Marriage necklace (chettiar thali)

This marriage neclace consists of 16 gold tubular beads of stamped cross-hatched design strung on a thick black cord. These are interspersed with 7 large pendants of which four have a distinctive handlike shape. A spire rises perpendicularly from the center of each of these and its finial has eight facets representing the eight directions. The loop of each pendant has the same cross-hatched design as the beads. Just below is an applied panel depicting a “hamsa” (swan) symbolizing tranquility.

On one side is a round pendant decorated with lingas and representing a rudraksha bead. On the other side is a 6″ long cylindrical pendant. The central comb-shaped pendant may indeed represent a comb, which in Mysore symbolizes a happy married life (Elwin). This has a repousse image of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, seated on a lotus. Her lower right hand is raised in the “abhaya” mudra while the lower left hand is in the “varada” mudra.

Historical period(s)
late 19th-early 20th century
Medium
Gold, black cotton cordage
Dimensions
H (without yarn): 91.5 cm (36 in)
Geography
India, Tamil Nadu state
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1991.4
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Jewelry and Ornament, Metalwork
Type

Necklace

Keywords
beaded wire, chasing, engraving, filigree, granulation, India, Lakshmi, marriage, repousse, swan, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Description

This marriage neclace consists of 16 gold tubular beads of stamped cross-hatched design strung on a thick black cord. These are interspersed with 7 large pendants of which four have a distinctive handlike shape. A spire rises perpendicularly from the center of each of these and its finial has eight facets representing the eight directions. The loop of each pendant has the same cross-hatched design as the beads. Just below is an applied panel depicting a "hamsa" (swan) symbolizing tranquility.

On one side is a round pendant decorated with lingas and representing a rudraksha bead. On the other side is a 6" long cylindrical pendant. The central comb-shaped pendant may indeed represent a comb, which in Mysore symbolizes a happy married life (Elwin). This has a repousse image of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, seated on a lotus. Her lower right hand is raised in the "abhaya" mudra while the lower left hand is in the "varada" mudra.

Inscription(s)

Each of the four hand-shaped pendants and the central comb-like pendant have the same Tamil inscription on the back: tee ka roo cho. The central pendant has an additional letter which stands for Pillayar (Ganesha).

Label

This massive necklace weighs about two pounds (896.5 grams) and was created to be worn by brides from the Chettiyar, or wealthy merchant, community of southern India. Given to the bride by her parents as part of her dowry, the necklace is tied around the bride's neck by the groom during the wedding ceremony. The central comb-shaped pendant may indeed represent a comb, which in Mysore symbolizes a happy married life. The pendant features a repousse image of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, seated on a lotus.

Published References
  • Dr. Carol R. Bolon, Amita Sarin. Metaphors in Gold: The Jewelry of India. vol. 6, no. 4 New York, Fall 1993. pp. 19-21, fig. 4.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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