Indian Royal Jewels
I thought it would be interesting to post pictures and information regarding the stunning jewels of Indian Royals.
Trappings of a monarchy
The glory of Indian royalty and the mystique of its stunning collections of precious stones form much of the substance of Maharajas' Jewels. While bringing alive the fairy-tale-like feudal past, it presents a pictorial survey of lapidary styles — from 11th Century temple sculptures to the wave of Orientalism in Western jewellery and fashion design in the heyday of the Raj, says ZERIN ANKLESARIA.
Prabhu Narayan Singh, 1900, Maharaja of Benares, wearing a striking array of royal jewels, mostly emeralds and diamonds. The gem-studded epaulettes are fringed with seed pearls.
"FROM the east to western Ind/No jewel is like Rosalind," sang besotted Orlando in the Forest of Arden. Indeed, in story and in legend, fabled India was synonymous with precious stones and wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, and with good reason as Katherine Prior and John Adamson show in Mapin's sumptuous book.
For 2,000 years, the Deccan plateau was the world's only source of diamonds and, except for emerald, coral and turquoise, every conceivable gem was available in the subcontinent, in such profusion as to make Western adventurers salivate. Rubies were found in Burma and Ceylon, topaz, beryl, garnet, amethyst and pearl in Ceylon and Southern India, and spinels and deep blue sapphires in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
The uses of jewellery went far beyond personal adornment. Associated almost exclusively with royalty, it was an emblem of power, and a change of ownership made a strong political statement. Further, as gems were thought to be concentrations of cosmic energy, their value bordered on the magical. No ruler, for instance, was without a navratna, a powerful talisman against evil, which cured disease and bestowed upon the wearer wealth, prosperity and peace of mind.
Medieval accounts of the riches of the East are scarce but highly coloured. Sir John Mandeville, who probably never set foot in Asia, described a valley in the vicinity of the Ganga, the floor of which was littered with gold and gems. But should a covetous Christian venture within, a hundred devils were waiting to tear him to pieces. Marco Polo, like many Europeans after him, remarked on the curious fact that local potentates wore minimal clothing with loads of jewellery. The King of Maabar (Tanjore?) was dressed only in a loincloth fringed with rubies, sapphires and emeralds and a waist-length necklace of 104 pearls and large rubies. Gold bracelets and anklets, and rings on his fingers and toes thickly studded with gems completed the picture of barbaric splendour, "their piece exceeding that of a fine city".
Dalip Singh, deposed boy-king of the Punjab, George Duncan Beechey, 1852
This was but a prelude to the magnificence of the Mughals, whose favourite horses and elephants were as opulently bedecked. As for the Emperors themselves, Sir Thomas Roe was stunned to see Jahangir on his birthday in 1617 covered in diamonds and rubies "as great as walnuts", and enormous pearls. His sword and throne were thickly bejewelled, as were "his head, necke, breast, armes, above the elbows, at the wrists, his fingers every one with at least two or three rings ... "
Jahangir's treasury, described by William Hawkins, contained more than 37 kg of large diamonds, as many rubies, twice the weight in emeralds, semiprecious stones to infinity, 1,000 gem studded saddles, 2,000 turban ornaments, and several thrones, royal umbrellas and lances.
The Indore Pear diamonds were sold to Tukoji Rao Holkar in the 1910s by Chaumet. They were set in turn by Chaumet, Mauboussin, and after their sale by Yashwant Rao Holkar in 1946, by Harry Winston of New York.
Exceptionally valuable gems were gifted from father to son, acquiring a dynastic significance. There was the 184 carat ruby worth Rs. 1,25,000 at the time, and the Akbar Shah diamond of 116 carats inscribed with the names of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. The ruby, considered auspicious, passed from Akbar's mother to her son, her grandson and great grandson, and was worn by the Emperors as a turban ornament, that distinctive Mughal emblem of royalty adopted, after them, by all Indian rulers, Hindu or Muslim.
Sometimes the ornament, or sarpech, was fastened to the turban with strings of pearls or diamonds as the cover picture of Dalip Singh, the deposed boy-king of Punjab shows. In others its base was a crown or tiara placed over the turban. This book has some breath-taking reproductions of this truly regal adornment, which could impact an air of kingly hauteur to the plainest physiognomy.
The fabulous Mughal treasure was dispersed as the Empire declined. A part went to finance Aurangzeb's never-ending wars against the idol-worshipping infidel, a fact not mentioned in this book but sufficiently elsewhere. Many valuable pieces fell into the hands of local princes who gifted them to Clive or Hastings or Queen Victoria herself as the balance of power changed. The worst blow was struck by Nadir Shah, who sacked Delhi in 1739 and carried off the Peacock Throne and several legendary diamonds, among them the Koh-i-Nur and the Akbar Shah.
After the Mutiny of 1857, India's jewels remained largely in the hands of the rulers of the princely states, and much of the book is concerned with these colourful characters, their wealth and their women, their extravagant life-styles and their chequered fortunes.
A painted lead model for a turban ornament, featuring the Indore Pear diamonds, designed for Yashwant Rao Holkar of Indore by Mauboussin, 1935.
Sayaji Rao III was an illiterate village urchin grubbing around with goats and chickens till the age of 12. Then, in a single day, he was chosen to rule Baroda, one of the richest Indian states. Fluently multi-lingual and widely travelled, he became the greatest of Baroda's rulers. Throughout his long reign, he showed a genuine concern for his people's welfare and a sturdy refusal to kow-tow to the British. The educational institutions which he endowed are symbols of excellence to this day.
While Sayaji Rao gained a throne, Dalip Singh of Punjab lost one at about the same age. His father left him a fabulous treasure, including the 186 carat Koh-i-Nur diamond taken from the Afghan ruling dynasty who had appropriated it on the death of Nadir Shah; and the rose-pink Timur ruby inscribed with the names of the Mughal, Persian and Afghan kings who had owned it in succession. When the British forced him to abdicate, these priceless gems were presented to Queen Victoria.
For decades the leading designers of French Academicians' swords, the Parisian jewellery house of Chaumet also ventured, in the 20th Century, into designing swords for Indian princes.
Soon Dalip Singh converted to Christianity and migrated to England where the Queen, whose linking for exotic males belied her reputation for prudery, took a fancy to him. In those heady days he became the court favourite, "Queen Victoria's Maharaja", but gradually his pride re-asserted itself. In late middle age he reconverted to Sikhism and made an abortive attempt to regain his throne. Six years later he died a broken man, having sought and received the Queen's forgiveness.
