‘The Bangle Sellers’ is a poem describing the life of Indian women, the customs and traditions they partake in. The poem uses the theme of bangles, an important ornament for Indian women to embellish themselves with.
The setting of the poem is at a temple fair where the bangle sellers call out people to have a look at their bangles and buy them for their daughters and wives.
Bangle sellers are we who bear
Our shining loads to the temple fair…
Who will buy these delicate, bright
Rainbow-tinted circles of light?
Lustrous tokens of radiant lives,
For happy daughters and happy wives.
The Bangle sellers are introduced at the start of the poem. They are present at the temple fair to make a trade for their bangles. These peddlers enumerate the qualities of their product by using adjectives like delicate, bright, rainbow-tinted circles of light.
They urge the onlookers to buy them for their daughters and wives. The sellers are represented in one voice to emphasize that they all have the same goal and purpose.
The words ‘lustrous tokens of radiant lives‘ give a peek into the Indian culture and the significance that bangles are associated with like happiness and prosperity.
Some are meet for a maiden’s wrist,
Silver and blue as the mountain mist,
Some are flushed like the buds that dream
On the tranquil brow of a woodland stream,
Some are aglow with the bloom that cleaves
To the limpid glory of newborn leaves
The second stanza showcases different kinds of bangles the sellers have. Some of these bangles are for young unmarried maiden’s wrist. They are colored silver and blue resembling the mountain mist.
Others are pink and light red in color akin to tender flower buds blossoming near a woodland stream. There are also some green colored bangles, glowing fresh and pure newborn leaves.
This represents the fact that in Indian society, different colored bangles are worn by women in different phases of their life. The complete stanza depicts the youthful stage in a woman’s life.
Some are like fields of sunlit corn,
Meet for a bride on her bridal morn,
Some, like the flame of her marriage fire,
Or, rich with the hue of her heart’s desire,
Tinkling, luminous, tender, and clear,
Like her bridal laughter and bridal tear.
Now the sellers point to the bangles are colored like ‘fields of sunlit corn‘. They are fit for a grown woman on her bridal morning. Other bangles are bright red just like the flame of the marriage fire (Hindu bridal ceremony). The red bangles indicate her heart’s desire and passion for her new life as a bride and wife.
They are described as ‘tinkling, luminous, tender and clear’. These bangles compare the marriage flame to a bride’s deepest desires. The usage of ‘bridal laughter and bridal tears’ represents both the excitement of a new beginning as a wife and the grief of separation from the parents and home. It points to the transition that a woman makes from a maiden daughter to a wife.
Some are purple and gold-flecked grey
For she who has journeyed through life midway,
Whose hands have cherished, whose love has blest,
And cradled fair sons on her faithful breast,
And serves her household in fruitful pride,
And worships the gods at her husband’s side.
In the final stanza, the Bangle Sellers talk about bangles that are purple and gold-flecked grey. These are perfect for middle-aged women who have ‘journeyed through life’ and raised their children and a family.
These women have fulfilled their household duties with pride and commitment and showed devotion to their God with sincere prayers alongside their husbands. The poet extols the qualities of a good wife and mother.
The use of word ‘sons’ in place of ‘children’ may also be a satirical reminder of the accepted preference for a male child in Indian society at that time and age.
The entire poem is a tribute to Indian women and their beauty and grace. It is a celebration of their femininity or female form. It threads various stages of a woman’s life and into the cultural wealth of India. It also acknowledges the part of bangle sellers in the customs and traditions of India.