The way of beautifying the body with adornments has been practised since the dawn of civilisation, where humanity would utilise flowers and beads, sculpted wood, shell, bone and stone to create fashion accessories. The product used altered over time with the discovery of more valuable materials such as ivory, copper and semi-precious stones and after that to silver, gold and gemstones, but the abundant tribal heritage can be seen in the flower theme which is standard to Indian precious jewellery styles even today.
Indian precious jewellery is as old as Indian civilisation itself. The ruins of the Indus Valley civilisation, going back to 5000 years, have yielded examples of beaded jewellery. In the sculptures at Bharhut, Sanchi and Amaravati and the paintings at Ajanta can be seen the vast array of jewellery worn by males and female, by king and commoner alike. The temples of South India, Bengal, Orissa and Central India present a genuine cornucopia of the jeweller’s art.
Greek visitors to ancient India marvelled at the intricate Indian gems of the time. The impressive, Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the Arthasastra, texts 19 centuries old, point out the elaborate arts of the jewellers of Yore. The Silappadikaram, an ancient Tamil classic, talks of a society dealing in gold, pearls and precious stones. Paes, a Portuguese chronicler, composes of the Vijayanagar empire where visitors were dazzled by the jewellery worn.
Jewellery in ancient times was not only an accessory, however, with each stone believed to be endowed with magical qualities and used as protection against evil forces. The Navaratna or nine gems, each connected to a planet, are worn in a specific order with the same reasons applying even today. The maniratna, called the serpent stone, was used as a talisman to protect the user. Rudraksha and Tulsi seeds and sandalwood beads are used even today throughout Hindu spiritual practice.
The arrival of Moghul guideline even more embellished Indian fashion jewellery. The synthesis of Hindu and Muslim types and patterns resulted in a great outburst of decoration, classy and splendid, and of a lavish luxury never ever seen prior to it. Although traces of enamelling have actually been discovered in ancient Taxila, this art reached its highest level just under the Moghuls, when even the hidden reverse side of each gem was covered with detailed enamel work despite it not being widely seen by others (minakari).
Precious jewellery, later on, became a method of savings, like a bank today, and of offering monetary security to Women in times of great need.
The Indian love of gold might have been a means of getting wealth. The Indian love of precious jewellery is truly a love of the gorgeous and the aesthetic, of guy’s aspirations to reach perfection in form, design and colour. Repeating, balance and organised progression in style are typical of the Indian belief in order, or R’ta, in the cosmic universe.
The Sarpech from Rajasthan is often made using uncut diamonds and extended emerald drops. It is topped by a paisley crest. Elaborate Jaipur enamel work covers the reverse of the accessory, not seen here.
This adornment could be seen as the equivalent to Tiaras worn by women from as long ago as 2000 years. The Sarpech or Shirpej, suggesting an adornment for the head, established, in medieval India, as an accessory worn on baronial turbans. It reached excellence in the courts of the Moghuls and the princes of Rajasthan. Moghul queens likewise wore a comparable jewel, however by and large it was generally seen as a male turban accessory.
The use of uncut stones in accessories was popularised in the north by Moghul emperors who admired precious stones in their most pure form. Enamelling reached its peak of excellence in Jaipur, Maharaja Man Singh having actually brought five Sikh enamel craftsmen from Lahore to his capital in the 16th century to establish this art.
Bracelets and Bangles of various types were used in Northern India such as the bangdi, churi, naugari, pahunchi, kangan, gaira, bartana, patri, dastband and kada. The Jehangiri, a stone-studded bracelet of Emperor Jehangir’s court, was possibly developed by his queen, Nur Jehan herself.
Kadas could be hollow, strong, or filled with lac. The ends of the Kada were of various styles such as of 2 parrots, twin elephants etc. Stone-set Kadas are often covered with enamel on one side, the method utilized typically being the champleve. The goldsmith takes the style after which the enamel is painted or brushed into the hollows. It is then repaired in place by fire, a really hard art.
Various kinds of armlets called the bajuband or bazuband are worn in various parts of India. The Vanki of South India is unique due to the fact that of its inverted-V-shaped style. From old paintings and sculptures, it appears that its origin can be traced to Naga or snake praise. Some of the earliest Vankis can be seen on figures of Lord Krishna as a kid, the more ancient figures in wood and stones having a hooded cobra crowning the ornament. The connection in between Ananta the snake, on whom lies Vishnu, whose avatar or incarnation was Krishna, appears.
The shape of the Vanki is such that if fits over the arm without any strain or pressure.
Linga Padakka Muthu Malai
It was believed in ancient India that perfect pearls avoided misery and were therefore favorites with kings. South India has actually been famous for its pearls, and pearl necklaces with fancy pendants were seen in plenty in the medieval courts of Vijayanagar and Thanjavur.
Sometimes the pendant enclosed a scroll of sacred words worn as an amulet to ward off wicked. Figures of the family deity were often engraved in gold and encrusted with stones in the pendant.
Nose ornaments have actually been of various different types and styles. There are the single stone and the clove-shaped Laung endured one side of the nose, the gem worn through the cartilage in the centre of the nose, the Bulak, and Naths of different shapes and styles. One of the most stylish, however, is the Nath of Maharashtra.
