Pomegranate Studio belly dance, with women wearing belly chains

A belly chain or waist chain is the popular English term for the Indian jewelry[1] called kamarband. The belly chain is a type of body jewelry worn around the waist.[2] Some belly chains attach to a navel piercing; these are also called "pierced belly chains". They are often made of silver or gold. Sometimes a thread is used around the waist instead of a chain. The chain may be delicate and thin, or heavy and thick.

Belly chains are considered auspicious for women in Indian culture.[3]


Hindu god Krishna wearing belly chain

The use of waist chains can be traced back to 4000 years or more originating in the Indian Subcontinent. Historically, waist chains have been used in India, by men and women, as ornaments and as part of religious ceremonies, as accessories and to show affluence.[4]

Many ancient sculptures and paintings from locations in India, dating back to the Indus Valley civilization, indicate that waist chains were a very popular jewelry. Many deities in the Hinduism, such as Lord Krishna, wore waist chains.[5][6][7] A waistband called cummerbund or patka was a part of the medieval upper class costume of Rajasthanis.[8]

A 14th-century poem indicates that the waist chain has been a fashion for men in some parts of South India.[9][10]

Contemporary practice and trends

A woman wearing a belly chain

Belly chains are common among women in India.[11] In some regions waist chains are common among men as well. In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, every newborn receives a waist chain as a cultural pact.

Namboothri men generally wear waist strings even as adults. In some aristocratic families, Namboothiri men wore a flattened triple gold string around the waist.[12] As a Hindu custom newborns get a waist chain (Aranjanam) on the 28th day after their birth. In Kerala, almost all newborns irrespective of the religious affiliation get a waist chain. Although many boys generally abandon waist chains during their teenage years, most girls and a sizable number of boys continue to wear waist chains as adults.[citation needed] A follower of Lord Siva is expected to wear a chain, with Rudrakshas strung in a white chain with one hundred beads, around the waist.[13] In Lakshdweep a silver thread is worn by both men and women.[14] Dhodia and Kathodis or Katkari men use ornaments around the waist.[15][16][17]

For cultural reasons, waist chains became a fashion accessory for women and men in many parts of the world.[18]

A similar garment of beads worn around the waist has appeared in several aspects of African culture such as dress, childcare, and relationships. Notably in Ghanaian and Nigerian culture, these waist beads have functioned as slings for loincloths, and as support when a child is carried on one's back. In childcare, they have been included as part of naming ceremonies and to measure growth until puberty.[19] As the practice has spread throughout the diaspora, they have become accessories to express femininity, enhance sexuality by drawing attention to the hips, and serve as a symbol of fertility.[20] Some women also wear them to achieve the appearance of a desired hourglass body shape.

See also


  1. ^ Schaefer, Richard T. (2008-03-20). Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society. SAGE Publications. p. 713. ISBN 978-1-4522-6586-5. Indeed, in recent years, thanks to celebrities such as Madonna and Goldie Hawn, Indian fashions (saris and churidars), jewelry (belly chains), and body art (mendhi), have found a market with both U.S. and Indian American youths. Beyond this ...
  2. ^ Gupta, Hari Ram (1991-01-01). History of the Sikhs: Sikh Lion of Lahore/Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 385. ISBN 978-81-215-0515-4. A shirt of white muslin, a belt or kamarband tied over the shirt round his waist, a kachchha, a pair of tight trousers, yellow or pea-green, of Daryai silk, a pair of slippers, completed his dress. In winter he wore woollen pa jama, single or double ...
  3. ^ Gupta, Apoorva (2019-10-16). "Karva (Karwa) Chauth 2019: 'Solah Sringar' and its significance in Indian culture". Retrieved 2020-10-03.
  4. ^ "Rocked the body chain yet? - Times of India". Retrieved 2020-10-03.
  5. ^ "Vedic Approach to Vaiṣhṇava Āḻvārs". Tamilartsacademy.com. Archived from the original on 2016-08-06. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  6. ^ "NIRWAN". Archived from the original on 2011-04-24. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-05-17.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Traditional clothing/jewelry of Rajas... - Rajasthan - tribe.net". Tribes.tribe.net. 2008-05-16. Archived from the original on 2016-08-13. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  9. ^ "Avaiyar's Vinayagar Agaval". Alchemywebsite.com. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  10. ^ "Answered: Your Most Burning Questions About Waist Beads". African Writers Hq.
  11. ^ Mukhopādhyāya, Trailokyanātha (1888). "Art-manufactures of India: Specially Compiled for the Glasgow International ..." Books.google.com. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  12. ^ Namboothiri Websites Calicut (2001-08-16). "Namboothiri Ornaments". Namboothiri.com. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  13. ^ "Celextel's Online Spiritual Library | Rudraksha Jabala Upanishad". www.celextel.org. Archived from the original on 12 June 2006. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  14. ^ "Island Ecology and Cultural Perceptions". Ignca.nic.in. Archived from the original on 2016-06-10. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  15. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-24. Retrieved 2011-05-17.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ "Ancient India, Gupta Empire for Kids and Teachers - Ancient India for Kids". India.mrdonn.org. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  17. ^ "NASIK DISTRICT GAZETTEERs". Archived from the original on 2011-04-26. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
  18. ^ "The Gazetteers Department". Solapur. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  19. ^ Ashe, Jordan (1 April 2012). "Progression of Aesthetic: a Study of Beads and Adornment in Contemporary Krobo Society". Independent Study Project (ISP) Collection. Retrieved 8 January 2022.
  20. ^ Nzoiwu, Azuka Abigail (7 September 2015). "Aesthetics, Typology and Functionality of Beads Among the Peoples of Nigeria". Tropical Built Environment Journal. 1 (4). Retrieved 8 January 2022.