What Is Meant By Indian Temple Jewellery?

Traditional Indian jewellery is classified into three types: bridal jewellery, spiritual jewellery and temple jewellery. Temple jewellery is one among the most popular types.

As the name suggests, temple jewellery was originally meant for adorning the idols of gods and goddesses in Indian temples. To this day, Indian temples continue to adorn idols of deities with chunky temple jewellery, often made of gold and precious stones.

Types of temple jewellery include intricately crafted bangles, necklaces, ear-rings, anklets, nose rings and waist belts. Today this jewellery type is popular with royalty, Indian classical dancers and brides. It is even featuring on the runways of Indian fashion festivals. Many vie to buy temple jewellery online.

Origin

Temple jewellery is largely attributed to the patronage of South Indian rulers. Some of the prominent rulers of the South donated their jewellery to temples for the sake of both veneration and protection. The Chola, The Pandya and the Nayaka dynasties of the South were connoisseurs of the craft of temple jewellery. They patronized workshops of artisans and encouraged the development of their skills.

The jewelry offered by South Indian rulers to temples include Kadagas ( bracelets), Kasina Sara ( chains of coins), Jejeranki (armlets), Kankanas (wristlets), head gear ( Kiridas), Mukha Kirithi ( masks) and Tali (wedding bands).

Temple jewelry largely remained unscathed by foreign influences like Muslim and British rule. But some Islamic influences percolated to this craft. For instance, a conical Kullah which is a golden cup used by Mughals was utilized by Indian temples especially in Nayaka period.

 Goldsmiths of South India retained most of traditional designs and motifs. Some of the motifs include double headed eagle (Gandabherunda), local flowers, such as lotus (Tamarappu) and Kallippu, and animals like crocodile (Makara), crane (kokku), turtle (amai), frog (Tavalai) etc.

South Indian temple jewellery is divided into two kinds: Jewellery offered to Shiv linga and those offered to subsidiary gods and goddesses. The Shiv Lingas are decorated with the most expensive temple jewellery.

Temple jewellery reached its peak under the Cholas, the Vijayanagar kings, the Pandyas and the Nayakas. South Indian temples have been the recipients of their largesse. Temples in Thanjavur, Madurai, Srirangapatna and Mysore all feature exquisite temple jewellery, donated to their deities.

The temple jewellery was protected with great care. Three people were given the responsibility to take care of this precious jewellery. The ‘Kaivistari’ takes possession of the jewels on festive days and passes them on to ‘Kaiyatchri’ soon after their use. They are secured and locked by the third official called as “Mudhradhikari’.

Modern Use

Temple jewellery is worn by the common person on auspicious occasions like child birth and marriage. The most popular motifs for modern times are that of Goddess Laxmi reclining on a lotus, elephants (Lord Ganesh) and architectural designs.

Traditional temple jewellery is crafted in gold with precious stones. However today they are also made of metal with gold polish and encrusted with semi-precious stones. Thus they are highly affordable.

Today they are the rage on bridal exhibitions and fashion ramps as well as with classical dancers of Kuchipudi, Kathak, Bharathnatyam and Odissi. Temple jewellery enhances the look of ethnic Indian wear like Saree, Salwar Kameez and Ghaghra Choli.
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