Hardly ever does one see any reference to nose precious jewelry in the ancient Hindu texts from which it appears that it might have been brought into the country by Muslims in the 9th or 10th century A.D.
In the last few centuries, however, the nose ornament has actually become part of the bride-to-be’s trousseau, and in fact a critical accessory for married woman to adorn herself with following her wedding. The true blessing for a bride-to-be frequently was, “Might your Nath be ever present”
Although the purpose of the Oddiyanam was apparently to hold up the saree, really, like the binding of feet in the Far East, it served the extra purpose of keeping the waist slim, as the breath was drawn in before the belt-clasp was attached. The slim waists of older females even after several childbirths was thought to be the outcome of using this accessory.
The tight belt around the waist further accentuated the hips of the wearer as, in Dravidian culture, big hips were a sign of appeal in a woman. Examples of pinched waists and heavy hips can be seen in sculptures in the temples of the South to this day.
In olden times, to make room for more ornaments, the ear was pierced in four places- the lobe, the inner ear, the outer part of the middle of the ear and the top of the ear.
The most popular jewel for the ear in the north has been the Karanphool, with the flower concept in the centre of the accessory. The Jhumka in the shape of a bell has also been individually worn. It was only throughout the Moghul duration, however, that the Karanphool Jhumka progressed as a single jewel for the ear, each area having its own special embellishment contributed to the basic style.
The Jadanagam of South India, or, actually, the hair-serpent, is worn by brides to decorate braided hair. The rakkadi at the back of the head in the shape of the sun, symbolic of radiance and power, is followed by the crescent moon, evocative of calm and peace. The third piece is the fragrant thazhambu flower (screwpine).
Then comes the ruby and diamond-studded many-headed magnificent cobra, Ananta, below whom are seen 3 rows of the cobra’s coils. From here the fashion jewelry for the braided hair begins. Designed in the form of flowers and buds, it consists of different pieces interlaced to form a flexible ornament. Towards completion of the braid it breaks out into 3 silk tassels held together by encrusted bells.
This bridal jewel was also adopted by Devadasis, or temple dancers, who considered themselves the bride-to-bes of the temple deity. This custom has continued to this day when we see Bharat Natyam dancers wearing the Jadanagam or, where it is not readily available, a substitute woven out of flowers.
The Shinka is an unusual hair jewel of Gujarat. Although popular with certain neighborhoods, it is rather unusual, the more common hair gem being the Damani endured the brow in front of the hair-line.
The Shinka, however, is worn on the hair itself and, as it is a heavy accessory, it is held in location by the uncommon method of gold hooks connected to the hair. At wedding events and on festive occasions the newly-married daughters-in-law of the family use it.
This uncommon accessory from Bengal, the Chandrahaar (meaning a garland of moons), comprises of a series of chains comprised of minute gold balls kept in criss-cross gold wire, leading down to an elaborate filigree pendant with a floral theme. The clasps on either side are, once again, smaller filigreed flowers.
Bengal has constantly been well-known for its special gold jewelry with its fragile work and gold filigree which achieve fantastic heights of excellence.
The Chandrahaar is a hip accessory including grace to the user. It is thought that it was worn by Sita, of the impressive Ramayana, at her wedding event, and has actually thrilled the creativity of poets. Sculptors have actually carved intricate variations of this jewel on figures in the temples of Orissa.
This Hathphool (or flowers for the hand), likewise in some cases called the Panchangala (or jewel for the 5 fingers), is from Rajasthan. It consists of a Kundan-set flower-encrusted bracelet with stone-set chains leading to another flower on the back of the palm and comparable chains connecting it to the 5 rings on the 5 fingers, each ring with a different flower theme. The reverse of the gem is covered with enamel designs. On the left thumb is an arsi or mirror, for last-minute preening by the user!
The setting of stones called Kundan is attained by little pits being carved out in the front of the ornament of the size of the stones being utilized. Precious stones are embedded in these hollows and kept in location by a band of the purest gold.
The reverse of this accessory is covered with complex enamelling of different colours.
The hands of the wearer are embellished with Mehendi or henna styles, an essential decoration for a bride-to-be of the north, itself a masterpiece.
In the Kundan art of setting stones, even gems of little worth attain an abundant result by expert incrustations.
The feet of the user are covered with Mehendi or henna styles, as part of bridal decoration.
A wide range of anklets were used in the different parts of India. The payal, gajra, sankla, chanjar, zanjiri, golusu and kaappu are some examples.
The majority of anklets of Hindu ladies were, nevertheless, made of silver, as gold was considered a sacred metal, not to be used to adorn the feet except as a decoration for icons in temples, or by royalty.
The Silappadikaram, an ancient Tamil classic, talks of a society dealing in gold, pearls and valuable stones. Precious jewellery in ancient times was not just an adornment, but each stone was endowed with a magical quality and utilized as a protection against evil forces. The maniratna, called the serpent stone, was used as a talisman to safeguard the wearer. Some of the earliest Vankis can be seen on figures of Lord Krishna as a kid, the more ancient figures in wood and stones having a hooded cobra crowning the ornament. There are the single stone and the clove-shaped Laung worn on one side of the nose, the gem used through the cartilage in the centre of the nose, the Bulak, and Naths of various shapes and designs.