The most flamboyant of the princes was undoubtedly Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, whose lust for women and food, travel and sport, and jewellery of course, was legendary. Of emeralds alone he possessed 1,432 huge ones, weighing an unbelievable 7,800 carats. Proud inheritor of the magnificent De Beers diamond, at 234.5 metric carats, one of the world's largest, he got Cartier of Paris to create a spectacular five-stringed necklace shaped like a bib to showcase it. Containing literally thousands of coloured diamonds, "pink, yellow, greenish, ... pale brown, all as large as my thumbnails," it sent rivers of light cascading down his imposing chest, according to bedazzled observers.
Ranjitsinhji of Nawanagar, the peerless Ranji of the cricketing world, was the most loved of the princes, quite unlike Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. The latter, an ardent Francophile, built himself a pretentious Versailles-like palace where the long-suffering servants were ordered about in French and wore perukes to wait on his guests. The interiors featured pink, buxom females without even a fig-leaf on, cavorting all over the ceilings, walls and panels to the amusement of foreign visitors.
The emeralds in Queen Mary's Delhi Durbar necklace were a gift from the `Ladies of India'. The necklace was made by Garrard and presented to the Queen in Delhi by a deputation of women headed by the Maharani of Patiala.
The glory and evanescence of kingship and the mystique of precious stones are recreated with verve and elegance in Maharajas' Jewels. The book has a fairytale fascination enhanced by the illustrations which present a pictorial survey of lapidary styles, starting with 11th Century temple sculpture and ending with the settings created for royal jewels by Cartier, Boucheron and Harry Winston of New York in the heyday of the Raj. There is a stunning array of turban ornaments, necklaces, ear-rings and single stones, and charming reproductions of Mughal miniature paintings.
The feudal past comes alive in the splendid portraits of royalty in full regalia, the photographs of palaces and luxurious interiors, and curiosities such as the Bahawalpur bed. Made of teakwood covered with silver filigree, it had a life-size female figure at each corner with natural hair and movable eyes. At the press of a button they would gently fan the sleeping Nawab to the sound of soothing music. This reviewer was delighted to see the most famous of royal gizmos, the silver "port and dessert train" which ran on tracks circling the banqueting table at the Gwalior palace and which, at the behest of the Maharaja, sped furiously past diners who were over-fond of their triple.
In a book so prodigal of riches one finds, unbelievably, neither an index nor a glossary. So, if one wants to know exactly what a bazubandh is, or a jigha, or to reread the story of The Second Mrs. Simpson, one must trawl doggedly through the book, all 200 pages of it. With the illustrations the situation is worse, for they are not numbered or listed anywhere, and there is no indication of any kind, marginal or bracketed, of the figure corresponding to a description in the text. As a result this reviewer spent thrice as much time turning pages as reading and writing, with her stress levels mounting the while. These basic reference tools are provided as a matter of course in less prestigious publications, and there can be no excuse for their omission here. Maharajas' Jewels, Katherine Prior and John Adamson, Mapin Publishing, p.200, Rs.3,000.
By Kumud Mohan
The Nizam of Hyderabad’s jewels are on display for the first time ever. Going by the huge crowds outside the National Museum in Delhi, no one seems to mind the expensive entry tickets.
Never before did the National Museum in New Delhi witness so much activity, such enthusiasm and yes, such a unified sense of pride about being an Indian. Since last month, the museum rose from being the monumental morgue to becoming the destination for people from different parts of the country and abroad. And for once, everybody seemed keen to shell out the Rs 50 for the entry ticket, and not mind being searched publicly and frisked, sometimes a little embarrassingly, as they waited patiently in a queue that ran half the length of the massive museum.
It was all for a good cause. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a 30-minute glimpse of the world’s greatest treasure-the Nizam’s jewels. Gems and jewellery mostly kept locked inside the toshakhana (treasury) of a palace, worn only on state occasions and seen only by privileged visitors were now open to the public eye.
There was much speculation as the serpentine queues progressed somewhat slowly towards the high security walls. But the enthusiasm didn’t wane, not even for a minute. Someone said that after the exhibition came to a close, towards the middle of this month, the jewels would be taken to Hyderabad. Shouldn’t such a truly representative repository of India’s cultural heritage be retained in the capital, asked his friend. Nobody had an answer. And frankly, no one thought it merited one. The moment was now and the collection in its glory.
As for the museum staff, never had they felt so important. It had taken five months to put the arrangements in place. The whole area was under the surveillance of armed guards from the Central Industrial Security Force. Closed circuit TVs and a special monitoring device with X-rays had been installed to check bags. Occasionally the security personnel would point out a cell phone, cigarette lighter or Walkman on the screen. These had to be then deposited in the lockers outside the exhibition area.
Understandably, nobody wanted to take a risk with a collection that was bought by the government for Rs 218 crore two decades ago and is now considered 10 times that amount. For 50 long years the greatest treasure known to mankind remained hidden inside dark metallic vaults. Its initial owner, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad, who died a citizen of free India in 1967, had hoped to pass it down to his progeny numbering around 200. But after litigation that lasted 23 years, a national quest finally fructified as a national bequest when the government of India acquired the collection of the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad and displayed it for the first time to the general public in New Delhi from August 29.
The collection comprises outstanding specimens of Rajasthani, Lucknowi and Hyderabadi workmanship. There are in all 173 pieces of rare value and antiquity. These range from rings, necklaces, belts, brooches, buttons and studded swords to diamond- encrusted images of animals and birds. By far, the most numerous and strikingly elaborate among these are sarpech or turban crests that became the hallmark of Indian nobility after a royal injunction in Queen Victoria's reign that no British subject may wear anything resembling a crown.
Presently the largest diamond possessed by India is the Jacob, a part of the Nizam's collection. It was obtained from African mines as late as 1867. At 184.75 carats, the Jacob is almost twice the size of the Kohinoor as it exists today. The Jacob, which was purchased in 1891 by the sixth Nizam, Mahboob Ali Pasha, was kept as a simple stone in his collection. It was discovered several years after his death by his son, the seventh Nizam, in one of his slippers, and was used as a paperweight by the latter.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Ala Hazrat Lieutenant General His Exalted Highness Asaf Jah Muzafar-ul-Mulk wal Mamlik, Nizam-ul-Mulk, Nizam-ud-Dowla, Nawab Sir Mir Osman Ali Khan Bahadur, Fateh Jung, Rustam-e-Dauran, Arastu-e-Zaman, Sipah Salar, or simply, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad- considered the richest man in the world- was probably the most whimsical.
His clothes rarely looked ironed and he'd wear the same cap for years together (unlike his father, the sixth Nizam, who'd devoted a whole wing of his palace to his wardrobe and would never wear the same dress twice). Visitors to the seventh Nizam’s Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad would be astounded to find undusted rooms cluttered with bundles of different sizes and shapes, scattered all over the place.
