I got my nose pierced recently. And I am on the verge of getting double piercings on my ears. Piercings for me are a way to show my choice of fashion which is different from many others around me. Usually, women around me consider piercing, especially nose piercings, as a too tacky tradition that doesn’t suit the modern lifestyle. While for some it is a necessity to portray womanhood. But I wonder if it is even right to put labels on piercings. Is it right to restrict the meaning and symbolism of piercings? Shouldn’t it be a choice that people, irrespective of gender, make for themselves?
Recently countries in the west have seen a rise in the number of women getting their noses pierced, especially in the United States. According to a piercing studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Baltimore, there has been a 45 per cent increase in nostril piercing in just two years. Almost 19 per cent of women in the US have their noses pierced. When I read the article that referred to these statistics I came across India-based women in the US who were initially reluctant to get their noses pierced. They were afraid that they would look too Indian. But later they embraced their identity and culture by getting their nose pierced. For South Asians, nose piercing is a symbol of rebellion against western beauty standards.
According to certain records of history, nose piercings didn’t originate in India. It belongs to the Middle East and indigenous cultures of South and Central America, Central Asia, and Australia. Moreover, another record speculates that the tradition of nose piercing came to India with the Mughal invasion. Still, there are other records that vary in speculations and claim that the tradition has been in India even before that.
When we look into the historical significance of nose piercing, a jeweled nose is a symbol of beauty in our country. It is said that it is a ritual for women to show their age and maturity. The piercings on the nose denote the importance of marriage and reproduction in a woman’s life. The position of nose piercing, right, left or both vary with location and culture. For example, North, West, and Central Indian women wear nose pins in the right nostril while women in South India wear them on the left. Some cultures promote wearing nose pins on both nostrils too.
When we look at Bollywood films, the representation of nose piercing is mainly about marriage, beauty, and traditions. Women in films have adorned their noses with nose rings or studs to represent a certain culture. For example, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone aced nose rings in the movie Bajirao Mastani to mainly represent the cultures they embodied. In Ram Leela, Padukone again wears a nose pin to represent her reel culture mainly. Aishwarya Rai too adorned her nose with nose pins in Jodha Akbar and the recent film Ponniyin Selven 1 to represent the culture she was enacting on the screen. And in other movies, if nose pins have been used, it is mainly for marriage. However, there was one defiant use of a nose ring when Ayushmann Khurrana aced it in the movie Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan where he played the role of a gay MAN.
Nose piercings indeed have multiple symbolism but the point is which one we embrace. Do we wear nose piercing because we are Indian? Do we wear a nose pin because it denotes beauty? Or do we wear nose piercing because it denotes womanhood, marriage, and reproduction? The answer to these questions is just one: choice. A person can wear any piercing as far as they want to. They should not be forced by their culture into getting a piercing or not.
Moreover, if we restrict the meaning of piercing to culture, gender or custom, many people will be left out as outsiders. For example, nose piercing shouldn’t represent womanhood alone because men too wear nose piercings. If nose piercing is restricted to a culture of a certain country, the piercings of people from another country will be rendered meaningless. Everyone should be free to wear nose pins irrespective of their gender, culture, or marital status. We also need to keep in mind that the act of piercing should not be rejected as an old-fashioned idea either. This would be disrespectful towards people who adorn their noses. The only thing that justifies nose piercing is choice. As far as a person wants to get their nose pierced, it doesn’t matter what the reason or logic goes behind it.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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