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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 Yoga. I took the first photo at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Festival, where this lady was selling beautiful shihsa mirrored items.