Many of these may have contained the Nizam's fabled jewels, they surmised, but though they were convinced that the Nizam knew exactly where all his gems were kept, no one would have dared to express their curiosity to His Exalted Highness. People believed that the Nizam personally carried the key to his vaults in a lining in his vest and he alone could set his eyes on the entire collection.
The Nizam was the seventh generation heir to the richest region of the land. He ascended the throne in 1911, the year of King George V's Durbar in Delhi. The area of his dominion, equal in size to Italy, stretched from the river Tapti down to Trichinopally and Madurai (minus a small strip dominated by the Marathas), encompassing the legendary Golconda mines and reaching out to the entire east coast.
The Golconda mines were the sole suppliers of diamonds to the world till the beginning of the 18th century, when these precious stones were discovered for the first time in Brazil. By a royal injunction, the best of the mined gems were to be offered to the Nizam for his treasury. Added to this, the Nizam's personal estate yielded Rs 25 million a year in an era when the rupee could compete with the pound and the dollar from a much stronger position than it does today. To crown this was the typical Indian feudal tradition of nazrana.
Any subject bringing a petition to the king, regardless of the outcome, was expected to offer a handsome gift (minimum being one gold and four silver sovereigns) for being granted the privilege of a royal audience. Besides nazrana, gifts in the form of gold or jewels from gazetted officers found their way to the palace during the Id festival and on the Nizam's birthday. Sometimes the Nizam would randomly send a delicacy like a mango to some subject to get back nazar as an expression of the latter's gratitude. If the Nizam happened to honour some nobleman by visiting his home or by attending some function, gratification again took the form of jewels or gold sovereigns.
The Nizam of Hyderabad was not educated in a public school like the other princes of his time. Taught entirely by British and Indian tutors within the confines of his palace, and being well aware of his important position in the universe that revolved around him, he disbursed his wealth guided by his own wisdom and judgement. Though he did not lend much credence to the rising voice of the Hindu majority in his province, he spent considerable sums in improving their living conditions.
The seventh Nizam was an able administrator. Issuing his own currency, he encouraged financial reform, maintained a private army, acquired a major railway network, and, after the deplorable extravagance and excesses of his father, led his state to an enviable credit position.
However, while Mir Osman Ali Khan's name is associated with his legendary wealth, he is also remembered for being the staunchest ally of the British in India. He was the greatest individual benefactor of the British during the two World Wars, providing for naval vessels as well as Royal Air Force squadrons. In recognition, he was honoured as Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India in 1911, the Knight Grand Cross of the British Empire in 1917 and the Royal Victorian Chain in 1946.
The Nizam savoured a life of heavenly treasures coupled with worldly comforts and pleasures. A magnificent obsession that had little to do with the reality around. In 1947, when the British withdrew, the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad refused to submit to Indian sovereignty. Placing a case for an independent state before the United Nations, he rejected an Indian ultimatum. Finally, he was obliged to surrender to Indian troops in September 1948. He was appointed Rajpramukh, or a constitutional president who had to act on the advice of a cabinet of ministers responsible to an elected legislature.
The stature of the Nizam was further reduced in 1956, when his dominion was trifurcated during the general reorganisation of Indian states on a linguistic basis. The Nizam then withdrew into splendid retirement with three wives, 42 concubines, 200 children, 300 servants and aging retainers, including a private army. He provided pensions to some 10,000 dependents and serfs of his former empire and even aided Muslim refugees from Palestine.
Linked with the past
The coveted Golden Bird-sone ki chiriya-shone for centuries: inexorably alluring adventurers, wayfarers and plunderers towards it.
Little wonder. For India was the sole supplier of diamonds to the world till 1725 when diamond mines were discovered in Brazil. The world’s most famous diamonds-the Kohinoor, Darya-i-noor, Taj-e-Mah, and the Hope- came from India. There is no record of when they were discovered here, but Alexander the Great is said to have seen them in 323 BC.
According to Encyclopedia Brittannica, Indian women were “the first to decorate themselves with huge quantities of jewels”. Their clothing consisted of “tiaras, necklaces, earrings, armlets, bracelets, belts and toe rings worn on their bare skin and complemented by nothing more than precious veils and scarves.”
Men, women and children, irrespective of their caste, religion or economic status, wore jewellery on special ceremonial occasions as well as part of their everyday apparel. Jewellery added to ornamentation and the gems were valued for their inherent prophylactic and curative qualities.
A large variety of precious gems were popular in the Indian subcontinent while far off lands were busy spinning tales about them. The Brhat Samhita, a 6th century text dealing with several subjects of human interest, lists the variety of pearls obtained from different parts of the country. The pearls from the Gulf of Manaar, off the eastern coast of South India, were the most ancient.
Marco Polo, the famous Venetian traveller, gives a vivid description of kings of the Coromandel coast in the 13th century. “The king...goes stark naked, except for a handsome loin cloth with a fringe all round it set with precious stones-rubies, sapphires, emeralds and other brilliant gems-so that this scrap of cloth is worth a fortune. Slung round his neck is a cord of fine silk which hangs down a full pace in front of him, and strung on his necklace are 104 beads, consisting of large and beautiful pearls and rubies of immense value... What need of more words? Suffice it that he wears in all so many gems and pearls that their price exceeds that of a fine city.”
That was a long, long time ago. There are no longer any pearls and gems in any of the kingdoms today. And after the exhibition draws to a close this month, you are unlikely to come this close to India’s gems and jewels. Due to security reasons, the government will probably not hold similar exhibitions for the public in future. History will have to remain on bookshelves.
Nizam's jewellery set to return to AP
Syed Amin Jafri in Hyderabad | June 12, 2005 20:42 IST
Erstwhile Nizam of Hyderabad's fabulous jewellery collection will be put up for permanent display in its home city soon to give a fillip to 'heritage tourism'.
Indian Tourism Minister Renuka Chowdhury told Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy on Saturday that the Centre has taken a decision in principle to bring back the Nizam's jewellery to Hyderabad on a permanent basis. A new facility will be built in the sprawling Public Gardens in the heart of the city for this purpose. Alternatively, the building currently housing the Health Museum will be vacated to make way for jewellery display.
For four decades, the fabulous jewellery collection of the Nizam was kept in the safe vaults of HSBC at Mumbai. In 1995, the Centre bought the famed jewellery collection for Rs 218 crore after protracted legal wrangles. Since then, the priceless collection is being kept in the safe vaults of the Reserve Bank of India at Mumbai.
The 173-piece collection comprises 325 pieces, accounting for pairs and groups of ornaments, not including the 22 unset emeralds and the Jacob's diamond. The collection includes turban ornaments, necklaces, earrings, armbands, bracelets, belts, buttons and cuff links, anklets, watch chains and rings-- all jewels once worn by the Nizams of Hyderabad, their wives, children and grandchildren.
