Decoded temple jewelry | Herald of the Deccan


Evocative and intricate, temple jewelry takes pride of place in the modern South Indian bridal trousseau.

A lot of research is needed to create these statement pieces, and inspiration comes from the epics. In his 7th century Sanskrit work “Kadambari”, Banabhatta refers to an ear pendant in the shape of a ketaki flower worn by his heroine Malati. Sriharsha’s romantic saga “Naishadha Charita”, written in the 12th century, describes the lotus bud jewelry of Damayanti, and the design is still in common use today.

Designers today attach health and religious importance to many aspects of their designs. “The commonly used mangalsutra consists of two golden balls. It should rest where the thymus is located. It is said to improve the wearer’s immunity, ”says Bharathy Harish, managing director and designer at Madhurya, a design studio on Kanakapura Road in Bangalore.

The motifs are often inspired by deities and each element has a meaning. The goddess Lakshmi means wealth, the “annapakshi” or the divine swan attracts positive energy, the lion is a symbol of courage and the lotus represents purity and self-regeneration. The beauty of temple jewelry lies in its religious significance, says Bharathy.

Often the designs are inspired by temple architecture. “The engravings and sculptures on the walls of the temples are suitable for jewelry. So jewelry from different regions has different stories to tell, ”says Girish Kumar, owner of Sri Gurukrupa Jewelers in Bengaluru.

Girish is a fifth generation jeweler and he has seen the profession evolve. Back then, temple jewelry was mostly made from gold and silver and finished with handcrafted accents. Now, Fusion Temple jewelry has burst onto the scene. “A combination of precious stones gives a modern touch, while the structure retains the traditional essence,” observes Girish.

Younger women are turning to smaller accessories like jhumkas and pendants that they can wear on a regular basis. “This was not the case before,” said Bharathy.

How they are made

Tinctures and molds are prepared for deities, flowers and birds. “Gold and silver are rolled into flat pieces and pressed into molds. The molds are then filled with gold leaf or beaten metal, ”Girish explains.

Once the mold is in place, the parts are welded and polished to give them a shine.

“It’s a team effort. An entire line is responsible for tasks such as creating the molds, soldering, adding gems and stones and polishing,” says Girish.

The advent of computer aided design (CAD) accelerated the manufacture of jewelry. Karthik YR, owner of Pallavi Jewelers, explains: “CAD is used to create 2D and 3D models of objects. This has improved the design and manufacturing flow. Finishing and polishing are carried out by machines.

History and evolution

The temple jewelry is said to originate in the 9th century AD, during the reign of the Chola and Pandya dynasties. The coins were made of gold, precious stones and metals offered to deities in temples in southern India.

Later, temple dancers began to recreate and wear this jewelry on stage. “Temple jewelry began to feature large, bold designs so people could see them from afar,” says Karthik, who has been designing temple jewelry since 1999.

Jewelers began to draw inspiration from temple architecture, history and attributes of deities.

As they are associated with a deep religious sentiment, temple jewelry is considered an heirloom among families in South India.

While the allure of temple jewelry is timeless, Bharathy is concerned with the decreasing number of traditional artisans (karigars). “The art of making temple jewelry should be taught in educational institutions,” she says.

Girish is more optimistic. “Recently, ‘karigars’ (artisans) from all over India come to work in Bangalore because there is a demand for temple jewelry in southern India,” he says.


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