Traditional and historical: The nose piercing

Note to readers: I’ve noticed that this page is consistently among the top posts read in my blog.  I’m not sure why, but I suspect there is a lack of solid information on this subject.  If you have searched and found this page on Indian nose piercing, do me a favor and leave me a comment.  Tell me where you’re from, why you searched, and if you found anything helpful in this post.  If you found the information you were looking for on another site, please share that. You can also email me directly at Thanks! Cloud.

Women's jewelry

Now I’ve heard various theories to explain the prevalence and importance of nose piercing in Indian culture: nose piercings ensure a submissive female, stimulate the sexual organs, or ease childbirth.  I have no idea which of these beliefs are common, but India has a long history of knowledge of the deepest functions of the body.  In yoga, they tell you to remove any metal from your body because it disrupts the flow of energy (which is a bit of a problem for pierced people.)  In much the same way that acupressure points on the foot correspond to other parts of the body, so nose piercings in ayurvedic medicine, apparently correspond to something.

I find it suspicious that a piercing in such a flattering spot just happens to correspond via energy channels or whatever to the female reproductive organs.  Why couldn’t it connect up to, say . . . the elbow?

I’m not sure how popular nose piercings are with contemporary Indian women.  I hung out with my camera in my local Indian grocery, but was too shy to approach any women to ask them questions.  I eavesdropped on this Indus Ladies, a  women’s forum, and these women discuss  nose piercings in traditional ways; speaking of having to get pierced as part of pre-marriage celebrations.  A small diamond stud seems popular. This thread is really interesting to read, because they seem to be floundering around with aftercare and ignorance about piercings as much as the rest of us.  One lady spoke about trying to get a gun piercing:

I had it done when I was in my college and my mom took me to GRT, where they started doing without pain, that gun thing. the day we chose for nose piercing it that particular guy did not turn up and so the same old method of painful piercing only. I had a gold one on till my wedding and then on one small diamond one. Still I am scared to remove it for the pain it causes when you put it back.

Interesting that she implies that gun piercings are marketed as “painless.”  Actually, needle piercings done by a skilled piercer would be less painful.  But people are always looking for the next, “new, improved” thing.  I think this is sad:

I am much against the old habits and rituals of our country. Many were brought into practice long long ago and with changing times, I find they have no meaning.

Certainly women don’t have to carry their wealth around on their persons with elaborate tribal jewelry, nor do they have to signal their submission to a man with a nose piercing.  But we can make our own traditions!

In terms of aftercare, I’m always interested in folk remedies, and the best description I heard regarding Indian treatment of nose piercing was from this thread Nose-Piercing Woes in which a young women from India was struggling with the Bump:

When I got my nose pierced everyone advised me to put on a mix of oil and turmeric powder (haldi) overnight till it healed. And I must say, that really worked. It hardly hurt and there was no scabbing or swelling. And to avoid the bump a lot of people told me not to eat chickpeas!

I wonder what the chickpeas do? She goes on to say:

With my ear piercings, if they ever got infected or anything my grandma would remove the earring and put in a neem (a type of tree with antiseptic properties) twig in my ear and all would be well in a day!

Neem and tumeric are both folk antiseptics, much like lavender in Europe and tea tree oil in Australia.  I’ve tried neem toothpaste–tastes awful, but is supposed to be very beneficial for the teeth.

Seems to be a lot of silver jewelry, and probably lower-quality gold jewelry.  the girl quote above was pierced with silver jewelry, and she was having trouble.  No wonder–silver is a horrible material for jewelry worn inside the body, and no mystery why.  Makes you wonder how women healed them for millenia, doesn’t it?


Thanks to: Wikipedia, Indus Ladies, Tribalectic, Dr. Weil, and Health and YogaI took the first photo at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Festival, where this lady was selling beautiful shihsa mirrored items.

16 Responses to Traditional and historical: The nose piercing

  1. Annie says:

    Hey Cloud! I really enjoyed reading this entry! I’ve heard a lot about nose piercings easing childbirth and also increasing fertility (though these things only applied to nostril piercings done on the left side!), though not the submissive female one, though I have heard that about helix piercings.