The jewellery pieces also include rubies and spinels from Burma (now Myanmar), emeralds from Colombia and pearls from Basra, a diamond set made in France, diamond studded images of camels, gold ingots, a seven-strand pearl necklace with 150 large and 230 small pearls with a two-diamond pendant, a pair of bracelets studded with 270 diamonds and the famed Jacob's diamond, the seventh biggest diamonds in the world with 184.75 carats.
The rare collection, dating from the early 18th century to early 20th century, is currently worth a massive Rs 10,000 crore, according to the Department of Culture, which acquired it a decade ago. The Jacob's Diamond alone is said to be worth Rs 400 crore.
Nizam jewellery collection to return to Hyderabad
Monday 13th of June, 2005 The historic jewellery collection belonging to the Nizam dynasty is to return to Hyderabad, India to be on permanent display.
The collection, dating from the early 18th century to the early 20th century, belonged to members of the Nizam family who ruled the region for several centuries.
For many years the jewellery, acquired by the Department of Culture ten years ago, has been kept in the safe vaults of banks in Mumbai, but now it is to be housed in a specially-built new facility in Hyderabad's Public Gardens, or in the building currently used as the Health Museum.
Comprising 325 pieces, including gold ingots, turban ornaments, necklaces, earrings, armbands, bracelets and anklets, the collection includes the famous Jacob's diamond, the seventh largest diamond in the world at 184.75 carats.
The total value of the collection is estimated at 100 billion rupees (£1.3 billion
The Nizam's jewels
The jewellery collection that once belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad arrives in New Delhi for public display.
PURNIMA S. TRIPATHI
in New Delhi
THE government's decision to display at the National Museum the jewellery collection that once belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad has created much excitement in New Delhi. One of the most fabulous collections of its kind in the world, it was kept in the safe vaults of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in Mumbai owing to protracted litigation over the treasure. The date of the exhibition itself was initially a highly guarded secret. Officials of the Ministry of Culture and those of the National Museum were tight-lipped about it, for "security reasons".
BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
http://www.flonnet.com/fl1815/18150981.jpg Headgear, studded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies.
The only piece of information that was doing the rounds in the capital was that the collection would be on display at the museum's jewellery section for a month from August 14. "We cannot talk about it because of the dangers involved. We will let you know at the right time," said Vaidyanathan Aiyer, Secretary, Department of Culture. Officials at the National Museum, including R.D. Chaudhary, its Director-General, were even more evasive.
If the government's decision created tremendous curiosity among historians, art students, connoisseurs of fine jewellery and journalists, it was only heightened by the secretive manner in which the fabled treasure, valued anywhere between Rs.1,870 crores and Rs.2,500 crores, was brought to New Delhi on July 2 from Mumbai. Interestingly, even as news about the display spread, books on Nizam's jewellery "disappeared" from the National Museum library. "All these books seem to have been issued," said a member of the library staff.
BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
http://www.flonnet.com/fl1815/18150982.jpg A piece of headgear.
After a month's display at the National Museum, the collection is likely to be taken to the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. According to officials in the Department of Culture, once the government's decision to display the jewellery was known, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu staked his State's claim to it, saying that it was part of Hyderabad's heritage and culture. It is learnt that Chandrababu Naidu sent six letters to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee before extracting a promise from him that the jewellery will be sent to the Salar Jung Museum. "The treasure belongs to the State of Andhra Pradesh and there is no controversy about where it should be kept. Obviously at the Salar Jung Museum, which has other relics from the Nizam era too among its exhibits. The jewellery is a part of our history and heritage," said a senior official of the Andhra Pradesh government. Officials at the Department of Culture in New Delhi, however, refused to comment on this.
The treasure comprises 173 pieces of rare value and antiquity. Among them are the uncut Jacob Diamond, one of the seven biggest diamonds in the world, weighing 184.75 carats; a seven-strand pearl necklace strung with 150 large and 230 small pearls, with a two-diamond pendant attached to it; a pair of bracelets studded with 270 diamonds, 22 fine partially uncut and unmounted emeralds weighing 414.25 carats; and a diamond-set belt made in France by Oscar Massi Pieres. There are also rings, brooches, buttons, studded swords, diamond-studded images of camels, gold ingots and so on. This explains the extraordinary security arrangements at the National Museum. Casual frisking of visitors at the entrance has now given way to a careful body search with metal detectors. A closed-circuit television system has been installed. The entire area is under surveillance by the Central Industrial Security Force.
THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY
http://www.flonnet.com/fl1815/18150983.jpg Ear-rings studded with diamonds and rubies. (Right) A pendant with a 200-carat emerald drop.
THE royal treasure left the palace of the seventh and last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, in 1948, shortly after he decided on the princely state's accession to the Indian Union. He created two trusts and stipulated that the jewels should not be sold during the lifetime of his eldest son Azam Jah. At his instance, the jewellery was kept in the vaults of the Flora Fountain branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in Mumbai and the trusts paid a sum to the bank for the care of the collection. The trusts decided to sell the jewellery in 1970, after the death of Azam Jah.
http://www.flonnet.com/fl1815/18150984.jpg The seventh and last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, with his grandsons Mukarram Jah Bahadur and Mufakkam Jah Bahadur, wearing some of the jewels.
Litigation began in the Supreme Court in 1979 when news broke about the trustees' attempt to auction a part of the collection (Frontline, January 27, 1995). Auctioneers from all over the world were invited to New Delhi, but the auction was stopped at the intervention of Union Education Minister Dr. Karan Singh and the late Dr. Laxmi Prasad Sihare, who headed the National Gallery of Arts. Sihare convinced Karan Singh that the jewellery collection was part of the national heritage and hence could not be allowed to be auctioned to foreigners. As the auction was about to begin, Sihare arrived with a stay order and stopped it. Litigation continued for 16 years. Sihare took over as the Director-General of the National Museum in 1984 and personally pursued the case until he retired in 1991. He passed away in 1993. The government of India won the case in 1995 and bought the jewellery from the Nizam for Rs.218 crores. The jewellery was kept with the RBI because the government could not decide where to display it. Historians and art lovers who were associated with Sihare describe the Government's move to display the jewellery at the National Museum as a "personal victory" for him. "He has been vindicated after all these years. But for him, the nation would have lost this priceless collection as it did in the case of the Kohinoor," said a close associate of Sihare.
