Monday, 25 March 2013

Beautiful Feminine Ornament

NECKLACE OF COINS Andhra Pradesh 19th century a typical Muslim ornament in the area, each gold coin is stamped with a male face.Interestingly, almost two millennia earlier, Bharata's Natyashastra, a treatise on the dramatic arts written circa SOO B.C., listed an array of ornaments for women remarkably similar to Manucci description. Recommending the jewellery appropriate to women's costumes, the author provides an extensive categorisation of jewellery including varieties of ornaments for the ears, forehead, forearm, upper arm, waist, feet, fingers and neck.

In no other culture do we find a parallel to the meticulous classification of gems and jewellery according to shape, size, style and design as enumerated in ancient India. Accompanied by an extensive lexicon of specific terms, this unique feature indicates the importance of jewellery in Indian tradition an importance going far beyond bodily adornment. Over the centuries much oldie terminology changed, but essential types, their usage and designs reveal a remarkable continuity in conventions established early in Indian history.

MOHAPPU SANGlLl (necklace) Tamil Nadu; early 20th century A popular ornament in South India, usually of three to five strands of gold chains, this piece has ruby and emerald beads interspersed with pearls. The gold gem-set centre-piece mohappu is worn lust below the right collar bone, so that it is clearly visible over the edge of the sari.In the absence of extant specimens, a thorough study of the earlier terminology is especially informative about design styles, usage and sources of design inspiration. Traditional Indian jewellery did not go by merely generic terms. A necklace, for example, was not just a Liar. The semantic appendage to the generic term was a cryptic description of it. The earlier use of the term ekavali, for instance, immediately denoted a single strand of pearls. With a gem in the centre it became a yasti. Interspersed with gold and gems the necklace was given a special name, ratnavali. The lingua franca of Indian jewellery is based on etymological derivations of 206 the design, material or purpose of the ornament and is understood by craftsmen and clients. Many of the classical terms are now obsolete, and have been replaced by more colloquial terminology. 

Some of the Carlier types of adornment such as girdles and ornaments for the hair like the chudamani are also now part of jewellery history. But prevailing styles in earrings, necklaces bangles and bracelets echo an ancient lineage in their shapes motifs, and even the techniques of embellishment. The jewels enclosing the wrists of aristocratic ladies depicted in Shunga period terracottas are precursors of the gajredar bangris and pahunchis of later date. Stylistic continuity is also visible in necklaces and earrings. The phalakahar, described in Kautiliya's Arthashastra as a multiple strand necklace of gold beads with five or seven gemmed spacers is still popular with Indian women in almost the same composition as depicted on the sculpted figures at Bharhut and Sanchi as well as in the paintings of Ajanta.

HASLI (rigid necklace) North India 19th century Florets of rose-cut diamonds on an opaque blue enamel ground terminating in bunches of seed pearls create a soft, lace-like effect in this jewel  perhaps meant for a young girl. Ornaments for children were no less splendid then those made for men, women and the gods.Unique jewellery forms are an intrinsic aspect of Indian culture. On the top of her head, the woman wore elaborate jewels that covered the parting of her hair and hung down over her forehead; her long sinuous plait was encased in sheets of gold engraved and worked in repousse, set with precious stones her ears were rarely left bare, since to do so was considered most inauspicious. A single necklace rarely sufficed from collars clasped high around the throat, magnificent gems, and chains cascaded down to her waist in a rich variety of designs. Slender wrists were clasped with gold, elegant peacocks and curving malmms adorned her arms; gold sheets worked in repousse and gem set with Dancing swans and gay parrots, and frowning lrirtimuklm clasps hugged her waist. From the crown of the head to the tips of the toes, jewellery whose inspiration lay in prototypes from nature, was conceived and crafted to decorate, enhance and protect.

Underlying this unbroken aesthetic tradition is the fundamental continuity in The attitudes of the feminine wearer Her love for the beautiful and overriding concern for security perpetuated a unique jewellery tradition reflected in the many forms and Styles that evolved.


HASLI (rigid necklace) North India 19th century this version of the hasli is set in gold with rubies and emeralds and fringed with a row of inverted crescent moon units.To the women of India, jewellery has been auspicious. There is no more poignant picture than that of an Indian woman divesting herself of all her jewels on the death of her husband. In a moving ceremony, her bangles are broken and the marriage tokens stripped from around her neck before the dead body of her husband is taken away. Ornaments once loved for their beauty, acquired for their value, used as protectors against evil and as symbols of health, wealth and happiness, are now shunned. On the other hand, a woman predeceasing her husband is considered very fortunate. Her body is decked in bridal finery, adorned with all her ornaments, and she is revered as an icon of the perfect wife.

