Pair of Nilgiri Earrings

Historical period(s)
late 19th-early 20th century
Medium
Gold sheet metal
Dimensions
H x W: 9.2 x 5.9 cm (3 5/8 x 2 5/16 in)
Geography
India, Tamil Nadu state
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by Rajinder K. Keith and Narinder K. Keith
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1990.2a-b
On View Location
Freer Gallery 01: Body Image: Arts of the Indian Subcontinent
Classification(s)
Jewelry and Ornament, Metalwork
Type

Earrings

Keywords
India, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Label

Since ancient times, gold in India was understood to have a positive and purifying effect on its wearer. Equally potent is the reference to snakes encoded within the geometry of these tribal earrings, known as pambadam (pambu means serpent in Tamil). Each form-sphere, cone, arch, circle, and trefoil-has the name of a part of the serpent's anatomy. In Hindu tradition, snakes are recognized as protectors of deities and guardians of treasures. Such earrings are still worn by village women in the southern part of Tamil Nadu.

Published References
  • Dr. Carol R. Bolon, Amita Sarin. Metaphors in Gold: The Jewelry of India. vol. 6, no. 4 New York, Fall 1993. pp. 25-26, fig. 8.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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