Traditional Indian Hairstyles

By Hannah Wahlig

Women's hairstyles in India revolve around aesthetic preferences and practical considerations. Indian women's hair is typically dark, thick and glossy. Hairstyles for special occasions aim to pull the hair away from the face and leave the neck bare. Even informal hairstyle trends involve knots and twists. Though many of the modern hairstyle trends in India are inspired by celebrities from Hollywood and Bollywood alike, several traditional styles and techniques remain popular choices for Indian women.

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Indian Bun

Buns are a common hairstyle for Indian women for formal and informal occasions. All the hair is pinned to the back of the head and then wrapped tightly to form a smooth sphere. Buns are worn low against the nape of the neck or higher on the head. The classic style is smooth and elegant, but it also serves a practical purpose during Indian weddings. In an Indian wedding ceremony, the groom places a gold and yellow necklace called a mangalsutra around the bride's neck. A bun keeps the hair away from the neck to avoid interfering with the mangalsutra ceremony.

Indian Braids

Traditionally, an Indian woman with two braids was unmarried. When a woman married, she began to keep her hair in one single braid to advertise her new marital status. Indian braids weave three sections of hair into a single, patterned knot that is secured at the bottom. In many Indian schools, girls whose hair is past shoulder length are required to keep their hair in braids. Braids are the most efficient means of keeping long, thick hair neat and orderly. For formal celebrations, pieces of ribbon can be incorporated into the braid, or the braid can be adorned with colorful clips and accessories.

French Knots or Twists

The French colonization of India influenced Indian culture in terms of hairstyle and manner of dress. French knots or French twists are a common formal hair style in India in which the hair is coiled into a smooth, inverted cone and then pinned in place. The front of hair is smooth backed and the style is rarely accompanied by colorful adornments.


With several hairstyles, it's common for the hair to be decorated with flowers. In India, the most common floral accessory is a jasmine sprig, but other flowers used include carnations or even crowns of baby's breath. Flowers can be pinned around the circumference of a bun or may cascade down the length of a braid. Other adornments include colorfully jeweled clips or a piece of brightly colored ribbon.