Beads and baubles that make heads turn

Beads and baubles that make heads turn

Beads and baubles that make heads turn

A body devoid of adornment is imperfect’ reads a line of the text on the wall, at National Museum’s recently reopened gallery ‘Alamkara – The Beauty of Ornament’.

Undoubtedly, it is instilled in our culture to adorn our body with ornaments and therefore the art of carving and crafting jewellery has its roots in Mohenjo-daro
and Harappa.

In the same Indus Valley Civilisation, the finesse and sophistication of the jewellery was so exemplary that the eyes of modern day designers would surely pop out
in astonishment!

As one enters the renovated gallery, the dark pathway doesn’t seem a deterrent for there is light from the glistening gold exhibits encased in various windows. The imagery won’t sound an exaggeration if compared with scenes from iconic Hollywood and Bollywood films where one reaches the last leg of a treasure hunt and gets blinded by the gleam of gold.

Pendants, bracelets, girdles, necklaces, brooches, bangles, armbands, hair and head ornaments and every kind of jewellery that can be possibly used to adorn the human body, is incorporated in this gallery from the Museum’s collection. It is a delight to just observe the intricate craftsmanship of ancient Indian artisans/goldsmiths.

The visit to the gallery becomes more interesting thanks to the curator and jewellery historian Dr Usha Balakrishnan, who places one kind of ornament from different regions of the country together for enthusiasts to compare and contrast. For instance, in one of the 25 showcases, there is a display of necklaces. This comprises the thusi from Kolhapur (a typically Maharashtrian design), mala from Gujarat, timaniya, hansuli and haar from Rajasthan.

There is also a mention of the Indo-Greek confluence and includes a beautiful hair pin that would compel an observer to relate it to the western hair ornaments. The influence of Gods and Goddesses on the jewellery is also evident in the pendants and necklaces encrusted with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls from Udaipur.

Since it is difficult to ignore the royal splendour, the ‘Jewels for Maharajas’, such as the turban ornaments (from Rajasthan), are given their due space in the gallery. But at the same time, ornaments such as the unusually-shaped earrings ‘Pambadam’ from Tamil Nadu – worn even today by ordinary village women – are also exhibited.

Though the enlarged sizes of jewellery pieces amaze the onlookers, it is also the labelling that leaves them bemused. In the absence of detailed descriptions, the exhibits are captioned collectively and the number chart is tabulated below every window. It is a good exercise for the eyes to look up and down and keep figuring if the exhibit seen above is truly an armband of the size of a necklace!