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The Nazar amulet 🧿 is everywhere on social media. But what are its origins?

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadAug 04, 2022 | 13:14

The Nazar amulet 🧿 is everywhere on social media. But what are its origins?

The conept of Nazar is hardly new, with origins dating back at least 3,000 years. Representative Photo.

There is perhaps no Indian who has grown up without hearing the phrase, "nazar lag jaayegi," in various languages. In Kannada, nazar is called 'Drushti'. In English, it is called the 'evil eye'. But now it is not just your mother nagging you about these things, the belief is also on social media, in the form of an emoji.

You must have come across the blue and white circular nazar emoji 🧿. For a few weeks, I've been seeing them everywhere on Instagram, in captions, messages etc. 

  • Friends posting their selfies? Nazar emoji 🧿
  • An update on life? Nazar emoji 🧿
  • On a trip with BFF? Nazar emoji 🧿
  • Married? Nazar emoji 🧿🧿
  • New job? Nazar emoji 🧿🧿🧿

Not just regular people, but even celebrities have hopped on the trend of using a nazar emoji. From Hollywood's Gal Gadot to Bollywood's Ranveer Singh, everyone regardless of age, gender, nationality, or culture, is using it.

So, how did this nazar emoji evolve to be what it is today? Firstly, let's answer a few questions regarding the topic:

What is "nazar"? The word nazar comes from Arabic. The concept of nazar pertains to the evil eye. It is a superstitious belief that if a person has something in abundance, then that abundance can be damaged by other people's admiration, envy, or even by the owner's pride. 

In India, it is famous as nazar lag gayi or similar phrases in different languages. Most of us would remember our mothers "removing" bad eye on us using salt. Others would wear various symbols to ward off the evil eye, from the popular blue and white eye-shaped amulet to black threads around ankles and kajal ka tika (kohl). 

In other cases, houses, especially newly-constructed houses, would have a black doll or a demon mask hanging outside the premises. On occasions, there would be green mirchi (chili) and lemon tied together, hung outside shops and places or thrown on the road. Elders would ask the younger ones not to cross over the mirchi and lemon thrown on roads. On vehicles, there would be torn shoes would be hung, especially at the back of trucks.  

But the concept of nazar is hardly new or limited to India or Southeast Asian culture. It has origins dating back at least 3,000 years and in various cultures from Greek to Turkish and Christianity. The concept just existed in different symbols, like India had its own symbols and ways of warding it off. 

It is widely believed that the malefic gaze of others, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can bring bad luck to good things happening. 

Where did the eye-shaped amulet come from? Coming to the symbol that's become the emoji, the eye-shaped amulet has its own specific origins. Its origins can be traced back to Turkish culture. The beads used in the amulet reportedly originated from the Mediterranean, and records show its existence as early as the 16th century BC. They were reportedly used in the ancient world of Mesopotamia to Egypt and the Roman imperial period. 

In Turkish culture, it is called Nazar boncugu, which means nazar bead. 

So ubiquitous is the evil eye in Turkey that, there is even an Evil Eye tree in Goreme, Turkey.  

How did they become emojis? In 2018, the Unicode Consortium introduced the nazar emoji to social media. But even before they became emojis, these Turkish amulets were quite popular in India too. On home shopping channels, these amulets would be sold as bracelets, necklaces or home decor. 

These amulets are found in markets from London to Canada and elsewhere around the world; from flea markets to high-end jewellery stores, which offer diamond and stone customisation. The evil eye is everywhere.  

Does it work? Like the concept of the evil eye itself, the symbols are also a superstition. Whether in real life or our virtual life, it remains a superstitious belief. As to whether the evil eye extends to our digital realm is a different thing to answer. Some people believe that as social media is a major part of our lives to connect with others, bad eye from the digital world can also manifest in real life, like the impact of bad comments online. 

What do you think of the evil eye emoji? Do you also use it often or will you be using it in the future?

Last updated: August 04, 2022 | 14:24
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