Indian temple jewelry and their auction in England in the past!!

In India you can seldom see a primary temple deity or deities without gold jewelry. There are countless Hindu temples in India with a vast collection of expensive gold and gem-studded jewelry and they are being used in a grand style on festive occasions. Temple jewelry is a form of ethnic jewelry meant for the objects of veneration like god and goddess and  they come in different forms most with images of deities.   Invariably, they are  made from  gold or silver, without any gemstones or diamonds. The temple administration occasionally uses gem-encrusted jewels on the idols as the gems are costly and unfit for rough handling.  The distinctive feature of the temple jewels is they are   handcrafted  with meticulous care by expert goldsmiths who are supposed to follow certain religious norms before start making the jewelry. 

Indian goddess with jewelry.

Above image:    This 19th century temple jewelry-   wedding  necklace is now on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.............................

Temple jewelry is widely used in the southern states of India. Quite artful and attractive, they  are  part of  the cultural heritage and ethos of  temple worship.  On them one can see the embossed depictions of gods and goddesses richly sculpted  from gold and silver. The jewelry is mostly in the form of  necklaces, chains, bangles, earrings, chokers, etc. Also included are gold and diamond studded crowns worn by the deities.  The Tirupati Balaji  temple of Andhra state  has diamond studded gold crowns worth million of dollars.   Besides temple features like   leaves, trees, coins, bells, and so on are also depicted on them.

gold earing

gold bangle

gold necklace

Above images;  modern temple jewelry. 

The broad use of temple jewelry has been in vogue in southern states for several centuries. It is said to have been popular since the time of  the great  Chola and Pandya dynasties who are known to have built lots of grand and big temples.  As to the cost of expensive gold jewels, etc., it was partly funded by the kings and rest would be met through public subscription - donation from the public in the form of gold. The gold jewels  made with religious fervor were meant for  adorning presiding  deities.  No doubt the temple dancers dedicated to the temples  and devotees in those days began to  wear jewels modeled after temple jewelry.   Over a long period of time the god's jewels evoked  religious sentiment  and  later it  became an essential heirloom in every south Indian bride’s jewelry collection. Taking the cue from the heritage temple jewelry, lately for the wedding ceremony brides opt for   exquisitely crafted heritage  and traditional south Indian saris  with stunning color and pattern. The interest nowadays has upward mobility and they are symbolic of venerated temple idols and the belief is wearing them would bring in prosperity, wealth and heath to the  newly wedded couples.  

The allure of the temple jewelry is so tempting in the past couple of decades, taking inspiration from them, divine  figurines in their most basic form -  goddess   Lakshmi  and other female deities are being used as  motifs by jewelers to make other types of modern jewelry such as  Bead Jewelry. Bridal Jewelry, Fashion Jewelry, Filigree Jewelry, etc.

Making temple jewelry is a time-consuming work and needs lots of skill and patience.  For the experienced artisans or goldsmiths  the sculptures, illustrations and carvings at the temples  give them inspiration.   Sculpting intricate designs is a challenging one and needs delicate hands and rapt attention.   In Hindu mythology, many goddesses are described as golden-hued, a beauty that literally never loses its luster and divinity.

The jewelry making process   begins with  making dyes and molds of motifs like temple tops, god idols, leaves and so on. Gold and silver billets are rolled into flatter pieces, and then cut into strips and bent into the desired shape to make the mould.  The next step needs special attention.  Gold foils, beaten metal and molten gold or dye is used to fill in the mould, depending on the specifications of the final piece.  In most of temple jewels  silver is used as the base, which is then coated with a gold foil. Once set, the pieces are sent for soldering and then finished with a layer of polish to keep the luster of the piece intact.  Depending on the  size and details, etc  an individual piece could take anywhere between a couple of days or multiple months to create. With the advent of modern technology, certain processes like finishing and polishing are done my machines to cut down the time and cost. 

Temple jewelry: 

Indian temple jewelry sold at Bonham auction 2012

A kavacham - Ganesh armour.

Above image:  A kavacham, the Ganesh Armour that protects


gold hair braid.