    Also, incidentally, one week after I got two new nostril piercings on the left side of my nose, I expelled my IUD, 8 months after it was inserted. Almost nobody expels IUDs 8 months down the road! I’d say my nostril piercings very likely could have “stimulated my reproductive organs.”

    Man. I am a big vagina nerd and when piercings get involved I get extra excited! Thanks for this post!

  2. piercedconsumer says:

    Expelled your IUD? Wow, that’s a new one!

  3. Annie says:

    For real, right? Also, I’m Merica on SN, just so you know. 😛

  4. piercedconsumer says:

    Thank you Annie/Merica!

    I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool to go to India and research piercings there?” but now . . .

    not so much!

  5. Ambika says:

    Hi to all, this is Ambika

    i would like to share mine story.
    when i was in class 8th, my mom force me to get nose piercing(in India it usually happen) and on let side of my nose i had one, and when i got my mom gave me small nose ring which i wearied for year. As i didn’t it(my nose piercing) so when i joined my college i moved the ring and let my nose empty. but after 4 year i met the guy to whom i am marring want me to wear nose ring. so now again i got the nose piercing done, now my fiancé is happy, my mom is happy, and i am too, Because i fiancé bring me a new nose stud or ring every month, and i have started loving my nose piercing.

    • piercedconsumer says:

      Thanks for posting! Is it more common to have the nose pierced when young, as you say in 8th grade, or at marriage?

  6. Soma says:

    Generally its done when marriage gets fixed.

    • piercedconsumer says:

      Thanks for replying! That is what I am understanding–that it is done right before the wedding in some traditions.

  7. Soma says:

    Dear it is a tradition. Even I had to go for it just before my marriage. My mother-in-law insisted and I agreed. Mine was painful as it was done in home by a thick silver needle and thread coated with turmeric.
    On the marriage day I had to sport the diamon nosepin on my left nostril, It looks good.AND ,,,, you know what my mother-in-law is now requesting me to get the right nostril pierced …………………….

  8. Smitha says:

    I was also looking info regarding nose piercing. I came across this article. Pls take a look at this one.

    • piercedconsumer says:

      Thanks for the link. I find the article rather poorly written, but perhaps it’s merely translated into English from another language. Some interesting information, though.

  9. Sita says:

    I think there are 3 things about nose piercing: 1) Pleasure: When women were largely confined to household in olden days with limited entertainment, piercing was a way to derive pleasure. The body releases such chemicals when pierced or other activities like dancing, trekking. 2) Feminine Hormones: The body releases more feminine hormones, and this probably explains the theories behind easy childbirth, sexual stimulants and submissiveness. Even in cultures where right nostril is pierced, the left is pierced just before the woman has first intercourse, so there is probably a link with left side. 3) Improves Immunity. Nose piercing induces fever, as the body tries to deal with the piercing and foreign object. For this reason, even some young boys nose are pierced (if the previous children died young). The theory is it wards off evil spirits thinking it is a girl, but that probably is an ancient way of explaining it helps immunity by releasing feminine hormones.

    Obviously, these are not so interesting today since we have vaccines, medicines, and women lead a liberated lifestyle and are able to derive pleasure in other ways. It will be interesting if someone in medical line researches these theories and find the truth

  10. beth says:

    The tribal women of India receive extremely large nose rings because they believe it allows the evil spirits to pass through their bodies easier. These women are animist and have a lot of superstition and fears. I came in touch with them in the Araku Valley area of India. I took numerous pictures of these nose rings. I was there in 1981, which was years before nose rings were worn in the U.S., so I had never seen nose rings before.
    It is true that the women of India often wear their wealth in jewelry. You can easily tell if someone is of wealth or poverty according to their jewelry. (bracelets of gold)

  11. Steph says:

    Can someone give me the recipe to get rid of the dreaded bump. I have a really big one next to my nose piercing. I am trying the sea salt soaks, but they don’t seem to be working. Thanks.

    • piercedconsumer says:

      Ah, the bump, aka hypertrophic scarring. A very common consequence. There’s no foolproof way to get rid of it, and it can come and go throughout the healing process. try these things one at a time:

      –wait and it may go away by itself

      –frequent sss, plus application of alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

      –chamomile tea bag compresses

      –massage with emu or other oil.

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