(Last Updated on : 22/02/2013)
The initial references to the depictions of South Indian jewellery dates back to the mural paintings of the Thiruvambadi shrine in the Shri Padmanabhaswami temple
. Even the earliest European reference to jewellery also relates the use of South Indian jewellery in Vijayanagar
. However, the jewellery of Mughal India has been studied much more extensively, thus, comparatively neglecting the jewellery forms of southern India. South Indian Jewelleries were created primarily in gold and were usually worn during traditional festivals and weddings.
Uses of Stones in South Indian Jewellery
The characteristic arrangements of stones on South Indian jewellery in grid patterns are an abstraction of timeless features found in the temple architectures. Thus, the 12 rubies which surround the pearl Nandi
symbolises the Rasi Mandala
or Zodiac ceiling panels of the kind found, for instance, in the 12th century Subrahmanya temple at Pollachi in Coimbatore
. The 9 stones at the centre of the forehead ornament that is quite famous as South Indian jewellery probably comprises the Navaratna but the arrangements are again that to be found in temple architecture, like in the 17th century Adikesava temple in Thiruvattaru, Kanyakumari district
Designs of South Indian Jewellery
The parrots pecking lotuses are also a type of South Indian jewellery, seen in the 16th century Bhuvaraha temple in Shrimushnam and is a kind of a motif found in 19th century jewellery. Even the gold Nandi ring is formed rather differently as its gold-covered hoop has a core probably made from Lac, but relies entirely on manipulation of the surface of the gold, or on applied gold, for its decoration. The sapphire Nandi ring illustrates the symbolic use of gemstones on South Indian jewellery; the bull is the mount of Lord Shiva
and the stone suggests the colour of the God's skin, as he is commonly depicted in painting.
South Indian jewellery often exemplifies substantial monumentality, as can be witnessed in the renowned Hawking Ring of Tipu Sultan
. The drawing shows a Devanagari inscription on the breast of the bird and the catalogue entry notes that the inscription includes the word Maharaja. The combination of the Hindu title and the Devanagari script surely nullifies the making of this South Indian ring, as a product of a Persian or Mughal art. The South Indian jewellery, which definitely were made in Mysore
, and in some cases specifically for Tipu Sultan, are inscribed exclusively in Persian, with Arabic if the inscription has a religious content.
Thus, southern India jewellery, though has made its existence in the past, it is hardly acknowledged, unlike the north Indian jewellery
. The popular necklace of South India that resembles tiger-claws is set in engraved gold and linked by chains, suspended from a snake chain. The necklace, its ten tiger-claws graded in size, was purchased by the South Kensington Museum from the 1867 Paris Exposition Universally where it was described as 'modern' work. The famous Brooch and Pendant Tiger-claws set in sheet gold is worked in repose and stands apart as a South Indian jewellery. The Maharaja of Travancore presented this brooch and pendant to the Prince of Wales on his Indian tour of 1875-76. The goddess Lakshm
i being lustrated by elephants is depicted on the brooch.
South Indian Rings
Most of the rings in South India are cast in gold bezel, engraved and with applied gold spheres; hoop sheet gold
over a lace core in the South India during the 18th century. It is seen that Nandi
, the bull sacred to Shiva, is seated on a pedestal with the lingam, or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva, before him. Enclosing this central image is an inscriptional band in Kannada that has not yet been deciphered. Underneath the bezel is a lotus chalice rising out of a band of small spheres which are applied round the shoulders, in a double band with a third band soldered on top. The bevelled hoop is probably filled with lac; the outer edges have been crimped over a strip at the back, which covers the solid core. It is engraved with a single line, following the inner contour, and with a lozenge at the base. The ring (no.2) is a gold set with rubies and sapphires and the jewelled sections applied on to the sheet gold hoop. This South Indian jewellery is made in the 19th century South India.
Some Nandi rings are a gold set with rubies, a spinel
and a baroque pearl with a diamond eye from South India during the 18th century. The form of the pearl suggests that of a bull, which is here intended to be Nandi, the animal associated with the God Shiva which is found often at the entrance to Shaivite temples. The flat square support for the pearl and the geometrical arrangement of the eleven rubies and one spinel around it are characteristically southern Indian features. The nandi ring is a Gold set with a carved sapphire
bull and this ring came from the collection of Alessandro Castellani, acquired by the British Museum in 1872.
