The dazzling south Indian temple jewelry – considered the must have accessory of every trained Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi performer, stands out for the bright colored stones, the beautiful motifs and the exquisite settings. These definitive pieces of jewelry are now fast turning into statement pieces of fashion wear too. It gives you an air of regality and an almost imperceptible ethnic touch that can be easily blended with contemporary styles even.
The Vadasery village of Nagercoil, located in Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, has specialized jewelry makers in this line of ornament making. Says Nagarajan, a temple jeweler, from the village, “We have been doing this form of jewelry art for more than 100 years. And it can rightfully be called an art for the amount of intricate work we do on each piece of jewelry and also for the time it takes to do a piece.” Nagarajan and his Silver Sparkler Jewelry shop (www.silversparkler.in) is one of the few jewelers of the area who have a proud lineage in weaving out these gorgeous ornaments studded with bright colored stones. These exclusive ornaments were first used to adorn temple deities. Later, the temple dancers or Devadasis, as they were called in the ancient times- for Indian dances were mostly performed inside temple precincts, used the jewelry as a part of their dance gear. It then became an unavoidable essential of every south Indian dance performer. The iconic jewelry gradually evolved into magnificent fashion labels and is also now a common fare of the bridal trousseau of many Indian marriages-which could be attributed to rising gold prices and many city bred brides opting for this labeled brand.
Nagarajan’s Silver Sparkler offers an array of eclectic designs. Silver Sparkler is vibrant with its exclusive collection of jewelry specially designed for specific purposes such as dance, temple use, bridal wear and for special occasions and also giving you plenty of choices in each section. Their website is a catalogue of what they make. The simple single line bracelets or ‘Thongal Bangles’ as they are called have an elegance of their own majorly due to the simplicity of the design. The twin parrot hair-clip studded with red stones are just perfect for a coiffured hairdo and so are the multi layered waist bands or belts for a seamless uplift with any traditional wear. The old-style jumkkas (a popular conical shaped south Indian earring) layered in pearl is a flawless match to almost all Indian saris- you just need to pick your choice with the colors to get the best match. The fairly large Nataraja (dancing Shiva) pendant on double string pearl beads is again a sure-shot stand out among a varied crowd.
The glass stones used to deck the ornaments are conventional ones except for the red which is semi-precious. Originally, only red stones or Kempu stones were used on the jewelry hence the old temple ornaments were also called Kempu Jewelry. But as the demand for the jewelry increased among the dance performers, more of the white, green and blue stones were increasingly used on the intricate works to give a multi-layer color to each piece. Says Nagarajan,“Originally we used to use only gold for making the jewelry and yes the unavoidable red stones too. However now we work on silver and use gold plating for all the pieces we make. We insert gold leaves, which are in fact small gold plates, in between the stones to get the required thickness.”
Temple jewelry making is a sequential process with 6-7 people working on a single piece. Each person has a predefined task to do on each piece and is adept at his assigned job. According to Nagarajan, it’s very rare for a single person to do the whole job. Says he, “Nowadays, many among us are using machines to do the entire job, but we stick to the age-old process of making handmade jewelry, which is time consuming but the final pieces are definitely more beautiful, authentic and have a complete finish.” This form of ornament making is mostly done by men. However, these days women are picking up the nuances of the job but are not fully there yet.
All items are made to order and take about 14 to 15 days to complete.Temple jewelry is surely a piece of art for the wholesome process involved in its making, for the definite beauty of its own and for the fair amount of aesthetics woven into each piece. For every eclectic jewelry collector, temple jewelry can be definitely tagged as a collector’s item.