Friday, June 3, 2011

Glow of Gold

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Glow of Gold - possessed through the ages

Possession is nineteenths of the law, and this has never been truer than in the case of jewellery. Call it an aesthetic impulse or love for beauty, but what it all comes down to is just an inherent need to acquire, to possess. That’s how Indians are engineered!

In ancient India, large herds of cows, stables of horses, elephants and jewellery were considered the only valuable treasures worth having. One’s status in society was gauged by how costly one’s jewellery was and how much of it you wore on festive occasions.

Times may have changed, but gold jewellery is still possessed across the length and breadth of India. In 2001, India consumed 84 tonnes of the yellow metal, and all over the world, more than 85% of gold was in the form of jewellery.

The earliest records of adorning the human body with precious metal goes back to the civilisations of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Ancient India buzzed with the carving, embellishing and polishing that was the art of jewellery making.

The Indus Valley Civilisation

Head ornaments, necklaces, armlets, wristlets and bangles were everywhere. Craftsmen were especially adept at gilding copper with gold simulating the modern technique of enameling. Among the things excavated from the forgotten city, was a famous necklace of 40 round gold beads, another of 1 pendants composed of several beads strung together on a copper wire.

Graeco-Roman jewellery at Takshila

Following Alexander the Great’s conquests, the jewellery at this time was distinctly Greek or Graeco-Roman in style and form. Famous finds included a gold coin of Queen Faustina’s head tied as a central pendant between two tortoise-shaped gold beads in a necklace. Claw or tooth pendants exhibiting numerous motifs like the swastika, the pipal leaf, bells and clubs were worn as amulets; elaborate necklaces that indicate the beginning of kundan work, later made so popular by the Mughals were traced to this era.

The Mauryas

In this prosperous period, there was a great pooling in of economic resources that was reflected in people’s ornate jewels. Silver, gold, pearls, carnelian, lapis lazuli and other precious stones were all the rage.

South Indian Jewellery

Long before the Christian era, jewellery making was highly proficient in the South. Beautiful Roman gold coins were in free flow thanks to the brisk trade between South India and the Roman world. These coins were often made into necklaces and bracelets. Popular motifs included fish, dragons, lions, dancers and horses. There were several famous designs that originated in this period Necklaces or phalahahara, which consisted oh phalakas (gold coins) or even rectangular gems strewn on a pearl necklace; earrings or kundalas (which were crescent-shaped or square with a lotus flower, the stalk of which is curled in the earlobe), and the patra-kundalas, golden earrings with a rolled palm leaf design; girdles known as rasana (made from gold chains), mekhala (dark beads) composed of a number of strings of gold, pearls and beads; anklets or kinkinis which had small bells that jingled.

Gupta period

This was when the art of gems and jewellery was at its peak. Jewellery was a social must during this time. Ornaments were worn all over the body. The crown, kirtika, was mandatory for kings, while women wore gems like the chudamani (a full-blown lotus with petals of pearls and precious stones) and makarika (a crocodile-shaped jewel) at the parting of the hair.

Pallava and Chola periods

Gold, pearls and earrings (round, circular discs studded with stones), waistbands, armlets and leg ornaments were the fashion statement. Famous finds earrings resembling a bunch of grapes or a geometrical cluster of gems; bangles or khadi or gajulu; bracelets or svechitika or barujura; wristlets or ruchika and chitika.

Chandella period

Ear ornaments - kundalas, balas (gold rings studded with pearls and precious stones), phula jhumaka, and karnaphula (a star-shaped or flower-shaped earring, sometimes with a round bud-shaped drop were de rigeur

Kakatiya period

This was the period that is best described ‘gold, gold and more gold!’ Famous finds hair accessories like cherubottu (a straplike ornament studded with precious stones worn at the beginning of the hair parting), jalli (made of pearls) and bottubilla worn at the back of the head; heavy kundalas which were hollow and almost covered the face; necklaces like the panchaphalaka with five pendants or five gold straps, each studded with gems.

Vijayanagar period

Famous finds from this era baitale bottu - a pendant for the forehead; ragate - a circular jewel worn on the back of the head, studded with precious stones; jadde hoovu � floral jewel on the plait; jadde bangara - gold disc covering a plait; kuchchu - a tassel decorating the end of the hair

Islamic jewellery

The lavish and gracious Persian culture was reflected in the craftsmanship of the Mughal era. Superb draughtsmanship, controlled rhythmic linearism and the balanced colour scheme marked Indian jewellery during the time. This period was known for jewellery of all kinds including Golconda diamonds, Arabian pearls, the pigeon-blood Burmese ruby, Udaipur emeralds and exquisite kundan work. Earrings like karanphul (which resembled a rose), bali, janjhar, jhumka, ladli (a gold chain attached with a chandbali, to fix in the ears), nose rings like nath (gold ring studded with ruby and two pearls), mogra, nak-ka-moti, feet ornaments - ghungroo, payal, zanjeer, tika (worn on the forehead), as also the moti-ki-ladi worn at the hair parting.

The 21st century has seen innovation in designs and all of them in gold. The trend is toward lighter delicately woven pieces that can accessorise funky western wear - designs that are a fusion of Indian and western designs are in. But the most interesting trend of all, is that gold is not old. The antique look is the latest rage, and shows that gold has, and always be, possessed forever!

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