Jhumka: How Chola Empire Pioneered Indian Women's Beloved Accessory

During the Mughal Empire, the earring underwent further refinement, with the addition of a decorative chain known as 'sankali' connecting a bold statement stud called 'karnphool' to the hair via a small hook.

Priya Prakash
New Update
Jhumka: A Beloved Accessory in Every Woman's Collection

Imagine you're dressed in your favourite ethnic wear, feeling as light as a cloud. Your small bindi sits delicately on your forehead like a tiny drop of water. And then there are those jhumkas dangling from your ears, like the rain that makes everything look fresh and green. But what exactly are jhumkas for Indian women? Originally, they were just earrings, but they've been around for ages, starting from adorning statues in temples to becoming a must-have accessory for women everywhere. Despite the changes over time, the love for jhumkas remains strong, showing how much we adore these beautiful earrings.


Unveiling the Roots

The term jhumka originates from the jingling sound made by the dangling beads and ornaments of the earring. These earrings have a rich history and are believed to have originated from temple statues dating back to the ancient Chola dynasty around the 3rd century BCE. 

Chola Fresco of women dancing wearing jhumkas. Brihadisvara Temple c. 1100 C.E
Real Story Of Princess Kundavai 
Real and Reel Princess Kundavai, the Woman behind Chola Empire in Jhumka.

As jhumka earrings gained popularity, they underwent a Mughal makeover, becoming a symbol of elegance and grace. During the Mughal Empire, the earring underwent further refinement, with the addition of a decorative chain known as 'sankali' connecting a bold statement stud called 'karnphool' to the hair via a small hook. This adornment was integrated into the jhumka earring, typically featuring long pearl tassels adorned with diamonds and set in gold. Over time, the design of the karnphool stud evolved into the distinct oversized dome shape seen in contemporary high-end earrings.

Bundi Palace Painting Karnphul Jhumka
Wall painting of a courtier with karnphul Jhumka, Bundi Palace, Rajasthan, 17th Century

Furthermore, the popularity of jhumka earrings soared throughout India, especially among the aristocracy and royal families, who personalised the classic bell shape with unique embellishments such as gemstones and precious metals. For queens of the time, heavy jewellery was the norm, but jhumkas stood out for their lightweight design, making them comfortable to wear all day. Despite their dressy appearance, they were easy to wear, making them a favourite among royalty and commoners alike.

Wall painting of a woman wearing classic bell shape with unique embellishments.

Lastly, Bharatnatyam dancers played a significant role in popularising jhumka earrings, as they moved gracefully with the dancer's facial expressions and neck movements, adding to the allure of the dance form.

Alarmel Valli
Alarmel Valli, Bharatanatyam Legend

Traditional Ear Piercing in Indian Culture

Long before ear piercing became popular worldwide, it was a tradition in India for many years. Our ancestors likely never imagined that this traditional practice would one day become a fashion statement or a form of rebellion, especially in Western cultures.


In Hinduism, ear piercing is a significant ritual known as Karnavedha, which is one of the 16 ceremonies performed in a person's life from birth to death. It holds cultural and religious importance and is considered one of the most important ceremonies for a child.

The ritual is believed to have scientific benefits as well. It is thought that piercing the ears aids in the development of intelligence, critical thinking, and decision-making abilities. Additionally, according to Ayurveda, the earlobe is seen as a microcosm of the human body, suggesting that ear piercing may also offer various therapeutic advantages.

The Spiritual Essence of Jhumkas

Jhumkas carry deep spiritual and symbolic meanings within Indian traditions. They represent the serene silence of spirituality and are associated with auspiciousness. The gentle jingling produced by the earrings is thought to attract positive energy and protect against negative forces. Additionally, jhumkas symbolise concepts of eternal life, spiritual enlightenment, and the blessings of abundance and fertility.

Regional Variations in Jhumka Designs

While jhumka earrings are a common sight in India, each region boasts its own unique take on this classic jewellery piece. 


In Rajasthan, tribal jhumkas stand out with their vibrant colours, beadwork, and mirror embellishments. Orissa's tribal communities are known for intricate filigree work, while Gujarat's tribal jewellery features detailed silver craftsmanship and semi-precious stones. Himachal Pradesh showcases beautiful enamel work on silver with its Meena Karnful Jhumkies. Kerala favours gold jhumkas, while Tamil Nadu boasts Kemp-studded jhumkies popular among Bharatnatyam dancers. Hyderabad's jhumkas, influenced by the Mughal era, often incorporate pearls.

