One of the most wonderful things about instruments from around the world is that each is played in it’s own unique way. Some are plucked, strummed, bowed or tapped. African shekeres can be tossed back and forth or up into the air. Indian-style jingles or bells are worn on the ankles and create beautiful rhythms as part of several types of traditional dance styles. If you create a pair, you can use them to explore rhythm and dance in some really creative ways!
Ankle Bells In India
Ankle bells play a special part in Classical Indian dance and in belly dancing. In Indian dance, there’s a great deal of emphasis on movement of the eyes, the palms of the hands and the feet. The ankle bells draw special attention to the elegant footwork of the dancers.
Traditional ankle bells are known by various names in different parts of India. In Tamilnadu, they are known as Salangai. In Kerala, they are called Chilanka. Sometimes these musical anklets are strings of bells that look like a piece of jewelry. Sometimes they are fastened to a lovely string or chord. In North India, you can find ankle bells called ghungroo. Most often, these special ankle bells consist of rows of jingles sewn into place onto leather or cloth pads then buckled or tied securely onto a dancer’s ankle. Young dancers have smaller anklets with 2 to 4 lines of small bells and adult or professional dancers will often have 4 or even 5 lines of bells.
Ankle Bells For Indian Brides
Along with dance traditions, ankle bells also play a part of the special clothing and adornment of brides. According to ancient texts in Sanskrit, women should have 16 different special adornments on their wedding day. These include ankle bells as well as henna, flowers in the hair, rings, bangles, armlets, wristbands, toe rings, perfume and sandalwood paste. This photo by Indian blogger, Divya Mohan (used by permission) shows a beautiful set of ankle bells as part of a bride’s amazing and special wedding outfit.
Kids and Ankle Bells
It’s great to allow kids to explore sound through movement by playing with ankle bells. You can do this while playing music from India or experiment with how ankle bells sound when dancing to your favorite songs or other types of music. Kids can tap their feet or stomp in time with the music. They can also march or dance and the bells will create different rhythms that mirror their moves. Creating sets of ankle bells made with different materials or in different sizes and shapes will also allow kids to experiment with the different sounds they are creating as they dance.
Make Your Own Ankle Bells
Making your own ankle bells is an easy and satisfying project! Here’s a list of supplies that you can use in this project:
Supplies (For a basic anklet):
Colorful yarn and jingle bells of various sizes, shapes, colors or materials
For an Indian Style anklet:
2 pieces of felt (approximately 12 inches by 3.5 inches), small strip of velcro, jingle bells of various sizes, shapes, colors or materials, needle and thread
For the simplest project, you can start with yarn and either finger-weave or braid an anklet, leaving space at various intervals to add a jingle of your choice. When it’s the correct size, simply tie it into place.
For ankle bells that look more like the Indian Ghungroo, start with a rectangle of felt, leaving space for an overlap of about ¾” for the velco strip. Place the bells on top of your felt in the order you like. You may wish to make marks with a pen to indicate where each bell will be sewn as it helps to keep them in straight lines or in place for a particular pattern. Then sew each one into place.
Next, either sew or stick the Velcro into place on the same side as the jingles and check that the anklet will fasten securely.
Last – put them on, dance around and have fun!
Pictures From An Indian Wedding. Blogger, Divya Mohan wrote this post that details many of the beautiful customs and beliefs that are part of a traditional Hindu Indian wedding:
Want to Explore Indian Arts and Crafts? Try making Henna Hands – an easy version for kids here:
Want to learn more about the beautiful and unusual instruments of India? Dr. Peyman Nasehpour’s website, shares a variety of different traditional Indian instruments along with pictures and descriptions: