Jewels are linked to love in Tamil aesthetics. There are two types of poetry in Tamil Sangam literature.
Depicting the inner worlds of two lovers and their emotions
Kurinji: Sexual union
Mullai: Yearning for her/him
Marudham: Anger, sulking
Neithal: Pining for lover
Paalai: Lover’s tiff, separation
Depicting the outer world of kings
Deals with war, kings, cattle raiding and virtues.
Rooted in tradition
The Tamil aesthetic is rooted in tradition and comes from Sangam poetry, Chola bronzes, Bharatanatyam dance, and what is available in the land. Women part their hair in the centre, wear jasmine strings in the hair, and adorn themselves with dancing jhimmikis.
Akam poetry is littered with jewellery, often used as metaphors for the heroine’s mental state.
Malligai moggu maalai or Jasmine bud garland became the inspiration for jewellery
She who wears
the fragrant jasmine bud garland around her neck
and seduces me with her scent.
Placed on nose thoughtfully or dreamily.
The lonely wife places her finger on her nose and dreams of her long-lost husband.
The finger ring glints like a light on a dark night.
The iconic Shiva as Nataraja with his flaming locks, flashing eyes and uplifted legs. The jewels are detailed much more than the clothes in most Chola bronzes. How amazing these jewels would have been when worn against simple robes?
Broad like the river
With chains and necklaces dancing like fishes and snakes.
Jingling, keeping time to his dance
In ancient Tamilnadu, there was a ceremony before marriage in which the anklets were removed, called Cilambu kali nonpu.
Try standing in this Tri-bhanga pose, I dare you.
Epitomises beauty in Indian aesthetics.
Krishna plays the flute in this pose.
This Chola bronze of Shiva and Parvati have them both standing in this pose.
Look at their jewellery. Do you see the makara kundala on Shiva’s ear?
Do you see Parvathi’s ear is long with holes that can hold a pampadam or thandatti earring if she so chooses?
For both men and women
Interesting that both Shiva and Parvati are wearing a sacred thread, lending credence to the belief that both young boys and girls had the upanayanam (or twice-born) ceremony in the olden days.
The waistbelt is an important ornament in Tamil aesthetics.
As is the kumkuma-choppu (kumkum holding cup). When women leave the home, they are sent off by offering kumkum.
She approached him slow steps. Her bangles are crystal in color. Her curling hair resembles like sand-flow in river-bed. She came with her glittering jewels. She came in the dead-night when even the fishes sleep. She appeared as an artificial statue of beauty walking. She has garland in her neck. She hugged me so as I have some impression of her bangles in my back. Then what else I need? Be happy, my mind, the hero says to his mind.