Jasmine Flowers Are More Than an Accessory

The delicate white buds have stood the test of time, cementing themselves in pop culture, weddings, mythology, and everyday life.

GettyImages-1424728025 jasmine flowers
A farmer displays jasmine flowers after harvesting from a farmland on the outskirts of Madurai, India, June 27, 2023 (R. SATISH BABU/AFP via Getty Images)

Isha Banerjee


April 11, 2024


8 min

A heroine, Mumtaz, coyly runs into the pouring rain. The hero, Rajesh Khanna, follows her, revering the kohl lining her eyes and the jasmine flowers in her hair. She blushes, touches the flowers, and hides behind a tree. The song — Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar’s “Kajra lagake, gajra sajake” from the 1972 film Apna Desh — is rife with romance. From the dangling of the heroine’s earrings and the tinkling of her bangles to the aroma of her adorned hair, how could the hero not fall for her? 

More than five decades later, the allure of jasmine garlands — whether called gajra, malligai, malle pulu, beli fuler mala, and various other monikers — lingers. They are ubiquitous throughout the subcontinent, transcending regional and religious differences. While many associate the garlands with brides and romantic love, the flowers represent much more.

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