Metalwork and Jewelry in ancient India.
Body ornaments and metal works in Harrappan culture.
The beginnings of metal work and manufactured jewellery in India can be traced in the Indus Valley civilization in a distant time that can be situated in the Neolithic age culture known as Mehrgarh (7000-5500 B.C.)
In the early period of the Harrappan culture were already elaborated decorations that consisted of rounded pieces of carved soft stone passed by a thin cord, were also used other materials such as seeds and shells.
Harrappan people were apparently skilled craftsmen; they also work other materials as agate, Amethyst, carnelian, lapis lazuli and turquoise. Some stones were heated to produce a reddish color that was very appreciated by this civilization of the Indus Valley.
During the last period of the Harrappan, Mohenjo Daro y Dholavira cultures artisans used materials such as bronze, copper, silver and Gold making necklaces with simple decorations and head metal bands. They confectioned as well bangles and other ornaments of molten metal. Copper material was mined locally in Harappa, in places like Baluchistan and Rajasthan.
Examples of this early jewelry were stamped in a bronze cast figurine depicting a young ballerina of Mohenjo Daro. In the dancer arm can be appreciated the large amount of bracelets used. It was made approximately in 2,500 B.C.
Other decorative articles were made using materials such as glazed earthenware (not made from clay), terracotta, empty shells and ivory. Jewelry in the form of anthropomorphic symbols, animals and vegetation, as well as trees and depictions of feminine sexual organs were also elaborated by them. This early culture of the Hindu Valley had mainly matriarchal spiritual beliefs, which attached great importance to the female sexual organs; providers of fertility and reproduction. This jewelry was worn mainly by women (although men also adorned it) and was not buried with the deceased; instead they passed to their heirs.
The Metalwork develops in Hinduism period in India
Abundant mineral wealth in India became known worldwide, so wealth and lifestyle in the populations of the India grew progressively to opulence between (700-300 BC). This enrichment is especially visible in the standard of living of the high social castes sharpening therefore the difference between these and the lower castes of the population.
Bronze sculptures, jewelry for body adornment, metal works related to the elaboration of images of worship and decoration of Hindu temples were performed with astonishing mastery acquired over time by artisans, jewelers and goldsmiths whose techniques and designs; without abandoning the characteristic Hindu elements, assimilated also others coming from other cultures such as the Greeks and Chinese.
The gold was used in India for body ornaments and other decorative pieces rather than for the production of coins as did the Greeks, from whom the Indians obtained large quantities of this material. According to Hindu belief, the gold and silver are considered as sacred metals. Gold for them is a symbol of the Sun, while the silver suggests the cold moon. Both metals are highly appreciated in India but specific Gold by its incorruptible characteristic is considered in this country as a symbol of immortality.
The Metalwork and jewelry master quality production in the Mughal period.
Previous to the heyday of the Mughal dynasties the Islamic jewelry had developed metallurgical work in India of some importance with the de Gaznavids, Gurids, and Turks, as well as some dynasties of Afghanistan. The power of the region increased, reaching its peak during the Mughal Empire, which spanned from the 16th century to the 19th century, and stretched from the India subcontinent to Afghanistan. The dazzling wealth of the Turk-Ottoman Empire in India was so enormous that it is consider as one of the richest in its time.
In the Mughal period oriental style and techniques influences and enrich the designs and perfection of both jewelry and metal works in general. Many of these magnificent works ware made to decorate structures in buildings such as doors and windows. Luxurious furniture and articles of daily use such as mirrors with bases and handles of precious and non-precious metals, chests, and boxes were made for important and wealthy people that could afford them.
Splendid and detail engraves daggers, swords, and guns are also within the objects made for both domestic consumption and export. Stands out perfectly the mastery with which these metal pieces wore made; combining the techniques, experiences as well as design and traditional style elements from Mughal and India cultures resulting in a great work of art.
Decorations of these works remain faithful to the traditional themes that represent plants, animals and mythical figures of the folklore of the India and scenes of everyday life but incorporate some geometric design elements adopted from the Persians, resulting in very elaborate works of art with great attention to detail and extensive use of precious and semi-precious materials.
