We all know that ear lobe piercing is the most common form of body modification worldwide, and depending on the country, piercings of the ear cartilage fall somewhere in the top three most prevalent underneath the lobe. But what about multiple ear piercings and ear stretching? Well they aren’t just commonplace in Westernized nations and among African tribesmen. In fact, there’s a particular place in Eastern India where multiple ear piercings and stretched lobes are incredibly average: Orissa.
Orissa (officially spelled Odisha in India) is an East Indian coastal state that rests on the Bay of Bengal. It is home to over three dozen unique tribal groups, most of whom practice ritual piercing, tattooing, or both, and among these is the Soura tribe.The Soura inhabit areas of the province that lie inland and are divided into two basic groups, primarily definable by their area of settlement and manner of dress. The real point of interest though, is their beautiful ear jewelry.
Soura women commonly have multiple piercings spanning at least half the length of their helix, or outer ear rim. The cartilage in this area is generally adorned with several silver colored rings, and the lobe as well as one or both nostrils will be pierced as well. One of the defining characteristics of the Soura is in fact their very large stretched ear lobe piercings, often described as hanging so low as to touch or brush the shoulder.
Much like other tribal cultures, the piercings themselves are performed using sharp plant material, and the subsequent stretching of the lobes is accomplished primarily with dead stretching. Though it should be noted that, because they are hand carving their own plugs of balsa and other woods, the difference from one size to the next is under far more control than with traditional Western dead stretching, which utilizes a pre-existing set of sizes.
Today a portion of the Soura have been converted by missionaries and assimilated into modern society, but large tribal offshoots still remain, following their traditional religious, social, and cultural practices. Their homeland of Orissa is considered a place of great unspoiled beauty and cultural preservation, and hosts a famous 13th century sun temple.