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A statue of Kannagi holding a silambu.

Silambu (Tamil: சிலம்பு, Malayalam: ചിലമ്പ്)[needs IPA] is a type of hollow anklet or foot jewelry. It is filled with metal beads, and it makes a sound when the person walks. People in many parts of the Indian subcontinent wear silambu at different times and on different occasions. Silver silambu are also often called silver thandai by adults. Most of the performers wear silver silambu for dances performances performed during the puja. The court dancers wore silambu. Silambu may also have been used by Kandyan dancers.

Etymology[change | change source]

According to Jeyaraj, the word 'silambu' is derived from the verb 'silambal', meaning 'to make sound'.[1]

Description[change | change source]

The silambu is filled with beads or small balls that make noise when the wearer moves or dances.[2] It may be worn on the ankle or the leg. When worn on the leg, it is called kālchilambu in Tamil.[3]

Some silambu are made of copper and use iron balls to make sound.[4] Others are made of silver.[5]

In dance[change | change source]

In Tamil Nadu, a traditional dance called Kai Silambu Attam is danced at the temple during the Amman festival or Navratri festival. During this dance, the dancers wear silambu on their ankles and also hold them in their hands. They have different styles of jumping in their dance. This vibration produces sound in the silambu. Nautch and Kandyan dancers may wear silambu.[2][4]

In literature[change | change source]

The main character of the epic Silappatikaram (a story of Silambu) is based on Kannagita's attempt to sell her anklet Silambu. The title comes from the name of the anklet.[6][7]

In festivals[change | change source]

Silambu are sometimes placed on cows' legs during the Pongal festival.[8]

Gallery[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Jeyaraj 1999, p. 39.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sambamoorthy 1976, p. 6.
  3. Sambamoorthy 1976, p. 23.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Banerji, Projesh (1959). The Folk-Dance of India. Allahabad: Kitabistan. pp. 189–190.
  5. Marcuse, Sibyl (1975). "Silambu". Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary. New York: Norton. p. 476. ISBN 9780393007589.
  6. Chakravarti, A. (1944). Jaina Literature in Tamil. New Delhi: Bhāratīya Jñāpītha. p. 51.
  7. The Śilappadikāram. Translated by Dikshitar, V. R. Ramachandra. Oxford University Press. 1939. p. 1.
  8. Sambamoorthy 1976, p. 24.