Precious and semi precious stones in ancient India
In the elaboration of jewels and metal work in ancient India specifically well consider was the diamond not only because of its exceptional beauty, but also for the protective properties conferred by the tradition in this culture. Diamond it is used as a protector against snakes and to ward off enemies and the forces of evil among others. India was the first country that extracted diamonds from the mines; some of them are so old that dating back to 296 BC.
Tradition of utilization of rock such as agate, Carnelian and quartz crystal in jewelry use is very old but this is not much known. There was a widespread utilize of crystalline quartz and chalcedony in ancient India. The lapidaries in Vellum, a city in the South of India, were worked on different varieties of Crystal rock, like regular quartz, smoky quartz, cairn gorme and Amethyst. These stones were beautifully settled in jewelry made in metal but also ornaments of different objects for both sacred and mundane use.
Decoration with jewelry has been used by the people of India for centuries but for Royal jewels were symbol also of power and connection to the divine especially for the Maharaja and other members of the Royal family. The use of the precious stone in India was documented in the encyclopedia of the 6th century BC known as: the ‘Brihat Samhita “ (Utpalaparimala,), written in Sanskrit by the astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer Daivajna Varahamihira (505-587).
Among the names include in this dictionary are some such as:
- Marakata (Esmeralda).
- MUKTA (pearls).
- Padmaraga or Manikya (ruby)
- Vajra (diamante).
- Brahmamani (bi-color tourmaline).
- Gomeda (Hyacinth or zircon).
- Indranila (Sapphire).
- Jyotirasa .Karketana (Chrysoberyl).
- Pravals (coral).
- Pulaka (Garnet).
- Pushparaga (Topaz).
- Rajamani (Royal jewel).
- Rudhirakhya (carnelian).
- Sasikanta (Moonstone).
- Saugandhika (variety of Sapphire).
- Sphatika (Crystal rock).
- Sasyaka (copper sulfate).
- Vaidurya (Pencil lazuli).
- Vimalaka (pyrite).
Gold coins from the Kushan culture (Mahayana); a Buddhist corporate culture that ruled in approximately 200s BC most of the North of the India are preserved today. They are displayed in drawings made in relief. The designs provide elements of social and religious history of this culture and also show the skill rich by them that are of significant importance in the North of the India region.
The Tamil region in the South of India is especially known for its accomplished metallurgical works of bronze and the multitude of statues of cast loss wax elaborated there. The culture of the Cholas (850-1250 AD) was a dynasty of Tamil which ruled the South of the India during the same period in which the Maurya Empire and Kushanthe ruled the north of this country.
Importance of Jewelry in India in the traditional wedding ceremony “Solah Shringar”
The “sixteen decorations”, used in Hindu , ancient custom wedding tradition dating back to the medieval India; still remain today, and it entails the use during the wedding ceremony of the specific ornaments, jewelry and cosmetics to be used on the day of the marriage by the bride.
Some items of jewellery in the Solah Shringar; which is how it is called this set of 16 decorative elements, must contain the red color which is considered as good omen. Rings can be used in all ten fingers and include a Hathphulor, which is a Medallion that is placed in the back of the hand and attached to each ring by a series of gold chains. However the bridal indumenta in different regions of the India use distinctive elements in their costumes that correspond to the specific customs of the region.
The Weddings, important events in the social life of its inhabitants have numerous jewelries and distinctive body ornaments whose beauty, sophistication and mysticism have transcended the borders of India. These are accompanied by a standard range of bracelets, bangles, earrings, nose rings and toe rings, been this last one in silver or other materials but never in gold because for Hindu religious only divinities can use gold below the ankle. Bangles are normally made of gold, silver or iron, and the Shankha in ivory or ceramic.
During the 15th and 16th centuries the Europeans, particularly the Portuguese, developed a great interest in India, especially about the valuable mineral wealth. The Esmeraldas, Ruby and diamonds of Golconda (located in Maharashtra) were on great appreciation by them.
Towards the end of the XVI century, already countries like Britain, Portugal, Holland and France had established factories all over the region of India. The production of metal work and jewelry in India has maintained the importance, quality, demand and high level of marketing trough time. Today, with the rise of the curiosity of the world on such fascinating art and culture the metal work of India arouse the interest of a diverse crowd at the international level.