They also have another use – in making jewelry – called as Halwyache dagine or jewelry made of halwa. Per Maharashtrian custom, every newly wed couple is adorned in black clothes and halwa jewelry on the first Sankranti post marriage. There are a few folks who specialize in this jewelry but with modern times most folks don’t want to indulge in these activities and hence the art is declining.
My cousin who got married in April last celebrated her first Sankranti last weekend as a newly wed. Her mom ( as in my aunt) didn’t want to buy her a store-bought jewelry set. She had learnt the art of making these dagine when she was younger and was determined to make a unique set for my cousin. We are a family of DIY’ers
To give some context, the jewelry is made from the sugar beads. Its threaded together or glued on a flexible cardboard base. There is no ‘hole’ to thread the beads, so essentially you have to make the beads have enough ‘spikes’ so that when they are threaded between 4-5 strands of thread, they are held in place and don’t fall out.
And making the sugar beads is not easy. It has to be made by constantly stirring sugar syrup on a low heat around a central seed ( sesame seed, poppy seeds, sago, lentils or pumpkin seeds). The seed of choice is based on how small or large you want the sugar bead for the jewelry. Smaller ones are used for necklace strings and bangles while large ones are used in pendants, mang tikka etc. You can’t stir with a spoon as then you don’t have control on the spikes so you have to stir using your finger tips. Its tedious, laborious and of course cause blisters on finger tips due to constant stirring. But it results in a crisp halwa that is sweet and that stores for a long time.
It took my aunt more than a month to make the beads and then string them together. She was helped by her mom who was very excited to do this for her granddaughter. This is love personified. Very few people even know how to make this and even fewer practice it. I still recall the look of pride on their faces as we admired the hand made dagine during my visit to Mumbai. Doing this with full time job and managing a household is commendable!!
Few pictures of what they made:
And my lovely cousin adorning them:
Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into unusual Indian traditions