A string of jasmine flowers

We Indians love wearing strings of flowers in our hair, when we dress in our traditional saris.  If we braid our hair, then the string of flowers is pinned on top and let to flow down with the braid, if we are doing up our hair in a chignon, then the string is artistically positioned around the chignon or under it.


    Image courtesy – http://www.boisdejasmin.com

The most commonly used flower to adorn the hair is the jasmine.  The heavenly smell of the small and beautiful jasmine flower has to be experienced!


Image courtesy – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com

Most cities and towns in India, especially in the South, have flower markets, which sell all kinds of flowers, both for hair adornment, for decoration, for gifting and for weddings (which is really big business in India).


Image courtesy – http://www.dreamstime.com

Jasmine strings are sold in small stalls or by women, who have big baskets with many rolls of these fresh flowers, beautifully strung together.  The strings are sold by a traditional measure, called the ‘muzham‘, which means the length of the flower-seller’s arm from the finger to her elbow.

So, when we buy flowers, we ask for 2 muzhams or 3 muzhams, and it is fun to watch the flower-seller, measure the string the required number of times on her hand and then cut it.


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On closer observation, most of these women have another basket with unstrung flowers.  They string these flowers together on long strings of fiber from the banana plant.  These strings are pliable, but also strong.  Watching these women stringing the flowers is a lot of fun.  Their hands deftly place the stalks of the flower on one side of the string and rapidly turn the string around the stalk, and so on till a long string of jasmine flowers is ready.

During my childhood, it was expected that we knew how to string flowers together.  My grandma was my teacher – she would take a few loose flowers and then show me how it was done.  It took a while to learn the skill, as the flowers would fall away, if the string was not bound properly.  With time, we learnt and could string flowers together.


Image courtesy – http://www.chennaifocus.in

These holidays, my mother suggested to my daughter that she learn how to string flowers together.  My daughter clucked her tongue in exasperation, as the flowers kept falling out.  But I’m sure she will learn.

When I was growing up, I used to wonder if there was any use in learning these things, but now I realize that I want my daughter to learn these things too, which form an integral part of our culture and tradition.  And they look so beautiful and smell heavenly, so why not?


38 thoughts on “A string of jasmine flowers”

  1. I adore the jasmine flower! Always have. I learn so much about your culture through your posts Nimi. This was so interesting. It’s like a Mini-Nimi Documentary ….! 🙂 Great post Nimi.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The festival I attended was held near Washington DC a few years back. It was done to promote Indian culture. I happened to be in a building next to where the festival was happening and the music caught my attention. So I stopped by and was able to see the Indian women wearing flowers in their head. I also had a chance to observe the Indian dancing live. They were also serving Indian food, which happened to be my top three ethnic food. Overall, it was educational and excellent experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my gosh, those jasmine strings are fabulous to look at…I can only imagine at how wonderful they smell! I’ve watched leis made in Hawaii and still marvel at the ability to take a tender flower and weave it into something even more gorgeous to wear.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought of you today, after reading this post. I was in the checkout line of my local grocery store, when my cashier commented on my purchase of Naan bread. She was Indian, and happily volunteered her tips on preparing Naan. When she turned her head, I noticed white flowers adorning her hair. I Asked if they were Jasmine, and she was overjoyed to report that they were, and that she grows them herself. 24 hours ago, I would have not thought to ask that question. Thanks to you, I connected with another culture today.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Yeah Mom still does it :), in Karnataka there also a “Mar” as a measure thats from fingers of one arm to the end of the fingers of other arm, but these days the folks wear it on festive occasions only but still a very integral part of tradition

    Liked by 1 person

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