The Impulse to Andorn
The Indian woman is rarely seen without jewellery, even if it is just a Pair of lac bangles, in keeping with the iconography of physical Appeal. Inextricably knit up with the wearer perceived almost as an extension of her ornaments indicated much more than the obvious messages of marital Status, rank and wealth to the perceptive they spoke of her moods, her desires, and Offered glimpses of her intimate self.
The idiom of ornament was used extensively and evocatively in Indian literature And the visual arts In As aghosa’s Buddhncharita the excitement of women eager to Snatch a glimpse of Prince Siddhartha is echoed by their ornaments
The noise of their girdles and the jingling of their anklets as they rushed to the windows resounded on the staircases and roofs of mansions frightening the flocks of birds this lived in the house.
Having reached there, they were restlessly swaying about in the windows crowded together in the mutual press, with their earrings polished by the continual collision And their ornaments all jingling
The absence of ornaments is no less telling. Hearing of Siddhartl1a’s
Renunciation the same women choose to express their dejection by remaining unadorned
Their feet were unstained by red and UN decked by anklets their faces without earrings with the ears left to their native simplicity. The loins of these ladies were no more circled by a girdle Nor their bosoms were any more adorned with the pearls Of the necklaces as if they had been robbed.
The languorous heroine decking herself with ornaments in anticipation of her
Lover’s arrival has been a favourite theme with artists and writers of the .Shringara tradition.
Radha’s friends in the well known love poem I’adam1li urge her to go to Krishna, letting her jewels echo her inner longings:
Now throw away your shyness, let your girdle tinkle merrily and go ahead To meet your Lord. March, and let the jingle of your bangles Proclaim your approach to your Lord.
On the other hand, as the vipralabdha nayika, the rejected heroine, Radha discards her jewels in a mixture of anger and despair Shatter my bangles of shell, take of my fine array, And break my necklace of fine pearls, If my dear will forsake me, what is the use of jewels? Cast them all in the waves of the jamuna
The unusual emphasis on feminine adornment in Indian society went beyond its allure. Ornaments functioned as auspicious symbols of marital status. To be devoid of Ornaments signalled widowhood or formal renunciation of worldly life. A wife gaily adorned her whole house is embellished but if she be destitute of ornament all will be
Deprived of decoration, says Manu the lawgiver. While the Prescribed set of ornaments associated with marriage varies in different parts of India and among different Communities, the tilelm, math, rim mavzgtmlyam or mmgmlarutra, ktmleana, and bit/Jlma were all considered to be representative of marital felicity, Saulvlmghya.
Traditionally, every bride was given Set of jewels. The basic prerequisite were a pair on I earrings, a chain a necklace and bangles. Rich or Be poor, this minimum did not vary. Ornaments beyond The prescribed set tended to be larger, more handsome And distinct, depending on the affluence of the family.
According to the Atharvaveda, concluding the marriage ceremonies, the bride's father gives her away with the utterance I give away this girl adorned with gold ornaments to you. Such social and cultural norms associated with jewellery were rooted in considerations of a purely pragmatic nature. According to the Manusmriti, 202 the oldest Hindu treatise on social law, a woman's jewels are her stridban, the only property legally and irrevocably hers. The law book there for enjoined the obligatory gift of certain jewels as bridal dowry.
As their only insurance in a male oriented, unsupportive social structure, and against the vicissitudes of time and old age, a woman tended to hold on to as much as possible and in earlier times safeguard it on her person. Women weighed down with ornaments are still not an uncommon sight in rural India, nor is the scene of a woman negotiating the price of a piece of jewellery with the local moneylender to tide over difficult times.
The role of jewellery as a financial instrument among many communities is deeply entrenched in a centuries-old pattern of family ties and relationships. Marriage between first cousins was encouraged amongst the Chettiars of south India to ensure the retention of wealth within the family. As symbols of wealth and status, the use of ornaments in India through the ages was unparalleled.
Niccolao Manucci, the Italian physician at Aurangzeb's court, recounts his difficulties when trying to feel the pulse of ornament-laden women in the Mughal zenana: "At their wrists are very rich bracelets, or bands of pearls, which usually go round nine or twelve times. In this way they often have the place for feeling the pulse so covered up that I found it difficult to put my hand upon it. In addition they are girdled with a sort of waist belt of gold two fingers wide, covered all over with great stones. At the ends of the strings which tie up their drawers there are bunches of pearls made up of fifteen strings five fingers in length. Round the bottom of their legs are valuable metal rings or strings of costly pearls.
Writer - Usha R Bala Krishan