As the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. However, in India, well, it often is. A magnificent part of Indian culture is traditional Indian jewelry. Imagine intricately formed, ornate gold adorned with the most stunningly brilliant gemstones, pearls, and diamonds.
There are actually three major classifications of traditional Indian jewelry. There’s bridal jewelry, spiritual jewelry, and, last but not least, temple jewelry. The origins of temple jewelry can be traced back to South India in particular. From the ninth century until the sixteenth century, the region of South India was ruled by the Chola, Pandya, and Krishnadeva Raya dynasties, who were all fine jewelry connoisseurs. Ruling for such a long period of time, temple jewelry became an intrinsic part of both religious and cultural tradition.
Shri Padmanabha Necklace with the String of Lakshmi Ji (South Indian Temple Jewelry)
As you can infer from its name, temple jewelry was often used to worship and adorn the sacred figures of Indian gods, goddesses, and deities. These figures were embellished with large and stunning jewelry, including necklaces, chokers, earrings, bracelets, nose rings, anklets, as well as other body jewelry, as a symbol of veneration and devotion. Of all the many holy temples, the Madurai temple is especially known for having some of the most valuable displays of temple jewelry.
Handcrafted Goddess Lakshmi with Peacocks Pendant (South Indian Temple Jewelry
While temple jewelry is widely recognized for its extravagance and dramatic appearance, its most basic style can actually be made of just simple gold or silver, forgoing any stones or diamonds. The most fundamental and defining feature of all temple jewelry is its skillfully handcrafted design. As one can expect, temple jewelry designs often take inspiration from divine figures such as the goddess Lakshmi. In addition to the deities, some of the most popular motifs are lotus flowers, leaves, sacred animals, including peacocks, swans and elephants, as well as bells, and coins, just to name a few. Temple jewelry is known for its intricacy and depending on how elaborate a piece is, and what other stones are included in its design, a piece of jewelry can take anywhere from days to months in order to create.
Parrot Pair Designer Pendant (South Indian Temple Jewelry)
The tradition and aesthetic of temple jewelry has not only transcended time but it has outlasted various Indian rulers and colonizers. In fact, not only has it endured but it has flourished. No longer just a part of South Indian culture, temple jewelry is favored all over India and even beyond its shores. Many current fashions and contemporary jewelry in various parts of the world take inspiration from temple jewelry.
Today, temple jewelry isn’t just exclusively for the gods, goddesses, and deities. What was once reserved for deities and royals was consequently adopted by temple dancers and devotees. As the form of jewelry trickled down to the wider community, replicas were created and jewelers began taking inspiration from temple architecture, the forms and characteristic of the deities themselves, as well as their rich history. It remains an essential and spectacular part of Indian cultural heritage and to this day, is among the most artful and sublime forms of jewelry. In fact, these days, temple jewelry are often heirloom pieces and are a crucial part of an Indian bride’s trousseau and jewelry collection. Not only that, temple jewelry has become directly associated to Indian history and culture, even as it continues to gain widespread popularity and finds its way into the jewelry boxes of women across the world.
Chunky Shiva-parivar Pendant (South Indian Temple Jewellery)
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