(Last Updated on : 21/06/2011)
Jewellery in Mughal period, from 1526 till the late sixteenth century, can only be estimated at as there is lack of concrete evidence. However, it is a fact to be noted that the Mughal treasury was one of the fullest and best endowed in all of Indian history, and therefore jewellery too must have occupied a place of prominence.
Influences on Mughal Jewellery
The existing trends in jewellery under the Mughals were a continuation of the amalgamated style of Islamic and Hindu artistic styles. Various artefacts of the 8th century that have been excavated show the adaptability of both conventional Islamic and traditional Indian styles along with the originality and creativity of artists in various regions. Other than the Mughals, other Islamic powers have also dominated India, which include the Ghaznavids, the Ghurids, and the Turkish and Afghan dynasties.
was the first Mughal ruler and he seized power from the Lodhi Dynasty in India. Thus the culmination of centuries of Islamic rule was seen in the Mughal dynasty and all these collective influences were witnessed in their life, art, architecture and crafts, including in jewellery. India was blessed as the only significant source of diamonds, before their discovery in Brazil in the 18th century. The talent and tradition for fine and artistic craftsmanship, coupled with a wealthy and active class of patrons, has also been responsible in shaping Mughal jewellery.
Influence of Rajputs
Some of the finest goldsmiths worked under the Mughal patronage. Rajasthan
undoubtedly contributed a great deal to the formation of the hybrid Mughal style, as Rajput princesses married Mughal royalty and its rulers had taken high positions at court, both bringing their jewellery and, probably, their craftsmen with them. The Rajputs
also gifted jewellery and gold ornaments the emperor`s treasury. Much of the eighteenth-century jewellery from areas as far as Murshidabad
and the Deccan were also found, other than Jaipur
which was the main centre.
European Influence on Mughal Jewellery
Some of the earliest Mughal jewellery shows the gradual influence of European style. Jewellery in the Renaissance era also hugely influenced the Mughal pattern, such as the scrolling leaf designs on the inner surface of a thumb ring. A more prominent imposition is evident in turban jewellery where a completely new form seems to have its source in European hat aigrettes. Courtly jewellery carried on the traditions established in the seventeenth century.
Style of Mughal Jewellery
The style of jewellery in Akbar
`s era was a hybrid of Iranian and Hindu influences, as would be expected of the emperor of a dynasty whose cultural roots were in Iran. The turban plume (Kalgi or Figha) and golden bands (Sarpich) are exactly those seen in contemporary Safavid painting. His necklaces on the other hand are of the kinds listed in Kautilya
, consisting of pearls, pearls and gems, gold on its own, or gold with pearls and gems. A contemporary work, the Ain-i-Akbari, gives a list of ornaments worn by the women of Hindustan. Some of these may be seen virtually unchanged and by this time worn equally by Muslim ladies. The ornaments include the Karanphul (`earflower`), which is shaped like the blossom of love-in-the-mist (Nigella sativa), and Nath (nose ring). The Nath (in the form of a circular gold wire threaded with a ruby between two pearls, or other gemstones), though clearly commonplace by the time Abul Fazl compiled his list, seems to be a foreign intruder.
Most scholars presume that it arrived with the Muslim incursions of the twelfth century onwards. The few images of ladies at Akbar`s court show that the divisions marking Indian and Iranian jewellery may have been observed more clearly than in the case of the emperor`s ornaments. The dancers in the illustration from the Akbarnama of century 1590 are both Muslim and Hindu and wear clearly differentiated styles of jewellery in accordance with their origins.
Under the rule of Jahangir
, fashions at court had undergone a dramatic transformation as can be seen in the paintings of Jahangir. Akbar followed the Iranian fashion by having his upright feather plume at the front of the turban. Jahangir introduced his own, softer, style with the plume weighted down with a large pearl.
Later, Shah Jahan
, his son, turned to Europe for an innovative Jigha, which related to the designs of the Dutch jeweller Arnold Lulls. Shah Jahan was greatly impressed by the also jewels wore by James I, as depicted in the portraits brought to the court by Sir Thomas Roe. In the 1618 painting, Shah Jahan, still a prince holds an Indian version of Lulls` designs.
Foreign travellers coming to India in the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, were dazzled by the splendour of the jewellery worn at the various courts and intrigued by the array of ornaments worn by people at all levels of society. Ludovica de Varthema, the Italian in India from 1503 to 1508, went to Bijapur
, in the Deccan and he described the Muslim ruler`s servants as wearing rubies, diamonds and other jewels on the insteps of their shoes. Duarte Barbosa, the Portuguese official in Calicut a few years later, also described the multiplicity of gold ornaments worn by the thousand `ladies of good caste` in the King`s service. He also explained the ornaments like nose rings with pearl, sapphire or ruby pendant. Other types, such as the Mang (worn on the parting of the hair to add to its beauty) and Bali, (a circlet with a pearl worn through the ear) were worn throughout the period. In addition, Francois Bernier, the French physician who was in the court of Emperor Aurangzeb
also had descriptions of India being `an abyss of gold` since he observed the gilt pillars in buildings, jewelled golden thrones and roofs and walls of plated gold.
Following the Mughals, their style of jewellery-making was carried forward and indulged in by the successive Indian rulers as well. Though the making of the jewels was done mostly in Udaipur
or Jaipur, Rajasthan, every decoration is different from the other.