By Lavina Melwani
From glass bangles and silver trinkets of the rural people to the feather and shell adornments of the tribals to the glittering gold and gemstone finery of the wealthy, jewelry has always been an idiom of the social, cultural and religious life of India.
http://www.littleindia.com/archive/F...s/Jewelry3.jpgIndia, like no other country on our planet, can rightfully boast of an unbroken heritage of jewelry design that spans at least five thousand years and extends back into antiquity," says Oppi Untracht, chronicler extraordinaire of Indian crafts and author of Traditional Jewelry of India. As he notes of its people, "By adorning the visible, material body, they also seek to satisfy a universal longing for the embellishment of its intangible counterpart: the human spirit."
From the glass bangles and silver trinkets of the rural people to the feather and shell adornments of the tribals to the glittering gold and gemstone finery of the wealthy, jewelry has always been an idiom of the social, cultural and religious life of the country. From the mighty temple idols to the bullock pulling the load, everyone is entitled to adornment.
Now a veritable treasure chest of over 300 diverse pieces of jewelry has washed up on the shores of New York, attesting to India's fabled wealth. 'India: A Jewelry Spectrum' was on display at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts Bard Graduate Center in New York at the close of 1998.
The exhibition showcased remarkable pieces from private collectors in the U.S., Brussels and Finland as well as two museums, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Barbier-Mueller Museum in Geneva. It was curated by Untracht, an American who lives in Finland.
Untracht certainly knows his subject well having been on the trail of Indian jewelry for the last 40 years. He studied jewelry design in New York and his interest in Indian jewelry ignited when he saw an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1954. He recalls, "One day the collection disappeared, and I learned that it had descended to an underworld storage room to make space for renovations. Now I am sure it was reclaimed by Nagas, those mythological Indian snakes who rule the nether regions and whose duty it is to protect gemstones."
So smitten was he by the magnificent jewelry that he decided to travel to India and see it for himself. He went there on a Fulbright grant in the 60's and since then has made several visits to India, researching jewelry making across the country.
"Overwhelmed by what I saw and experienced, India changed the course of my entire life and gave it direction," says Untracht. Accompanied by his wife Saara, who died in 1984, he made several trips to India. He traveled by air, rail, bus, taxi, tonga and bullock cart to remote areas from the deserts of Kachch to the Himalayan trails in Himachal Pradesh, documenting the diverse jewelry through photographs and notes.
"India really is a living museum without walls," says Untracht. "In that one country you have simultaneously going on all levels of cultural development, from the most primitive to the most sophisticated. It's also rare in that it's had a history of at least 5,000 years of consistent production of jewelry, starting from Mohenjodaro. I don't think there's any country in the world that has that kind of record in this field."
http://www.littleindia.com/archive/F...s/jewelry1.jpgAs he writes in his detailed and knowledgeable book, "Rarely is an Indian traditional ornament simply decorative and devoid of inherent meaning or symbolic value. Symbols found in traditional Indian jewelry act as a metaphorical language communicated from the wearer to the viewer." He adds that this symbolism often relates to popular magic or theological metaphysics, which involve the concerns, aspirations and fears of the people. Thus amulets bestow protection on the wearer, symbols of the fish denote fertility while plants, seeds and vines in the design vocabulary stand for reproduction.
Untracht points out that religion, be it Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism or Jainism, remains the major motivation for wearing jewelry, "whether it be a simple amulet used by the poor and uneducated to propitiate an animist spirit or an elaborate precious metal, gem-studded crown honoring a Hindu deity."
Indeed birth and marriage and all the occasions of life are entwined with religion and have their own symbolic jewelry. He writes, "By custom, almost every bride is provided with a dowry whose composition and value depend upon economic circumstances and are previously agreed upon by the families concerned. In many communities, requirements are so precise as to particularize obligatory ornaments, a custom that perpetuates specific traditional jewelry forms."
http://www.littleindia.com/archive/F...les/jewel2.jpgUntracht's labor of love shows in his comprehensive book which takes readers through a jeweled journey from the earliest Paleolithic ornaments in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, use of ash, mud and pigment, floral garlands, string ornaments such as the sacred thread and rakhi, and the feather and shell ornaments of the Nagas and other tribals.
He details the many rosaries of India from the Hindu to the Buddhist to the Muslim, showing how faith creates the flowering of ornaments. He discusses the marriage jewelry such as ivory, lac and glass bangles, nose ornaments and the mangalsutram and the thali - north and south Indian marriage ornaments.
There is temple jewelry, the navratna gemstones and the five maharatnani gemstones - each with a fascinating story behind it. Equally intriguing is the Mughal jewelry tradition that influences even today's creations. There are intricate craft methods which are practiced even today - enameling, engraving, gemstone setting and patu'a work or yarn craft in jewelry. Untracht also discusses Euro-Indian and Indo-European jewelry, showing how east and west have influenced each other. In fact, this book touches upon every imaginable aspect of Indian jewelry and browsing through it is enough to give one a feel for this fascinating subject.
The jewelry in the exhibition was divided into three broad categories: tribal, rural and urban. There are also sections devoted to special techniques, Indo-European jewelry and marriage jewelry. The range is truly eclectic: there are necklaces of carnelian, glass, conch shell beads and bone separators from Nagaland; bandliers of Pangolin claws, brass disk beads and cotton cloth from Mizoram; hair ornaments from Ladakh; silver hair braid ornaments from Orissa; silver cuff bracelets from Rajasthan; and necklaces with marriage badge from Tamil Nadu.
http://www.littleindia.com/archive/F...les/jewel4.jpgThere are also Muslim rosaries of rock crystal and carnelian from Khambat in Gujarat and nine planet rosary from Tamil Nadu, made of carved semiprecious gemstone beads. There are Hindu amulets as well as Shi'ah Muslim amulets, lingam containers from Karnataka and Hanuman pectoral plaques from Maharashtra.
The marriage jewelry includes glass bangles from Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh, gold nath or nose ring from Himachal Pradesh, the Chettiar marriage necklace with thali from Tamil Nadu and even a rival-wife pendant (sautin) from Madhya Pradesh. As Untracht notes: "When one realizes that all these objects have been handmade with elementary tools, one cannot help but be amazed by the ingenuity and skill of the traditional jeweler, who generally is anonymous."
As he points out, India is the world's largest consumer of gold and silver, and a large amount of the gold discovered in many parts of the world eventually finds its way into India. Yet, unfortunately, fine old pieces of jewelry are hard to come by because those made of precious metal and gemstones are often melted down to make new creations. It is a way of life in India and says Untracht, "It is a process that parallels the Hindu concept of the eternal cycle of creation, preservation and destruction through which everything passes."
On November 10,1616,Sir Thomas Roe had gone to Ajmer to witness the departure of Emperor Jehangir from this princely state of Rajasthan and found himself dazzled by the splendor of the Emperor's jewelry, which he described in great detail.......
