The Craft of Lac Bangles

The jingling bangles on a woman’s wrist are beautiful pieces to enhance the feminine beauty and are a delightful ornament to adorn oneself. The pretty spherical jewellery comes in variegated colours and materials. Ranging from glorious glass bangles to magnificent metal ones and from pretty pearls  to plastic bangles- no matter what form they are made of, bangles are certainly the centre of attraction of several Indian women. One such variety of bangles is the lac bangles- a heritage craft from the state of desert is an absolute love. These colourful bangles decorated with stunning stones and sequins, come with complex detailing by proficient artisans.

Majorly famous among the states of Rajasthan and Gujrat, Lac bangles are not merely embellishments but part of their rich and colourful heritage. The woman folk can be seen adorned with colourful Lac bangles on traditional several festivals like Gangaur, Diwali, Holi, Karva Chauth, Teej as well as in family functions and social gatherings.

Lac dates back to the reign of the king of Amer who summoned the craftsmen from the Manoharpur district of Uttar Pradesh, to carve these splendid jewelry. Eventually, Lac jewelry became an eminent part of Rajasthani culture and emerged as a popular trend in the state. The lac artisans are popularly known as ‘Lakheras’ and ‘Manihaar’. The Hindu artisans are called Lakheras, while their Muslim counterparts are known as Manihaars. 

A unique trait of the lac bangles is such that the colour determines which occasion it fits in. The red bangles called the ‘gulali chhoda’ and the green ones are known as ‘hare bandon ka choodha’ are kept for weddings, while the pink bangles are kept aside for Holi. The magical touch of love and authenticity on the Lac bangles are an example of brilliant craftsmanship. The handcrafted lac bangles follow an extensive yet interesting process. Lac is a natural resin which is secreted by the insects called Laccifer Lacca, Carteria Lacca and Tachardia Lacca. These insects are found as parasites in the branches of specific host trees like palas, ber and kusum and secrete the natural scarlet resin. Later the layers of resin residue are scraped off the branches and long sticks called sticklac are extracted which are later treated with alcohol for purification. It is then crushed, sieved and washed several times to remove remaining impurities till the Shellac is obtained. This Shellac is further heated for refinement and used to make jewelleries bangles.

The process of moulding Lac bangles initiates with heating shellac to settle the impurities and obtain the molten Lac. The artisans add wax and titanium to the molten Lac, to increase its cohesiveness and volume. Lac is heated in large mud kilns to obtain semisolid dough which is rolled into sheets and dried. They are rolled into bangles by joining the ends with mild heating over the stove. The bangles are then coloured and ornamented with beads, stones and crystals.

The designs and patterns of the Lac bangles have undergone several alterations in accordance to the trends. A wide range of bangles are available in the market, and are liked by women throughout the nation. Even though the bangles are a bit brittle, it can be fixed by simply heating and joining its ends.

The colourful Lac bangles are not mere pieces of ornaments, but narrate tales of rich cultural Indianness.

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