(Last Updated on : 11/04/2014)
Ancient Indian Jewellery was generally made of natural materials like feathers, seeds, leaves, flowers, animal bones, and claws. Even today, these types of jewellery are worn by various tribal people. The excavations at various other sites, such as the Mohenjodaro
and Indus Valley civilization
unearthed a large number of ornaments worn by the people of ancient periods. This has made it possible to believe that both women and men belonging to the ancient period used to wear jewellery constructed by silver, ivory, gold, copper, semi-precious and precious stones. Since the ancient times, jewellery has been an important component of the Indian life. But the Ancient Indian jewellery's history has undergone a tremendous change. The designs and delicate craftsmanship of the ancient jewellery have greatly influenced the designs used in modern jewellery. Jewellery is considered as one of the earliest art forms designed by man. Even in classical Indian literatures, jewellery serves as an integral part of the plot. In fact various messages were conveyed by Indian Jewellery in the early days. They communicated the message of various emotions. The male sculptures of ancient India can be seen adorned fully with different kinds of jewellery. Even the Gods of the Veda are described wearing gold ornaments.
The Kronos earrings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, provides striking evidence of the finest pieces of ancient Indian jewellery known till date. Their excavation place is not known but it has been pointed out that the Chakravarti or World Emperor, on the famous relief from Jaggayyapeta in eastern Andhra during the first century BC, wears very similar earrings. However, most of the information about gold used in ancient India is derived either from the excavated material from early sites or the visual record provided by countless carvings and also from more rarely painted representations of richly adorned gods and goddesses from the third to fourth centuries BC onwards. In fact even during the Vedic Period it has been found that there has been ample mention of gold.
Jewellery in the Indus Valley Civilization
Both women and men of the Indus valley Civilization used to decorate themselves with jewellery like necklaces, armlet, fillets and finger-rings. The women during this time made a lot of use of shell bracelets and clay over their wrists. Women during that period wore earrings, girdles and anklets. The common metals being used in the preparation of ornaments for the people of Indus valley Civilization were gold, copper, silver, ivory, and various other precious stones, shells, bones, etc. Other jewellery worn more frequently by women included thin bands made of gold worn over the forehead, primitive brooches, earrings, gold rings and chokers. In this period, even green stone and gem stone use was started.
Jewellery in the Gandhara Period
The Gandhara period jewellery has ample Greek and Hellinistic influences. Commonly used jewellery of the Gandhara period was massive earrings, torques and armlets, often incorporating bird or animal forms.
Jewellery of Sunga Period
The Sunga dynasty
refined the style and composition of jewellery. The sculptures of the Sunga period shows several references of the use of gold and other precious stones including rubies, corals, sapphires, etc. Beads and Pearls of various types were also used abundantly. Necklaces, earrings, armlets, embroidered belts and bracelets were used by both men and women. With regard to beads it has been found that the origin of beads in India is as old as 7th millennium BC. In fact, by 3000 BC India had become one of the major producers of beads. The use of gems in jewellery had originated from the city of Madurai
in South India. The royal kingdoms of the south made a generous use of gem stones and gradually the trend of using precious gems in jewellery became an essential part of Indian Jewellery.
Common Ancient Indian Jewellery
Some of the most common jewellery of ancient India includes earring, armlet, necklace, bracelet, hairpin, anklet and ring, etc. Earring or Karnika is one of the ancient Indian jewellery which was of three types including earrings having flower-like shape called Karnaphul, circle or simple ring called Kundala, circular disc type earring called dehri. Necklaces form another kind of ancient Indian jewellery which was of two types. One had a short, flat and broad structure known as the kantha and the long Necklace was called the lambanam. Women of the ancient period used to wear Girdle or Mekhala. This is a belt wore over the hip having beads of several strings, made originally from red seed kaksha. Armlets or Bajuband were made of gold and even the armlets of silver beads used to be worn over the upper arm.
Bracelet or Kangan was a kind of ancient Indian jewellery which was prepared by round or square gold beads. Anklets and rings were worn by all women of ancient India. The anklets could be simple, thick chain, a Kara, a sankla and also in the form of ornamental circle having small bells known as ghungru. The use of forehead ornaments was also common among women who wore it in the middle of the forehead. These ornaments are of thin plates of silver or gold stamped in different patterns, and also in the form of star called bindi or sitara.
Jewellery of India had a huge variety of ornaments. Ancient jewellery was the result of the first step of experimentation with jewellery. Although ancient jewellery has been replaced to a large extent by modern forms of ornaments, yet the strong influence of ancient jewellery can still be seen in the intricacies of modern jewellery.