A curious piece, this bead-laced neck ornament, with a pendant consisting of a rectangular box, engraved with auspicious Ashta-Lakshmi panel contained within a rectangle with a triple flower-frame around, and two identical forms resembling a tiger’s claws : ‘bagh-nakha’ or ‘bagh-naksh’, or the Rajasthan’s ‘shernakh’, appended under it, is known in the India’s indigenous jewellery tradition as the ‘Bagh-nakha’ or ‘Bakh-naksh’ necklace. Unlike other amulet necklaces that have a box-like pendant to contain in it any of the amulets popular in the tradition a ‘Bagh-nakha’ necklace assembles with it one or two tiger-claws, or even more, usually mounted in metal, to work as the amulet. In many cases, as here in this necklace, a mere form of an amulet, such as the metal replicas of the ‘bagh-nakhas’, which acquire the amuletic power by association with such form permitting the natural one to be substituted and cast into a more convenient medium, also works to the same effect as the natural amulet. As suggests material – beads representing various forms of birds, their claws, claws of other animals and the like in particular, excavated from various Indus sites, these symbolic representations of such forms were the amulets manifesting the mystic power of such forms. In case of such a replicated amulet it was required to be activated by proper rituals.
A number of articles, both natural and man-made, believed to have and produce divine, superhuman, talismanic or magic powers, have been used by man universally and since times immemorial as amulets for obtaining from them their corresponding power. As in all such cases an amulet’s natural power had the utmost relevance among all natural amulets the claws of a tiger reigns the highest. It is the extended claws of its powerful forepaws, used in self-defense or to hunt, that render the tiger undefeatable. The tiger’s operative strength lies in its claws and are its most powerful attribute. Obviously, an amulet consisting of tiger claws : the ‘Shernakha jantra’ of the Rajasthani people, imparts to the wearer prodigious qualities of the animal. Mythically tiger is the Mount of Shakti : Mahalakshmi or Durga, the primordial female energy; and hence, a tiger-claws’ amulet is believed to impart to the wearer rare courage and strength.
This tiger claws’ necklace consisting of fifty-four large size turquoise and about seven hundred finely dressed carnelian beads, all threaded into pure silver wires with tiny silver bulbs defining each joint and mounted by artistically designed end-parts has an elaborately incised pendant, its most outstanding feature. Besides assimilating two motifs of tiger claws it also represents eight tiny female forms representing Ashta Lakshmis, namely, Dhanalakshmi – Giver of prosperity, Dhanyalakshmi – Giver of good crop, Saubhagyalakshmi – courier of good fortune, Viralakshmi – imparting valour, Santanalakshmi – Giver of progeny, Vidyalakshmi – Giver of knowledge, and Mahalakshmi and Gajalakshmi. Thus, the necklace is a piece of jewellery with rare distinction but also a dually powerful and charismatic amulet.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.