"On his head he wore a rich turban with a plume of heron tops (kalgi) not many, but long; on one side hung an unset ruby, as big as a walnut; on the other side a diamond as great; in the middle an emerald like a heart, much bigger.In Rajasthan, men and women traditionally wore necklaces, armlets, anklets, earrings and rings. With the advent of the Mughal Empire, Rajasthan became a major center for production of the finest kind of jewelry. It was a true blend of the Mughal with the Rajasthani craftsmanship. The Mughals brought sophisticated design & technical know-how of the Persians with them. The common link was the inherently decorative nature of the Muslim and Hindu Art. The synthesis of the cultures resulted in a period of grandeur and brilliance that dazzled the eyes of foreigners and has passed into legend. The jewellers of Rajasthan specialized in the setting of precious stones into gold and enameling of gold. Jaipur, and to some extent Alwar, emerged as the enameling centers par excellence in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Enameling was introduced by Maharaja Man Singh who had cordial relations with Akbar. The enameled gold staff of the Maharaja is unsurpassed even today for its brilliant colours.
THE MASCULINE JEWELLERY
Vanity, a love of opulence and deep aesthetic sense gave the Rajas and Ranis of Rajasthan a great fondness for jewelry. The men were as elaborately and dazzlingly dressed as the women, with jewelry that often rivaled that of their wives. It was a status symbol and a portable display of wealth, and consequently, power.THE FEMININE JEWELLERY
Feminine jewellry is more complex than masculine jewellery. Jewellery in India is worn as a complete ensemble, and not as accessory. It is thus quite acceptable to wear more than one necklace around the neck, also in the ears, on the arms and the ankles, rings on the toes and fingers, ornaments on the forehead, in the hair, and so on, any number to be worn at the same time.TEXTILE ORNAMENTATION
Besides all this jewellery, the saris and the lehengas (long skirts) of the ladies is richly and heavily embroidered with gold and silver threads. A single grain of gold can be drawn to a length of 500 feet. Gold embroidery called Karchopis is done on masnads & elephant trapping fans & canopies. The gold work of Jaipur is also famous.GEMSTONES
Rajasthan excels in wide range of precious and semi-precious jewellery. Exquisite ornaments are made in Jaipur and Jodhpur using emerald, diamond, pearl, garnet, agate and lapiz lazuli.Tanzanite picture Emerald picture
SPECIALISED CENTERS OF JEWELLERY
Rajasthan is a land where tradition has been imbibed into every aspect of life. The jewellery of this culturally rich land reflects the distinctiveness of the region it belongs to.
Shield, 488 millimeters in diameter, rubies, diamonds, emeralds, rock crystal, agate, chalcedony on hammered silver sheet, India, circa 18th Century A.D.
By Michele Leight
The Mughal Emperor Akbar, (1556-1605), created the "Imabat Khana" during his reign, where religious leaders of different faiths were invited to discourse on their philosophies. These included Jesuits, Jews and Hindus. Akbar was the first Muslim ruler perceived to have a tolerant outlook towards other religions, and even structured a new religion called Din-I-Ilahi based on the teachings of all faiths. Perhaps this is why Akbar is so beloved in India, a land richly diverse in religions, dialects and ethnicity; he chose to capitalize on this wealth, to learn from it, which was amazing considering he was himself illiterate and had spent most of his formative years in and around battles as his father, Humayun, who was the Emperor from 1530-1540 and from 1555-6, tried to maintain a foothold in India.
Cup, India, Deccan or Mughal, late 16th-early 17th Century A.D., rock crystal inlaid with gold with rubies, emeralds and dark sapphire blue glass, the stones underlaid with painted minature faces and kingfisher feathers, 85 millimeters in diameter
A cultured and scholarly man, Humayun left to his son a more stable empire than he had inherited; his tomb is one of the glories of New Delhi, India, and was the proto-type for the Taj Mahal, built by his grandson Shah Jehan (1592-1666). In these dark days of fundamentalism and terrorism in the name of Islam, it would be wonderful to have noble Akbar around.
It is the Mughal dynasty which is the subject of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's current show, "Treasury of the World: Jeweled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals" which made its New York debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art having opened at the British Museum in London earlier in the year, with lavish jeweled masterpieces spread across the "billboard" advertisements of London's underground stations providing visual excitement for weary commuters. The exhibition will travel to Cleveland and Houston.
The title of the exhibition is taken from a quote in a letter from the English ambassador to the Mughal court, Sir Thomas Roe, (1580-1644 A.D.), written in 1616 to Prince Charles, later King Charles I, (who was beheaded), in which he describes the emperor Jahangir (1569-1627 A.D.): "In jewels (which is one of his felicityes) here is the treasury of the world" ("Treasury of The World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals," by Manuel Keene, published by Thames & Hudson, $29.95). Jahangir was famous for festooning himself in gems, which made foreign dignitaries re-think their wardrobes so that they did not appear to be the pea-hen to his peacock at high-profile receptions.
It is wonderful to have this dazzling addition to New York's cultural scene, and it is a perfect show for the holiday season after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The New York press preview at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was packed, and the presence of Phillipe de Montebello, the museum's director, gave added weight to one of the most opulent displays of gems ever assembled for public viewing. One can only imagine how such sumptuousness and finery appeared to courtiers, noblemen and ordinary folk back in the days of the Mughal monarchs, for whom many of the humbler items on display (which belonged to courtiers and hangers-on) would have been mere fripperies.
Phillipe De Montebello explained that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had remained steadfast in its resolve to mount the show in the wake of September 11th, in the best interests of art and culture. The exhibition is on loan from the al-Sabah Collection, Kuwait National Museum, Saudi Arabia, and was assembled over three decades by Sheik Nasser Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. The jewelry in the show was created by Muslim and Hindu craftsmen during the three hundred year occupation of the Indian sub-continent by the Mughal dynasty.
The history of the collection is as dramatic as the jewels themselves: the entire treasury was stolen from the Kuwait National Museum (which was burned down) during the Gulf War and carted off to the Iraq Museum in Baghdad by a group of Iraqi archaeologists acting on the orders of their government. Presumably Saddam Hussein wanted the world's most prestigious jewelry box for his personal use. Thanks to the intervention of the UN, most of the original collection was recovered, with the exception of three outstanding carved Indian emeralds, which are still missing.
While the collection is technically Indian, there are numerous techniques and decorative elements showing Islamic influences. The artisan craftsmen responsible for these works of art were both Hindu and Muslim, members of prolific guilds and workshops, and selected for their individual talents and skills and not their religious affiliations. They were bound together by a common goal: in this case, the creation of jeweled artifacts which hold their own with the very best Fabergé and Cartier pieces. The fusion of cultures and traditions of the Indian sub-continent combined with the influences of an Islamic heritage to produce the unique and beautiful Mughal jeweled arts on display at the show.
