The lac bangles form an essential part of tradition. The 'gulali choodha' (red coloured bangle) or the 'Hare bandon ka choodha' (green coloured bangles) is purchased during weddings. The pink ones are worn during Holi. This craft is also used to create rings, toe rings (bichchua), anklets (payal), nose rings, necklaces, bala, bajuband, rakhi, gajra, gokhru, timaniyan and 'maathe ka tika'. The lac is also sometimes used to hold the ornament when it is being set with precious/semi-precious stones or enameled. It is also used to fill the ornaments to give it body and strength.
The significance and beauty of these bangles lies in their ability to be customized. The manihari women create custom made accessories for their clientele by adjusting the bangle to the desired size and ornamenting them with the preferred beads, stones, crystals and other embellishments fancied by the she patrons visiting the store.
The lac bangles can be reused once broken, they can be rejoined by mild heating and shaping, however reheating and forming makes the lacquer brittle; therefore the reworking has a limit of 8 to 10 times only.
Lac bangles are skin soothing and don't cause infections or itchiness.
Myths & Legends
The story of the notorious Lac palace built by the Kauravas in a plot to eliminate the Pandavas, in an episode from the 3000-year-old Mahabharata epic sheds more light on the history of this material.
Lac has been mentioned in the texts of vedas. The Lakshataru or the Lac tree is a well known feature. A small chapter is devoted to the Lac insect in Atharva Veda. It appears in the story of the notorious Lac palace built by the Kauravas in a plot to eliminate the Pandavas in an episode from the 3000-year-old Mahabharata epic. Ayurveda stresses the importance of lac in medical therapies. India is one of the largest producers of lac and its principal exporter. It is widely used in food processing, textile, leather, cosmetics, varnish, and printing industries. Being biodegradable and eco-friendly its usage is becoming highly popular.
The craft of making Lac bangles dates back to the time when Jaipur was established. The king of Amer had invited craftsmen from the Manoharpur district of Uttar Pradesh to settle down in his kingdom. When the capital city of Jaipur was established, the crafts men shifted base. The craft is practiced by the Muslim community. The women sit at the shops and the men work at preparing the raw material in the kilns.
The lac bangles are made in a variety of ways. They are made plain with a smooth surface and painted over with a variety of colors. The lac sometimes acts as the base to hold pieces of precious and semi-precious stones as well as colored glass.
The availability of Lac has decreased due to deforestation and led to the escalation of raw material costs. The lack of awareness has also led to the buyers expecting the products in the same prices. This has led to a decrease in demand and the number of outlets falling to around 200-250 in number from 1500 in the last few years. The craftsmen too have started to seek alternative professions with better returns.