Intricately crafted Indian jewellery

DAZZLING BEAUTIES

Intricately crafted Indian jewellery

PRECIOUS Jewellery in India has a historic past and still exists as a living tradition very delicately nurtured in diverse societies across India.

Jewellery has been a part of Indian civilisation since time immemorial. It has been documented 5,000 years ago, way back in the misty days of antiquity. Hindu gods in temples have, for generations, been decked up in ornaments made of gold.

The kronos earring in the Metropolitan Museum of Art provides striking evidence of the finest pieces of early Indian jewellery known till date.

Ornaments made of gold, silver, copper, ivory and beads have been discovered in civilisations as ancient as the Harappa and Mohenjodaro. In fact, the  people of Indus valley civilisation can be called the pioneers in jewellery making. Even 4th century frescoes in the Ajanta Caves depict jewellery. In early India, people fashioned jewellery out of natural materials such as seeds, feathers, leaves, fruits and flowers.

The range of jewellery in India varies from religious to purely aesthetic. The craft of Indian jewellery has always enjoyed royal patronage. The rajas and maharajas vied with each other to possess the most exquisite piece of jewellery. Mughal miniatures show men and women wearing ropes of pearls and other precious stones.

Different regions of India boast of jewellery making styles unique to them. While Orissa and Andhra Pradesh are known for fine filigree work in silver, Jaipur is renowned for the art of enamelling or meenakari, Nagercoil for temple jewellery  and Delhi for kundan (the setting of precious stones in gold).

Silversmiths of Himachal Pradesh craft large ornaments, which have a very delicate and intricate appearance. Kashmiri women too wear a lot of ornaments. A typical ornament of a married Kashmiri brahmin is Dejharoo, which is a pair of gold pendants worn on earlobes.

Kundan jewellery received great patronage during the Mughal era and some of the most beautiful pieces in Kundan were created during those times. Often, kundan work is combined with enamelling, so that a piece of jewellery has two equally beautiful surfaces.
 The use of precious stones and gems too make jewellery more attractive. An outstanding example is navaratna jewellery which exhibits the artistic skills of craftsmen. Navaratna jewellery is quite popular among the masses owing to  its astrological significance, as nine precious stones are used in a single ornament.

The concept of bead jewellery too has a 5,000-year-old history in India. It has been mostly used by the  tribal population, who have  preserved this ancient craft in its indigenous form. The ornaments made by the various tribal communities of India  are attractive in a rustic and earthy manner. They are crafted with the help of primitive tools and the appeal lies in its chunky and unrefined appearance.

While the tribals of Bastar make ornaments out of grass, wood, peacock feathers and glass, the Banjara nomadic tribes of Rajasthan are known for their colourful jewellery embellished with shells, coins, beads and chains.

Arunachal Pradesh too is renowned for its tribal jewellery made of cane and bamboo while many tribal communities in the other parts of North East have  a rich storehouse of jewellery made out of colourful beads, copper, wood, conch shells and bird feathers.
India is amongst the leaders in glass jewellery also. Firozabad has a rich selection of delicate, lightweight glass ornaments. Varanasi is famous for its glass beads made from fused glass rods while Purdilpur is known for black glass beads.

When it comes to jewellery, Lucknow has a reputation of its own as it is home to an extensive range of gold and silver plated ornaments in a multitude of patterns. Most of the ornaments are highly intricate with repose work depicting floral motifs.

Temple jewellery is another genre of jewellery making that is both classical and traditional. It is commonly associated with dancers practising the dance forms of Bharatnatyam or Kuchipudi. The earliest representations were found in the murals of Thiruvambadi shrine.

India is a treasure trove of jewellery designs. Associated with richness and profusion, those glittering stones, sparkling diamonds and jewellery in gold and platinum that form an integral part of every Indian’s prized possession indeed have a rich history to back them.

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