Last updated January 13th, 2021
Being an Indian parent, you must’ve surely noticed that after your baby’s birth, your friends and family bringing jewelry for the little one. Though it’s quite common in Asia for babies to wear some kind of religious or culturally associated jewelry, but not so common for most countries around the globe.
In India, babies are adorned with many ornaments like bracelets, anklets, neck chains, earrings, and chains to be worn at the waist. The common type of bracelets in India is a pair of gold/silver chain with black beads in between. Another type of bracelets is a chain featuring nazar (blue eye) to keep the evil spirits away. These bracelets are worn by both baby boys and girls, till they are toddlers, to ward off evil spirits. This is also accompanied by a black tika (mark) from a homemade kajal on their forehead or chin.
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The reason behind Indian babies wearing bracelets
The tradition of a baby wearing bracelets or even anklets dates back to hundreds of years when babies were made to wear black threads or a bracelet made with shells. The primary reason for this was to keep the evil spirits away from the baby. The Hindu religion in India also believes that wearing such bracelets will keep the negative energy away from the baby while increasing divine and positive energy in the baby.
Today, the symbol of a bracelet, or any jewelry for that matter, has become more of a decorative aspect for the baby. New parents today still follow the tradition but not to ward off evil spirits but to make their babies look more beautiful. This tradition isn’t just followed in India, but parents in the United States have also adopted this tradition of making their babies wear jewelry like earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. These ornaments are either made of expensive metals like gold and silver and are even customized to the baby’s specific designs or names.
The common type of bracelet is a pair of gold or silver chain with black beads on them for each hand. It’s usually blessed and worn on the 28th day after the baby’s birth because it’s believed that on the 28th day the baby’s nakshatra (star) is repeated and is considered as an auspicious day.
To be honest, even my little boy has this black beaded bracelet on both hands, but for me, it wasn’t to ward off evil spirits, but I found it cute. When I was a child, I had a similar pair of bracelets, and I always wanted my kid would wear something like it. Talking about this, I’ve also seen that the ornaments are sometimes passed down to different generations, where the baby carries a part from her previous generations, a piece of jewelry belonging to her ancestors.
Another type of bracelet and even necklaces come in this design, is a gold chain with a symbol of Nazar in between. Nazar is a shape of an eye and has a bright blue color in the middle, and is believed to keep the evil or negative spirits away. These types of bracelets and necklaces are often adorned by women too, and in the modern world, it has now become a fashion statement with clothes, bracelets, anklets, necklaces featuring the symbol of nazar.
There’s another reason why Indian families make babies in their family wear ornaments. I think this is quite common and yet unknown in many families in India, and that is peer pressure. To show that the baby is born in a well-made family, the parents or grandparents often buy extravagant jewelry for the baby to show their status in society to people. Some families do it because it’s a tradition where both sets of grandparents have to gift some form of jewelry to the newborn kid. I don’t think warding off evil spirits is in either of their minds.
Take for example my family; on the 28th day after I gave birth to my first-born, my parents gifted a gold chain to the baby, while my husband’s parents gifted a chain for the waist (known as Aranjanam in Kerala) to the baby. Neither of the family talked about warding off evil spirits, rather it was a tradition both families had to do, and if incapable of doing so tarnishes their reputation.
Other cultures who follow a similar tradition
In Mexico and other Latin American countries, mal de ojo jewelry is known famously, which is gifted to newborn babies to ward off evil spirits. They believe that this type of jewelry will keep their babies safe from crying and illness due to the protective qualities of the mal de ojo jewelry.
The evil eye jewelry in the Latin American countries traditionally has shades of red and pink in them and features a black gemstone, known as azabache, and it’s believed to protect the babies against ill intentions. Babies in Miami have bracelets or pins with the words Dios Me Bendiga and are believed to possess spiritual protection.
Catholic babies in Latin America have necklaces with a pendant in the sign of a cross or a Virgin Mary or of an angel. The most common type of jewelry is the evil eye brooch which parents pin it to the babies’ garments.
People in Africa and in the Caribbean follow a religion called Santeria which has pieces of jewelry and clothing that has a theme of yellow and green color combination. Be it the jewelry for kids, adults or their clothes, this combination of yellow and green represents Orula, which means the orisha (spirit) of wisdom. You can even see these colors even on the national flag of Jamaica and Dominica. Gifting a green and yellow bracelet to a newborn is considered as auspicious, wishing wisdom and prosperous growth to the baby.
Turkish culture believes in the jewelry that features Nazar that keeps evil spirits away. Nazar can be dated back to ancient culture, which is almost 3000 years old. Blue is considered as the traditional color of Nazar, but they can also come in green color. Nazar is gifted in the form of jewelry or is placed in the baby’s nursery to protect her.
Can Jewelry be Dangerous for Babies?
The answer to this question is, yes! Jewelry can prove to be harmful to the baby if they have sensitive skin or an allergy to the material. Not only the baby can be allergic, but any jewelry on the baby can prove to be a choking hazard.
It’s best if babies are not given jewelry until they’re older and are capable of telling you if something is wrong. Necklaces on a baby’s neck can put the baby at the risk of choking on it. Even though I have a chain which was gifted to my baby, I’ve never let him wear it, because there’s a possibility it can get stuck somewhere while the baby tries to move to the opposite side and harm himself.
Not just necklaces, bracelets and anklets too can be loose, dangly or have loose clasps, and babies will try to put it in their mouth. If you insist on making your baby wear a bracelet or an anklet, then make sure that it doesn’t have any loose clasps and is tight-fitted.
Today’s competitive market can be seen developing their business in every possible way. So, if you go to a jeweler store today, and asks for baby jewelry, they’ll place an array of different kinds and designs of jewelry for your baby.
I have known even parents buying bracelets for their baby that has a little elephant or a flower on it. Now, will you say that these are to ward off evil spirits? Well, no, but they add more of the “cute” factor to the baby’s personality, and for parents in a way to show off their status to others.
It really depends on you whether you choose to make your baby wear some kind of jewelry or not, but make sure whatever you choose to do is thoroughly thought through, keeping in mind the safety precautions.
Also, mamas, comment down below if you have any jewelry for your baby and what it symbolizes for you.
Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not running after her kid, Kelin is busy reading, travelling, and penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best’.