Traditional Jewellery of Tamilnadu
Jewellery has always enjoyed a prominent mention in ancient Tamil literature. The five great Tamil epics of the Sangam period (3rd to 4th century BC ) mention the different types of traditional jewellery of Tamilnadu. It is indeed a pleasant surprise that most of the ornaments that have been mentioned in the ancient epics are still in existence today after many centuries. It is a clear sign that the women of Tamilnadu have had a lasting love affair with their jewellery and therefore managed to preserve most of the styles of the Sangam era. An important reason could be the dance of our state, Bharathanatyam, through which these precious styles of jewellery have been showcased and therefore have still managed to be around. Another reason for this could be that these timeless ornaments were handed over the generations and that is why they have stood the test of time. I think its a bit of both!
Chettinadu is a region in the Sivagangai district of southern Tamilnadu famous for its jewellery. The adigai is a very typical South Indian piece of jewellery typical of the Chettinadu region. It is is a necklace that is worn close to the neck accentuating it. It is made of gold and red rubies otherwise known as kempu stones. Another common style of the adigai is the single stone diamond adigai. An adigai worn with your kancheevarams is the ultimate regal fashion statement. If you’re a South Indian woman worth her salt you definitely must own an adigai.
Contemporary fine jewellery from designer houses like Chopard and Bulgari are inspired by Mother Nature. The maangamalai and the kizhikaasu malai were no different. The mango fruit symbolizes fertility and the maangamalai was a must have piece of jewellery in Tamil families. It is a long necklace made of small gold mangoes threaded together on a chain with nagasau work on them. Nagasu work is a special form of intricate craftsmanship on gold jewellery found only in the south of India. The South Indian nagasu craftsmen are sought after by jewellery retailers from all over India for their beautiful handiwork on gold jewellery.
The kizhikaasu malai is an authentic Chettinadu necklace. It is a statement piece made with gold coins and a parrot on top of each of the coins. In the olden days, the women of the erstwhile families of Chettinadu had the goddess Lakshmi embossed on the front side of the coins. It was considered auspicious to wear the goddess of wealth and the popular belief still continues. Their family emblem, usually their fort, was embossed on the reverse side of the coins. One can order a kizhikaasu malai with the jewellery craftsmen of Chettinadu and you will find that even today an illustration of a fort is embossed on the reverse of the coins.
The odiyanam or the hip belt is a beautiful ornament that flatters the woman wearing it. It is made of gold and usually has goddess Lakshmi, parrots, peacocks and serpents (nagar) carved on it using the nagasu technique. Today in more modern designs you can find diamonds embellishing the front part of the hip belt called the mogapu. Personally I favour the old fashioned nagasu odiyanam. It is definitely a thing of beauty to treasure and hand it down to your daughters.
Popular earrings of Tamilnadu are the jimikis and the magara kuzhai. The jimikis are still favourites of the women of the South. You can choose between the big gundu gold jimiki or the diamond studded one. The magara kuzhai is a fish shaped earring studded with red rubies and pearls. Mookuthi and Besari are nose studs. They are usually studded with rubies and pearls or diamonds. You’ll find the women in the southern parts of Tamilnadu still wearing them on a regular basis.
The craftsmen of Chettinadu still hand make these precious pieces of jewellery. Since they are handcrafted there are bound to be imperfections. These imperfections are what makes these ornaments special, since no two pieces of jewellery can be the exact same. This is exactly why these pieces of jewellery are a pleasure to covet and own. Cherish and enjoy wearing these vintage treasures that have been handed down to you with your kancheevaram sarees.
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