Above image:   South Indian temple piece Gold hair-braid.  decorated with serpents and fine repoussé depictions of gods and mythical beasts. The impressive Repoussé gold hair braid ornament  dating from the 19th Century, would have been worn by Hindu brides and Bharatnatyam dancers. and, previously, devadasis or temple dancers. Both a woman's braid and the braid ornaments which adorn them  have some kind of religious and cultural connotation.  The three threads of a braid are symbolic of  the confluence of the three most important rivers in India - the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati. Furthermore, the three threads can be said to symbolize the trinity gods of  Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.  The depiction god Vishnu in reclining posture on the coiled bed of 5 headed Adishesha - serpent symbolizes the   endless cycle of creation, preservation and destruction;  hence serpent is frequently   depicted in jewelry worn by women, in particular  The magnificent piece has an estimate of £25,000-30,000...........
hair braid jewelry

Above image:  It was a common tradition in South India to equate the braid and the serpent together to represent wealth and fertility. This can be seen in lot 131 with a repoussé gold hair braid ornament surmounted by a panel depicting a five-headed cobra (Jadai Nagam). In Hinduism  worship of snakes as minor deities is common, and in most temples one can stone images of Cobra in  the prakara Perhaps, it a way to protect the devotees from cobras. Further,  the phallic symbolism of the snake  has links with God Shiva  and is  therefore  associated with fertility. A good example is the  famous Nagaraja temple - "Mannarasala" in Haripad, Kerala where there are 100,000 stone images of  cobra. Couples without a child go the  temple to be blessed with a baby and install the statue when their wish is fulfilled.   Estimate of this lot was  £15,000-20,000...........................

3 golden Amulets

Above image: Golden amulets or taveez -  each of bucolical form  made from sheet gold and strung on black thread, decorated with concentric registers, divided in two with a central band of horizontal angular ribs; south Indian origin  (probably Tamil Nadu) 19th or early 20th century the largest 19cm. long (the bead) 624 g. (total weight) (3).................. 

Bonham's  temple jewelry collection June 2012.  The lot is a single-owner collection of 17th, 18th and 19th century Indian temple jewelry sold by Bonhams through private treaty.  Made to honour Hindu gods like Shiva, Krishna and Nandi the 28-piece collection was put together by a Spain-based collector.  The estimated value  of the lot  was between £300,000 and £400,000,   There are necklaces, hair braids, earrings, pendants, broaches, and solid gold bulls set with jewels. The quality of the gold is higher than the 24-carat gold commonly used in the west.  They are tributes to the deities, fine  works of art beautifully made of gold, diamonds and rubies combined with centuries old Indian craftsmanship.  

The temple jewelry  normally  stored in a temple treasury/ safe vault will be taken out  to adorn the gods on festive occasions and holidays. Alice Bailey, Head of Bonhams Indian and Islamic Department said:  Alice Bailey, Head of Bonham's Indian and Islamic Department, says: "The collection is in immaculate condition. Its value lies in the wide variety, good quality and sheer range of temple jewelry seen among these  lovely pieces."  “The collection is in wonderful condition''. 


Buddha in copper, 500 to 700 AD in England museum

Engineer Harris with the Buddha statue.

Above images Top: The Sultanganj Buddha at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Great Britain.

This rare copper statue of Buddha was  cast between the Gupta and Pala reigns, 500-700 AD;  the largest, mostly complete statue of Buddha in copper from that era.

bottom:  Weighing 500 kg it was found and excavated from Sultanganj, Bhagalpur district, north India by a British railway engineer, E B Harris who sent it to Birmingham. Photograph: Kind courtesy Kaptain Kobold/Wikimedia Commons forest glade.

Ganesa idol in copper alloy.

Above image:   According to  Pratapaditya Pal, an Indian scholar of Southeast Asian and Himalayan art  this  small but charming bronze...may well be from the Western Himalaya and reflects the Pratihara style. Framed by a simple arch [Ganesha] stands in the posture of a resting dancer with his right foot in kunchita pose with the heel raised.........................

Mini copper idols of Vishnu, Vaishnavi and a

Above image:  The three miniature figures  of  Vishnu, Vaishnavi and a Rishi dating back to the 10th or 11th Century are from the Pala Empire. Spread over regions of Bihar and Bengal, the Pala dynasty ruled for 400 years and its rulers were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism.........