In his preface to the catalogue, Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah noted that he began to discover his "love of historic art" during his "schooling in Jerusalem in the 1960s." "I was particularly enthralled by the monuments of that ancient city, especially her Islamic monuments, which number in the scores and span the 7th to the 20th centuries A.D. As part of my own heritage, these filled me with pride and planted the germ of curiosity abut the extent of Islamic artistic achievements....it was quite natural for me, as a native of the Gulf region, to feel an affinity with India and Indian art, due to a long familiarity with objects which came from the Subcontient. Indeed, the people of the Gulf have a long familiarity with India herself, a natural and old connection of particular closeness resulting especially from the maritime trade, which goes back to very ancient times and which continued through into the 20th century. There was even a particular and important jewelry industry connection in the form of our Gulf pearls, universally recognized as the best ever known, and the most important destination of which was always India," he wrote. His museum collection covers many aspects of Islamic art, not just Mughal jewels.
The Mughal emperors certainly knew how to live, and were responsible for raising Islamic culture to perhaps the greatest heights it ever achieved; their devotion to poetry, literature, philosophy and the arts and sciences as well as their success in battle and territorial gains was legendary. Fortunately for us, they were sticklers for recording all achievements, which were carefully documented by court-appointed historians, poets and artists in royal "histories," poetry books, manuscripts and illuminated miniature paintings (Mughal miniatures) of great beauty and refinement. The Mughal emperor Akbar had Indian religious texts translated into Persian and Islamic books translated into Sanskrit; 40,000 books were translated during his reign alone. As a rule, all the Mughal emperors loved manuscripts as much as they loved jewelry.
Babur, the first of the great Mughal emperors, was the great-grandson of Timur, or Tamerlane, who died 1405, and was related on his mother's side to the formidable Mongol warrior Chengez Khan. The word "Mughal" comes from the word "Mongol," although Babur preferred to be associated with the Tumurids. By the 1500s the struggles for succession had divided the mighty Central Asian empire (now Uzbekistan) into small warring kingdoms.
At the age of 12, Babur was crowned king in Ferghana, Afghanistan, where he saw camel trains laden with gold, spices and silks from the Indian sub-continent. Later, he was unable to hold the capital of Samarkand in what is now Uzbekistan, once his great-grandfather Timur's domain, and turned his sights southwards and eastwards toward India, which had fascinated him since boyhood. In 1526, 1527, and 1529 he defeated, successively, the armies of the Lodi ruler of Delhi, a coalition of Rajput chiefs, (fierce Hindu warriors), and the Afghans of eastern India, which is where this exhibition picks up, in the year 1526.
Humayun had been active in Babur's campaigns and expanded and established Mughal power, but in 1540 principal control of Hindustan was assumed by the Afghan commander Sher Shah Suri as Humayun's brothers "actively undermined him," according to the exhibition's wall texts, and he was "forced to retreat, first to Sindh, then to Afghanistan, and finally in exile at the court of the Iranian ruler Shah Tahmasp." Aided by Persian forces, he sought to reclaim his kingdom and recapturing the throne of Delhi in 1555 defeating the forces of Sikander Shah Suri only to die a few months later from a fall in the staircase of his library.
Akbar, the wall texts continued, "was the true architect of the Mughal empire" that, at his death was "vast and secure, incorporating all of the Indian subcontinent and eastern Afghanistan, with the exception of the four remaining Deccan sultanates, the far south, and part of Orissa."
Pendant with cameo portrait of the Emperor Shah Jahan, circa 1660 A.D., 33 millimeters in diameter
Akbar was succeeded by Jahangir, who reigned as Emperor from 1605 to 1627 and was succeeded by his son, Shah Jahan, shown above in a cameo portrait in the exhibition, who reigned from 1628 to 1657. Shah Jahan, the wall texts noted, "continued the religious tolerance, wise administration, and general peace and prosperity of his two immediate predecessors, though the influence of religious Muslim parties was increasing....[and] oversaw territorial gains in the Deccan...[and] spent the last eight years of his life in palace detertion, after his son Aurangzeb [who ruled as Emperor from 1658-1707] seized the throne. Shah Jahan is fabled as the builder of the Taj Mahal, a monumental mausoleum for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. He was actively involved in the planning of this masterpiece, along with other architectural projects, and, like his predecessors, he was engaged in artistic patronage of all types. In accounts of his father, Jahangir, and of European travelers he is recorded as having been a practicing jeweler and acknowledged as an outstanding expert on gemstones."
The galleries display jade and jeweled daggers, jade spoons and bowls, royal turban pins and armbands, archery rings, enameled and rock crystal cups, bracelets and staffs encrusted with rubies, precious gems so large they look fake (which they are not) and necklaces straight out of an exotic fairytale, and highly covetable enameled and jeweled boxes, bracelets and pendants. Technical innovations like "kundan," a manual fusion of 24 kt gold foil at room temperature, gave the jeweler greater creative freedom, as did the abundance of precious gems in a land famous for its natural resources in diamonds and gold, Burmese rubies and Sri Lankan emeralds and sapphires. The ability to "set" the gems before the gold hardened allowed great flexibility and creativity.
The "kundan" style dominates the show, and is the essence of "Mughal" jewelry design: Akbar's minister and historian Abu `l-Fazl said of "kundan" that "the gold of the inlayer was made so pure and ductile that the fable of the gold of Parviz which he could mould with his hands becomes credible," the catalogue noted. The repetitive color palette of green, red and white in the designs corresponds to the intensive use of rubies, emeralds and diamonds.
Small bottle, probably Northern India, circa first third 17th Century A.D., 46 millimeters high
The "kundan" technique in jewelry also corresponds to the widespread use of inlaid hardstones in Islamic culture, and typifies the Mughal period in India: just as jewels were inlaid with precious rubies and emeralds, the interior marble walls of famous buildings like the Taj Mahal were inlaid with malachite, tiger's eye, carnelian and lapis lazuli on a staggering scale. The dome of the Taj Mahal once held precious rubies, diamonds, emeralds and sapphires, but they were vandalized over the centuries. The tradition of inlaid hardstones lends itself to tabletops, platters, frames, tiles, and screens, and the craft is very much alive in India today. The technique appears in miniature in rock crystal, jade and agate artifacts at the show.
Historically, the most important piece in the collection is perhaps the "Inscribed Royal Spinel," (better known as the "Balas Ruby"). It bears the inscriptions of 6 monarchs representing 4 dynasties: the first, Timurid, (as in Timur or Tamerlane), Ulug Beg (before 1449 A.D.); the second Safavid, Shah Abbas 1 (dated AD 1617): the third, Mughal, Jahangir, (dated 1621 A.D.); the fourth, Shah Jehan, (the builder of the Taj Mahal, undated); the fifth, his son Alamgir, (Awrangzib), dated 1659-60 A.D.); the sixth and final inscription is Durvani, Ahmad Shah (dated 1754-55 A.D.). The inscriptions on the ruby have been drilled, manually engraved with a diamond-tipped stylus - an innovation in its day - and wheel-cut.