The South Indian jewellery named Jitniki, is a bell-shaped ear jewel, which is set in coloured stones with pearls hanging at the lower end. It is worn on the lower lobe of the ear. The Jitniki hangs from a lotus shaped Kammal of diamonds or rubies. Few other beautiful jewels worn by South Indian women wear are Maattal (ear ornament), Adijjai (choker), Maangaamaalai, Thali or Matigalasuthra, Kaasumaalai (a long chain of gold coins) and Jolusn (anklets).
South Indian Anklets
Anklets are generally specialties of South Indian jewellery. These anklets though formed in a pair, single ones are also used. Sometimes the anklets are made from cast silver, chased and have an engraved inscription. These dramatic silver anklets, inscribed as having been made at Oabhoi, demonstrate clearly that for religious reasons, gold ornaments' were not usually worn on the feet as gold is often associated with goddess laxmi.. Thus, foot jewellery was not lacking in value or ostentation. South India has its rich culture of wearing traditional jewellery. The traditional stone-encrusted jewellery is very popular and it has reached its highest peak here. The popular South Indian jewellery includes the Uddiyaanam (gold waist belt), Vanki (armlet) and Jitniki (eardrop). These ornaments are traditionally crafted and finished with great dexterity. Over the years with the breeze of oncoming Fashion trends, anklets are widely adorned by metropolitan women and stands as a major break through in the land mark of style statements.
Use of Gold in South Indian Jewellery
In Tamil Nadu
, gold is the must and major material for jewellery and the common gems for jewellery crafting are the diamonds, rubies and pearls. The expertise of the jewellers of South India is proved time and again from the creating of ornaments like the Jada nagam. Jada nagam, an elaborate hair ornament indeed visually summarises a number of concepts within the framework of Incredible India! In South India, Naga or snake is an oft used symbol representing fertility and procreation and so the Jada nagam is worn to depict such. The naga crowns are typified ornament whose shape is reminiscent of a multiple-headed cobra
. The Jadanagam is worn in a way covering the braid and its snake-like form accentuates with the fall of the rippling cascade like hair and the shape of the plait underneath, ending in Kunjalams or Tassles. The 3 strings of the braid is said to represent the 3 sacred rivers Ganga
South Indian Necklace
The Mangamalai or mango necklace is gorgeous South Indian jewellery, often adorned by the fairer sex. Long and heavy with mango shaped pendants, set with the red hot rubies the fan-shaped pendant of the Mangamalai is fringed with pearls. The Thali is another ancient traditional jewellery of South India, which signifies the constancy of love in marriage. The antiquity of this jewellery having different varieties can be traced back to very early Tamil literature. Contemporary South India swayed by modern swings, distinctively bifurcates itself form the Northern trends.
The South Indian women now enjoy the flaunting extravaganza of gold jewellery, and enjoying the elaborate accessories denying the need for any particular occasion. The body jewellery has also become very popular among the South Indian women. It may be a scarf made out of gold, an intricate sheath of gold that can be used as a belt or even long bands worn around the arm. The buffaloes are regarded as sacred by the Southern folk. Hence the craftsmanship for such are equally handled with earnest care as much as the Todas themselves. The horns of the buffaloes are decorated with Cowrie shell, which hang over their horns and a silver chain hangs low around their neck.
The hornbill is said to be a magic bird of great power, which shines with courage and splendour and wearing of feathers of hornbill is regarded to be a great honour. Nowadays, wearing the antique South Indian jewellery has become fashion among the South Indian women. Most of them wear these antique jewelleries very gracefully. A South Indian woman wearing the traditional Kaasumalai is considered to be of high class and status. The chain comprises coins flowing from neck to waist and is still very popular in the South.
The traditional floral patterns, glittering stars, swans and lotus patterns are believed to be favourites as South Indian jewellery. One of such popular old jewellery is the Mullai Mottu Malai, which has replicas of jasmine buds all around it. These jewelleries keep intact the traditional style of making but the design is kept contemporary so that a good blend of traditional and modern jewellery can be provided to the new generation.