The antiquity of the convention of tying a tiru mangalyam or a 1tzz1nflrIltzs'1tt2'a, the auspicious emblem or cord, on the wedding day is indeterminable. There is no mention of marriage tokens in the list of ceremonies prescribed in the Gribya Sutras (Texts containing rules prescribing the rites for a householder) the custom appears to have become popular only after the 6th century A.D. Prior to this, leanlmmz bnndlamza, the tying of a yellow protective cord around the wrist of bride and groom, signalled the commitment to marriage. Perhaps the use of such emblems is more to do with convention than religion. Both men and women in ancient India wore the yagnopavita, sacred thread, as a mark of their initiation into student ship. When the custom went out of practice for women, the sacred thread was adapted to the tiru mangalyam to sanctify a woman’s married status and accord her social recognition. The yagnopavita cord is composed of three threads, each of nine strands of well twisted yellow cotton. The three cords were tied together by a knot called lrmhmagranthi, symbolizing Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In south India, the tiru mangalyam cord is similarly made, and tied with three knots around the neck of the bride, invoking the blessings of the Trinity. Forms derived from nature were suspended on these cords functioning as symbols of the alliance between man and woman.To these were added other emblems which were associated with amuletic, curative, Protective and procreative properties.

NECKLACE Western India; late 19th century Private collection The claw-like silver setting (pachchikam) encases uncut semi-precious stones in a western design.In Tamil Nadu, the tiru-mangalyam is also known simply as tab‘. The term refers to a species of palm tree, or a grove of palms. Though liter 1ry evidence V is neither consistent nor conclusive on the origin of the term, even today among the Gonds, Savaras, and Munda tribes, the bridegroom ties a string with a palm leaf around the bride’s neck. In early Sangam literature, any ornament tied around the neck whose purpose was not purely decorative was referred to as tali. There are references to various kinds of tali worn by men, women and children. A necklace strung with the emblems of Vishnu was known as the aimpadai-tali. Variations such as amai-tali bearing the emblem of a tortoise tali- kolundu with a bunch of lower buds variven-tali with ribbed cowry shells sin-mani-tali made of small beads and manicka-tali jewelled are all mentioned in ancient literature. Tiger’s claws or tiger’s teeth worn as emblems of courage and as trophies of victory were referred to as pulippal tali. It is from the basic ‘M’ Form of two tiger’s claws placed adjacent to each other, their tips curving out, that the modern stylized forms of the tali tokens perhaps derive their shape. Images and symbols corresponding to caste, community and religious sect are rendered on the front or reverse of this basic form.
KASU MALAI (necklace of coins) South India; late 19th century A variation of the kasu malai, this example is made with gold coins specially stamped with images of the gods Ram, Site and Hanuman on one side and the inscription 'Sri ram, jaya ram, jaya, jaya ram on the reverse.
The tali of the Brahmins is the simplest a Shaivite Brahmin tali. bears representations of the lingam at or the three horizontal lines of the 9 i caste mark Vaishnava Brahmin tokens have three vertical lines of the Vaishnava caste mark or the conch and wheel symbols of Vishnu together with non denominational emblems like the basil or basil plant the sun and A moon or the kalpavriksha the wish fulfilling g tree. The more elaborate ones are gem-set and decorated with design details beyond those prescribed. But the tali form of the non Brahmins is complex stylized emblems and veritable works of art. Generally known as Pillayar tali and categorized as periya tali or big tali and chinna. Tali or small tali the stylized form of Lord Ganesha Pillayar is superimposed on to the basic shape together with elements like the bottu representation of the female breast symbolizing motherhood. The Kongu velalars a community hailing from Kongu Nadu the regions of Coimbatore Salem and Tiruchchirappalli wear tali that bears a representation of an animal diety superimposed on to the basic form. Much of the original meaning of these forms is now lost and tales are all that are left to create a hypothesis.

Of the many different forms of marriage necklaces and tokens, none is more splendid than the kali-tiru (auspicious neck ornament) of the Nattukottai Chettiars of Chettinad in Tamil Nadu the ornament is unique to this merchant community who are believed to have originally come from the flourishing ancient sea port of Puhar (Kaveripattinam) Their patron deity is Lord Shiva and their most important shrine the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram in south India The necklace is a magnificent ornament, made up of two rows of horizontal beads interspersed with elaborate pendant pieces and an ornate tali pendant in the centre. The traditional M shaped centre piece of the necklace features a miniature replica of the temple at Chidambaram worked in repousse. 

Writer - Usha R. Bala Krishnan & Meera Sushil Kumar

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