Karn Phool (The Ear Flower)
From earliest times long ear lobes have been regarded as a sign of spiritual development and superior status. Among the distinguishing marks of the Buddha, and a sign of his greatness, were his large ear lobes. Homer (d.c. 800 BC) and Aristotle (d. 322 BC) reputedly also had the same characteristic.
There is believed to be a close connection between the ears and the sexual reflexes. The fleshy ear lobes, absent in all other primates, are not, as they appear to be, useless appendages, but erogenous zones which in sexual excitement become swollen and hypersensitive. In ancient times severed ears were offered to the Mother Goddess as a substitute for the male organs. In Egypt devotees offered their ears to the goddess Isis, and till the early decades of the Christian era, sculpted ears were offered at the shrine of the Great Mother in other parts of the Middle East.
The boring of ear lobes has been widely practiced in all parts of the world from early times. The purpose of this operation is not only to facilitate the wearing of earrings for beauty, but to protect the wearer from evil influences, the adornments serving as talismans. The practice was also thought to have some therapeutic value. In certain places, ear piercing was believed to be good for the eyes; it also sharpened the mind and drew off 'bad humors'.
One historian attributes the piercing to the desire to punish the ears for overhearing what they should not hear. The earrings, in turn, were the consolation for the pain and suffering. It was believed that the more decorative and expensive the earrings, the greater the consolation.
Early sculptures demonstrate that ear ornaments were an important constituent of Indian female attire. To the married woman, the ear ornament was (and is) auspicious. Additionally a woman's wealth was conspicuously visible and the ear ornament became a statement of her status and power; elongated ear lobes were considered a sign of beauty and wealth - the longer the lobe, the greater the woman's wealth. By appending ornaments to almost every part of the ear, the woman also ensured a continuous state of mental and physical well being. Indeed recent studies have identified the ear as a microcosm of the entire body - "the point of vision in acupuncture is situated in the center of the lobe."
The Indian woman's bejeweled ear offers a sight that prompted the exclamation: "European ladies are content with one appendage to each ear, while the females of Hindustan think it impossible to have too many."