold or pearls in their hairdo. The garland of  orange “aboli’ flowers  is very popular among women in southern India and worn as an everyday adornment, as well as on special occasions. It is however without any fragrance; that is the role of the yellow leaf like petal tucked into her hair. That is a petal of Keya , the spiny  Pandanus palm , which grows in the saline soil along the Indian coast. It flowers once an year, when mature. The flowers which resemble vaguely an ear of corn, have a lovely fragrance for which they are commercially collected. An attar is extracted from the Keya flowers and the essence known as ‘Kewra’ is popularly used in traditional Indian perfumes as well as in the cuisine.

The necklace of black beads that she is wearing is the ‘mangal-sutra’, the ‘Auspicious thread’, that denotes her marital status. It is typically made of four strings of polished whetstone. Two strands each (denoting the two families, paternal and maternal) are gifted to the bride by her parents and another two strands by her future inlaws. After the wedding the four strands are joined together by a double locket, just as the union of the bride and groom unites the four families in the bond of kinship.

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