“The more one travels and observes life in this abundantly rich and colourful region one cannot help but get captivated by the exuberance of their culture. With limited means they have endured. They celebrate everything, be it music or jewellery” - Tripti Pandey, Rajasthan’s Silver Jewellery: A Living Legacy (2003).
A testament to Rajasthanis’ outstanding ability to “endure” and preserve their “exuberant” culture (as Pandey so astutely describes), silver jewelry in Rajasthan remains remarkably unchanged: to this day, the craft’s timeless look still bears the impressions of the rich and vibrant Indus Valley and Mediterranean cultures it originated from.
While Rajasthani silver jewelry shares this timeless quality, styles differ with each group. For example, pieces of silver jewelry have distinct ornaments that establish different group identities (like the Rawats, Gadia Lohars, and Banjaras of Rajasthan) from one another.
To the Western world, silver jewelry in Rajasthan jewelry is simply “tribal” and only reflects the tribal identity of these different groups. While tribal craftsmen definitely do craft some of Rajasthan’s silver jewelry, such a categorization is too broad. In addition to being tribal jewelry, it is also distinctly Hindu, as evidenced by many of its designs and materials. The Bhils and Garassias of Rajasthan are two groups who also see jewelry designs as a combination of distinct tribal ornaments and Hindu religious beliefs.
Rajasthani Jewelry Materials
Gold is a material that exemplifies Rajasthani jewelry’s connection to Hindu beliefs.
According to Hindu beliefs, Gold represents the sun. Hindus also believe human life evolved around the sun in the form of a golden womb, or Hiranyagarbha. When the womb split, it formed the heavens and the earth.
Gold is especially associated with divinity. Only gods and goddesses adorn themselves in gold, and, as such, it is a taboo to wear gold below the waistline.
Silver is also a quintessential Rajasthani jewelry component that carries an important link to Hinduism. In contrast with gold and the sun, silver jewelry traditionally represents the moon. Furthermore, motifs of goddesses (such as Lakshmi and Durga) are usually found on the plaques of silver jewelry.
In order to create silver jewelry, silver is imported from Afghanistan and is exchanged for Indian goods. Such an exchange must occur often; silver jewelry is seen all throughout Rajasthan. It even appears to be an inherent ingredient of the human anatomy—in Rajasthan, silver is worn from head to toe as if it were part ofthe body itself.
“The skill in India in making brooches and bangles out of silver rupees is astonishing, full of patterns and flowing format” - Sir Thomas Wardle, 1901.
Coins are another material that is incorporated into Rajasthan’s silver jewelry. Some coins seen on older pieces of silver jewelry date back to the period of British colonial rule.
From long armlets (bazu chud) to toe rings (bichuda) and much more, Rajasthani jewelry is often ornately designed. Women seen wearing such ornate jewelry designs are known as the Banjaras, or gypsies. As previously explored, designs can also incorporate divine images, such as when leaf motifs are used to symbolize the yoni. Below is a list of Rajasthani jewelrythat showcases some of these traditional designs.
“Certain Common Traditional Designs”
- Bor or borla: A round ball shaped ornament that is worn on the forehead.
- Bindi/Matha patti: Silver chain worn on the bor which goes down on either side.
- Chimti: Hair clip.
- Ogniya: Silver rings with a hanging ball or leaf worn on the top of the ear.
- Karanphool: A big round stud.
- Jhumka: A bell-like earring.
- Bata: A big flower shaped ear stud.
- Hansali: A collar or torque sometimes hollow sometimes solid worn by men and women.
- Worlo/Warla: A torque wrapped with silver wire.
- Jantar: Cylindrical amulet strung on black thread.
- Patri: Plaque amulet, on black thread, worn around the neck, both by men and women.
Amulets are just one example of jewelry worn in Rajasthan. They are usually ornamented and often incorporate the image of Bhairon, a form of Shiva who represents the ritual of public worshipping.
Depending on the region of Rajasthan, amulets are known by different names (e.g. kavach, jantar, etc.). Amulets also have different functions. Negative amulets repel dark forces, while positive amulets ensure fulfilment of one’s desires. It is believed that these negative and positive powers will not work until the amulet is activated by a priest or shaman during an elaborate ritual.
Earrings are another significant part of Rajasthani jewelry. One of the commonly seen traditional earrings is the karanphool jhumka, or bell-shaped, dangling earrings with a large stud. The earrings are often attributed to originating with the Mughals.
“Karanphool” (which means “a flower for the ear”) refers to the detailed, floral ornament of the earring, whereas “jhumka” describes the beautiful, bell-shaped adornment that suspends from the karanphool. Further adding to the earrings’ multi-layered look, a fringe of pearls cascade down the base of the bell.
Glittering materials like glass, back foil, and diamonds are also incorporated into the karanphool jhumka’s exquisite design.
A Collection that Celebrates and Preserves
Rightfully so, many have been captivated by Rajasthani silver jewelry's beauty. Possibly, the Hindu belief that silver jewelry carries a therapeutic effect carries weight to its allure as well.
Here at Terra Adorn, we too are taken by the beauty and calming nature of Rajasthan’s traditional silver jewelry—so much so that we also want to dedicate our time to seriously studying all we can about the craft, including the culture and people it came from.
As such, we are grateful to offer a collection that celebrates and preserves not only Rajasthani jewelry, but the lives of Rajasthanis as well. 15% of the collection’s proceeds will go to Ladli, a project committed to giving destitute, abused, and orphaned children in Jaipur, Rajasthan a better chance at life. Sponsored by I-India, a non-profit and NGO, Ladli provides these children with educational programs, nutrition, counseling, and medical check-ups.
Ladli also teaches children handicraft skills, including jewelry-making. For young girls who might grow up to have even more limited financial options than boys, keeping the craft of jewelry-making alive can be especially helpful as jewelry is part of Stridhan (a trousseau) which provides some financial security.
Through this partnership, (and with your help!), we can aid Rajasthan’s young, bright children and its beautiful, traditional crafts at the same time.