Different Names Across States

Although widely known as "jhumka," this earring goes by various names across Indian states. In West Bengal, it's called "Jhumko," while Andhra Pradesh refers to them as "Buttalu." Maharashtra's Banjaras call it "Zumka," and in Haryana, they're known as "Magar" or "Kundal." Tamil Nadu and Kerala refer to them as "Jhimki," "jhumki kiviyole or jhumka kiviyole" in Kannada while Karnataka calls them "Muthina Vale Jhimki."

Manipur's multi-layered jhimki is called "Khokor." Rajasthan has its distinctive "Karanphool Jhumka," featuring a disc-shaped element (Karanphool) and a bell-shaped cup (Jhumki) that can be worn together or separately.

The Timeless Ethnic Jewellery

Jhumka earrings have become a beloved style of ethnic jewellery, cherished by fashion enthusiasts for their timeless appeal. What's great about jhumka earrings is that they come in a variety of styles, ensuring you'll find one that suits your personality perfectly.

Traditional Silver Oxide Jhumkas

Originating from Gujarat, these jhumkas are oxidized to a striking blackish hue, showcasing exquisite craftsmanship and celebrating India's rich silver jewellery heritage.

Opulent Kashmiri Jhumkas

Inspired by the beauty of Kashmir, these jhumkas feature intricate designs adorned with pearls and chains, embodying regal charm and timeless elegance.

Graceful Terracotta Jhumkas

Handcrafted from natural clay, terracotta jhumkas showcase vibrant colours and organic designs, paying homage to India's rich cultural heritage.

Unique Hoop Jhumkas

Combining the charm of traditional jhumkas with the modern appeal of hoop earrings, these unique designs offer a contemporary twist to Indian jewellery, perfect for fashion-forward individuals.

Stylish Ear-Cuff Jhumkas

The ear-cuff jhumka earrings elevate, blending edgy sophistication with traditional elegance, reflecting the evolving trends of Indian fashion.

Divine Chandbaali Jhumkas

Inspired by the beauty of the moon, chandbaali jhumkas exude divine elegance, capturing the essence of grace and femininity with their crescent-shaped design adorned with delicate domes.

The Iconic Bareli Ka Jhumka

Moreover, the love for jhumkas goes beyond just wearing them. Its gentle sway and delightful jingle have sparked the imagination of artists and poets, inspiring romantic songs and literature. 

Once upon a time, in the bustling streets of Lahore, there lived a psychology teacher named Teji Suri. Little did she know that her life was about to change forever when she crossed paths with the esteemed poet, Harivansh Rai Bachchan. He was a lecturer at Allahabad University and happened to attend an event at Teji's college.

As fate would have it, their chance encounter blossomed into a beautiful love story. After tying the knot, Teji shared a delightful tale during a television interview with novelist Raja Mehdi Saheb. She recounted the moment when her heart skipped a beat – quite literally – during a poetry recital in Bareilly. Teji playfully mentioned how her jhumka, a dangling earring, had fallen in the bustling market, signifying the exact moment when Bachchan stole her heart. 

This charming anecdote later inspired the iconic song Jhumka Gira Re, Bareilly Ke Bazaar Mein, which debuted in the 1947 film Dekhoji. capturing the essence of their timeless love story for generations to come. Sung by Shamshad Begum, the song became an instant sensation, resonating with audiences across generations. Its enduring popularity led to multiple renditions over the decades, including a version in 1966 and, most recently, in the 2023 film Rocky Aur Rani.

However, the significance of jhumkas in love stories doesn't end there, as young people continue to idolise them. It's like a sweet tradition in romantic tales. Women feel so special when their partners give them jhumkas as gifts. It's not about the price; it's about the thought and love behind it. Just like how flowers make someone's day, jhumkas make a woman's heart sing. It's a gift she'll treasure forever, like a precious memory she'll hold dear until the end.

Tiny, Small, Big, Large: Size Does not Matter For Women When It's Jhumka

Meghna Mehrotra, a young psychologist from the city known for its love for jhumkas, shares her heartfelt journey with these earrings, revealing her extensive collection. She remembers, "Growing up in the jhumka city of Bareilly, when I used to visit markets, I was always drawn to the intricate and pretty designs of jhumkas. Even now, whenever I explore a new city, my top priority is to search for stores that sell jhumkas - whether they're big, small, tiny, or large. I love them all for their affordability and quality."

She adds, "My fascination with them began at a very young age when I saw a leading movie character adorned with jhumkas. I envisioned myself looking as lovely and graceful as her. " Reflecting on why women are so enamoured with jhumkas, Mehrotra says, "I believe jhumkas symbolise love in a profound way. They possess an inherent beauty that captivates us, and even the simplest pair can evoke feelings of admiration. They serve as a tender expression of affection, as someone gifts them to enhance another's beauty, making them feel even more happy and pretty."


Women's Love For Jhumka Jhumka SheThePeople Sartorial Series