The Untold Story of Temple Jewellery – Onam Diaries

The Untold Story of Temple Jewellery – Onam Diaries

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From Damayanti’s blue lotus buds in Sri Harsa’s Naisadhacarita to Malati’s ear pendant with Ketaki flowers in Kadambari, Indian mythological scripts and vedas have beautifully laid down the intricacies of Indian jewellery. But what is it about the south Indian temple jewellery that holds our attention? Is it the design, motifs or the uncountable stories of its making?

From visuals of elephants decorated in beautiful nettipattoms and performance by the wild pulikali dancers to the magnificent snake boats lined up at the shores, the intricately done floral rangolis and the preparation of the lavish Onam sadhya, all of these curiously suggest the arrival of Onam. While these are the typical scenes found in Kerala, there are others who are able to witness them only on social media channels and television. As the country gears up to celebrate Kerala’s cultural festival of Onam, Ciceroni reveres the treasured Temple jewellery.

Embossed with depictions of gods and goddesses from the temples in the southern part of India, these simple-yet-artistic pieces of work are intricately carved from gold and silver, and have been making a comeback to the fashion. Encapsulating necklaces, bangles, earrings, rings, chokers and kamarbandhs, the contemporary update to this jewellery style now comprises of gemstones, diamonds and filigree work to accentuate individual pieces and make them look magnificent.

Temple Jewellery is believed to have its roots in the 9th century AD – during the rule of the Chola and Pandya dynasties. Historically speaking, Temple Jewellery was handcrafted out of donations of gold and other precious metals and gems that were offered to the temples located in South India. The jewellery was then made for adorning temple deities and members of royal families. It is also believed that in order to protect their jewellery, kings offered it at their temples for adorning the deities. The Chola, Pandya, and the Krishna Deva Raya dynasties that ruled South India were connoisseurs of Temple Jewellery who encouraged skilled craftsmen and supported jewellery workshops alongside the temples.

Despite the influence of the Mughals and the succeeding British rule – Temple Jewellery retained its original form and continues to do so even today. For women in South India, a trip to the temple might be about prayer, but it is also about catching a glimpse of the deity covered in beautiful gold jewellery. These pieces have long held the fascination of the people. But as time passed, performers and cultural artists at the temple with their renditions of devotional pieces began to wear imitations of the jewellery style adopted for the idols. As Bharatanatyam, the dance form became popular, temple jewellery became an accessible style and soon made its way into world of trousseau and heirloom pieces. One can still see exquisite specimens of Temple Jewellery adorning the figures of gods and goddesses at various temples – especially during festive occasions.

Over time, Temple Jewellery came to be associated with auspicious moments and religious occasions and is now an essential part of every South Indian bride’s trousseau. Even today jewellery designers use traditional designs and motifs which are still known by their original names – such as tamarappu (lotus flower), kokku (crane), makara (crocodile) and others.

Whether you are aiming at modernizing this iconic jewellery or are bold to sport it at its most traditional form, here are the 5 Indian homegrown brands one must look for to shop temple jewellery.

  • Kalyan Jewellers

A south Indian’s favourite, Kalyan Jewellers offers an exquisite variety of temple jewellery that are carefully made by the craftsmen keeping in mind its rich historical legacy. The brand’s latest festive collection offers pieces of jewellery that are befitting royalty. From vibrant haaram detailed with pearls and precious stones to the ones all in gold, you will find stunning pieces that reflect South India’s rich heritage.

  • Sunita Shekhawat

A connoisseur in the revival of Rajasthan’s Meenakari work, each luxurious aesthetic piece in the Sunita Shekhawat’s collection celebrates traditional skills with detailed craftsmanship. Set in 22 kt gold, the Padmapriya collection, combines the innate aspects of tradition and modern by highlighting the dazzling and regal pieces with Polki diamonds, south – sea pearls and green and pink Meenakari.

  • Uncut by Aditi Amin

Uncut by Aditi Amin has originated from the need to create something new and evolved, yet be rooted in our Indian heritage – which is rich in its techniques. They have contemporized Indian Jewellery and made it more versatile. The festive collection consists of modern heirlooms pieces that will be cherished for a lifetime Made out of Jadau, the collection modernizes the age-old Indian technique of Polki jewellery and making it more functional.

  • Bhavya Ramesh

Bhavya Ramesh is a naturalist and a bohemian before adding any other profession to her. Being a self-taught jewellery designer, she strongly believes that choosing the road less traveled has made all the difference. If silver is something you treasure, take a peek at Bhavya Ramesh’s collection of silver temple jewellery collection featuring motifs inspired from the temples of south India.

  • Jaipur Gems

Jaipur Gems is one of the crown jewels of India’s glorious jewelry traditions. Jaipur Gems sourced in some of the original art pieces from goldsmiths whose families have been making temple jewellery for generations. These are rightfully called the ornament of gods, because wearing this jewellery is wearing and honouring India’s rich cultural history. Glide through the collection, to adorn your favourite this festive season.

With this list handy, shop temple jewellery pieces that sync in with your personal style for Onam 2021!

Aishwarya Menon

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