This traditional design of Egyptians, Europeans and Indians consisted primarily of different metal coins, mainly silver, and a suspensory cord, a metal chain or thread, for holding them around the neck, in larger part of India’s Hindi belt known as ‘Taka-har’ – a necklace consisting of ‘takas’ – coins of any denomination. Perhaps the symbol of the king’s authority, a coin that symbolised protective royal cover to the wearer was treated as a powerful amulet right since its use by Egyptians in their ornaments – a necklace, bracelet, ring or any. In India the design-pattern almost exploded and in little time not only reached the gentry but was also the many tribes’ most chosen ornament, no matter made of tin, pewter or any cheap alloy. Coins of Queen Victoria, Edward kings, III, IV and VII in particular and George V were especially favoured. This explosion was perhaps for two reasons : a coin assured silver’s sterling status, otherwise difficult to ascertain, and revealed the wearer’s loyalty to the state. Though rarely, while gold coins – guineas were also used, more prevalent was a silver coin – rupee, ‘athanni’ – eight anna coin, or ‘chawanni’ – four anna. This style of ornament had so captivated the social mind that the financial status of a person was determined by the number and value of ‘takas’ in the necklace one gave to his daughter in marriage as dowry of which ‘takahar’ was an essential part. Besides those portraying a bust or face – a human figure, a ‘takahar’ consisted also of fully inscribed coins.
This necklace does not consist of coins but of uniformly cast roundels resembling a four anna coin of pre-independent India. ‘Takahars’ with Rupee coins had greater value but also as great volume and weight and sometimes a clumsy look – hardly the choice of elite or rich. If silver was her choice or an astrologically recommended metal, a rich woman preferred small four anna coins for a necklace. Designed for a delicate person looking for ethnicity and distinction of tradition this necklace seems to have preferred for its roundels the size of the same four anna coin. Apart the British coin’s dimensions, the roundels in this necklace seek the form of the leafy arabesques used for designing their face in the coins of Islamic Nawabs and Rajput princes current in their states. Their coins, fully covered with Urdu inscriptions, a common medium of Islamic and Hindu coins, had an appearance as have these roundels with their thickly laid leaf-design.
Usually in a ‘takahar’ a die-stamped decorative motif, a flower, leaf or any of the plain geometrical formations, with a loop-ring concealed under, was added to the coin for properly holding it on the cord. Besides that soldering sometimes defaced it this addition often affected its roundness. Evading any such risk this necklace joins all roundels using beautifully cast tiny oval loops that pierce them on diagonally opposite points. Covered with thickly laid leaf-arabesques and confining to its descending zones, piercing of discs hardly affect their beauty. Each of the main seventeen roundels has an identically cast smaller roundel pendant-like suspending under it. This pendant-roundel is linked with the main using a similar loop. The suspensory chain on the left consists of four loop-rings and a fastener, and on the right, consisting of six loop-rings. The fastener can be locked with any and the length can be adjusted. The piece also has a pair of identically designed ear-ornament.
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.