Though I don’t wear much jewellery, especially gold, it doesn’t stop me from admiring it. I love to look and trace the stories conveyed through the jewellery designs with my personal choice veering towards traditional designs in jewellery. In fact, more traditional a piece, the more I like it and feel a connection to it.
So imagine my delight when I came across this jewellery collection showcased at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The information plaque revealed that all the pieces exhibited in this showcase were acquired through private collectors. Made in various parts of Tamil Nadu, they ranged in age from mid-eighteenth to the early 20th century.
Lets see what each ornament has to say about itself:
1. Rakudi or Hair Ornament (circa 1880): The centre of the rakudi depicts Lord Vishnu sitting on Sheshnag, whose multi-headed hood is fanned out and the circular design you can see are the coils of the great serpent himself. Can you believe that this rakudi only cost Rs.80/- to make? And that the V&A purchased this for an even princely sum of £9?
2. Necklace (circa 1880): This necklace comprised small golden pendants strung on a thick black string. Each of the gold pendants was exquisite and no two designs were alike. Made in Madurai, this necklace was probably worn by a married woman.
3. Kazhutturu or ceremonial marriage necklace (late 19th century): This necklace was probably made for a bride from the Nattukottai Chettiar community. The central pendant or the tali has images of Shiva and Parvati seated on Nandi. Made in Pudukottai, large golden tubular beads are strung along with the tali to complete the necklace. I really pity the bride who had to wear this necklace everyday. Just looking at it gave me a neck ache !
4. Vanki or Armlets (circa 1765): These ‘V’ shaped armlets have a lion faced design in the centre and delicately carved peacocks on the side. Unlike the necklaces, which were bulked up thanks to the black string, this pair of vanki, which were probably made in Thanjavur, looked solid and heavy on their own.
5. Pampadam or Earring (late 19th century): These were special and heavy earrings designed to elongate the earlobes of the wearer. Ouch !
6. Marriage of Shiva and Parvati (circa 1966): Strictly speaking, this relief carving on ivory is not a piece of jewellery. But since it is believed to be part of a panel of a jewellery box or casket, I think its inclusion in this list is justified. Made in Madurai, this finely detailed ivory carving depicts the marriage of Siva and Parvati, witnessed by Lakshmi and Vishnu and Siva’s ganas.
It is the marriage season in India right now and what better way to commemorate it than with a post on jewellery and that too traditional Indian jewellery.
So tell me, which piece of jewellery did you like?
Notes: (i) I apologise for the rather grainy photograph here, which does not show the details. You see, when I took the photograph I had no idea I would be writing about it one day.
(ii) To read more posts from the Museum Treasure Series, please click here