With its style and ethnicity, intricate detailing, elaborate designs and aesthetic brilliance,
Indian jewellery remains a magnificent repository of Indian art, culture, history and heritage. It is at once the subcontinent’s glorious inheritance as well as its wondrous legacy to the world at large.
The exquisite art of making intricate jewellery for deities originated in India, perhaps as early as the 9th century during the Chola period, with its epicenter at Vadaserry town in Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu. Also referred to as Vadassery jewels, the ornaments were created with pure silver and gold leaf and embellished with gemstones like rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls, primarily to adorn deities in temples and for royalty. The asaris (goldsmiths and jewellers) honed the technique, using cabuchon (cushion-shaped) rubies and other precious stones procured from Burma with whom India traded extensively in those days. Most designs were inspired by the rich architecture of the region. Pillars, arches and walls with various motifs were often replicated in the jewels with exquisite detail, leading to such jewellery being broadly classified as Temple Jewellery.
All ornaments, in the days of yore, were painstakingly handcrafted by talented artisans who spent many days – from few weeks to months – in order to make a single piece. Apart from architectural details, the most common motifs included flora and fauna-mangoes, lotuses, swans, lions, elephants, snakes, leaves for instance, with the main pendant incorporating deities such as Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha to invoke their positive attributes of prosperity, abundance, protection and the removal of all obstacles along life’s journey.
These unique ornaments were also made on special commissions for royalty with royal patronage wonderfully supported the burgeoning of such traditional craftsmanship. The Devadasi community, in later years, popularized temple jewellery- referred to as Arakku (Red Wax) jewellery – as adornment during dance performances at temples.
Kemp Jewellery, another select, labour-intensive craft was initially created, based on specific commissions, for royalty in South India. Kemp, which refers to the colour red in some Indian languages (Kannada and Telugu), can also include blue or green gemstones. Such jewellery, made primarily for royalty, was either later donated to temples and/or to temple dancers. Over a period of time, such jewellery became an integral part of the bridal trousseau of affluent families in South India.
Temple Jewellery or Dance Jewellery is still extensively used by classical dancers- mainly Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi dancers – in India and abroad.
Through the aesthetics of forms and motifs, every piece of jewellery tells a story, of times gone by and of legacies bequeathed. It is unfortunate however that, with royal patronage removed and due to increased mechanization following the onslaught of globalisation, the craft industry has been increasingly challenged by the lack of institutional support. Nritya, believes that it is of paramount importance to support and sustain the dedicated community of craftspersons who can protect the glorious hand- crafted tradition of Temple Jewellery from fading away into oblivion.
Inspired by India, made in India, by Indian craftspersons for the World – Nritya believes in raising awareness of this credo and this exquisite craft by bringing to your attention, the finest examples of temple jewellery and by interceding respectfully, to bring through your patronage, the means to sustain this glorious enterprise.
Scroll through the gallery below to select your favourite piece and we will undertake shipping your preferred option to you, at the earliest.