Handle, probably for a staff, 101 millimeters long, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and agate, late 16th-first half 17th Century A.D.
The court-appointed jewelers used precious gems as we might use crystals or sequins, and the results are awesome, as for example the extraordinary "Handle," probably for a staff, (India, Mughal or Deccan, Late 16th-1st Half 17th century A.D.) in the form of the head of a dragon or water creature, shown above. The handle is set with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and agate in gold in the "kundan" technique. Scholars compare the mysterious creature to the Makang the mystical water beast and symbol of the Ganges as well as the more familiar fire-breathing dragons of Iran and it is one of a small group of carved, set gemstones. In these days of minimalism and burglaries it is inconceivable to think of walking around with anything so valuable or ostentatious but, judging by the costumed courtiers in the average Mughal miniature, they were par for the course in an opulent durbar hall.
Dagger and scabbard, India, Mughal, circa 1615-1620 A.D., length of dagger 333 millimeters
A glittering "Dagger and Scabbard" (India, Mughal, circa 1615-20 A.D.) in the first room visually "reverses" the technique applied to the dragon's head "Handle;" the scabbard is set with gemstones on a gold floral ground, finely worked in the "kundan" technique, but with gold predominating. The al-Sabah hilt and dagger dates to the reign of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, Akbar's son, (1605-27 A.D.), and further inscriptions have been linked by scholars to an archery ring belonging to the emperor Shah Jehan in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The hilt and scabbard together hold a total of 1,685 rubies, 271 natural, unpolished diamonds, 62 emeralds, 321 pieces of transparent emerald green-glass, 39 pieces of transparent dark blue glass, 9 pieces of ivory and 6 layered agates for a grand total of 2,393 stones.
Despite its royal pedigree, this dazzling, curved bladed dagger conjures up images of Ali Baba and his forty thieves dashing through incense-laden bazaars and all the mysterious wonders of the East. The urge to hold and touch some of these glittering objects locked behind glass cases is persistent, and memories of movies featuring James Bond type heroes confronting ruthless villains in dangerous jewelry heists are a reminder of the lengths human beings will go to capture and possess these magnificent objects, throwing all caution to the wind.
Changing the extravagant pace, Mughal miniature paintings illustrating scenes from court life accent the walls of the dimly lit galleries: magnificent jeweled and painted elephants, elegant ceremonies, courtly rituals, royal hunting parties and beautiful women tell of a rarified and highly cultured existence. The meticulously detailed paintings offer examples of how the daggers and jewels were worn and who wore them; the beauty of the Mughal miniatures - so named because of their small size - their elegant compositions and gorgeous colors, deepen the longer one looks at them. It is disappointing that the paintings were not included in the exhibition catalog, which is otherwise detailed, informative and sumptuous. Some of them, however, are reproduced in other museum publications that were published in conjunction with other recent exhibitions and are available at the museum's bookstores.
A "Portrait of the Elephant, Alam Gurman,'"(India, Mughal, circa 1640 A.D.), shows one of the many splendid royal elephants used like carriages or horses by the nobility in India at that time decked out in ceremonial finery, right down to face and trunk paint and jewels. It was painted during Shah Jehan's reign, and the attribution reads "probably by Bichtir," who was one of the most prized court painters of his day. It is no wonder that foreigners were so mesmerized by the spectacle of Mughal royals and nobles perched in sumptuous howdahs on royal elephants, especially when there were processions of them all jostling for position like limos outside an important New York art opening.
A delicate portrait of "Shah Jehan Holding a Miniature Portrait of Himself: Leaf from an Album of Shah Jehan" (India, Mughal, 1627-28 A.D. Inscribed (on platform), "Work of Charam, the Divine Year I." It is placed beside the "Pendant with Cameo Portrait of the Emperor Shah Jehan," (India, Mughal, 17th century A.D.), featured in the painting and it shows the distinguished, carved profile of the emperor who built the world famous Taj Mahal in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The pendant was originally part fabricated from gold, set in "kundan" technique with rubies, and a cameo carved from layered agate, in pinkish tan/white (17th century): the back is of engraved silver, inlaid with niello, and dates from the late 19th century (Deccan, India). The Metropolitan Museum considers this pendant, along with the "Balas Ruby" and the dagger and scabbard described earlier as the most important pieces in the show.
The Metropolitan Museum's own collection of Mughal miniatures in the Islamic galleries is spectacular and well worth a visit after the jewelry show. The Persian rugs and glass lanterns, painted ceilings and ceramic tiles also help "place" the jewels in an historical context, even though they were created in India. It is a pity that there are so few historically appropriate "props" for the magnificent gems: as, for example, a life-sized mannequin of an Emperor or Empress decked out in all their jeweled finery, silks and brocades, in a room strewn with Persian rugs, with a tinkling mosaic fountain and a painted ceiling, softly lit by one of those other-worldly brass or glass lanterns hand-painted with curvaceous Islamic calligraphy.
Imagine the noble paisley "Turban Ornament," (India, probably Deccan, 2nd Half of the 17th century A.D.) nestling in a yellow or tangerine orange silk turban; fabricated from gold, with champleve and overpainted enamels, worked in "kundan" technique, topped by the piece de resistance - deep, flawless (and very large) emeralds and equally magnificent diamonds. Pair the turban ornament with two tiny birdies nestling in neighboring folds, or "Elements from a Turban Ornament," carved from emerald, eyes inlaid in "kundan" technique and set with rubies, mounted on gold (India, Deccan or Mughal, probably 17th Century A.D.), shown below, and perhaps you begin to get the picture. The imagination and inventiveness of the artisans is spell-binding.
Elements from a turban ornament, emerald and rubies, probably 17th Century A.D., 35 millimeters high
Continuing the bird theme there are some covetable finger rings, like "Finger Ring with Rotating and Bobbing Bird" (India, Mughal or Deccan, probably 1st quarter 17th century), which is not only beautiful but gave the wearer something to do during those long, boring ceremonies. This ring is fabricated from gold in "kundan" technique, with rubies, emeralds, chrysoberyl cat's eyes and a single sapphire. Hopefully the Met will strike a deal with the Kuwait National Museum and provide us with a faithful, bobbing reproduction for the jewelry shop in the near future.
It should be noted that the exhibition has a sales room with many impressive offerings from the Gem Palace in Jaipur, whose craftspeople include descendants of the Mughal goldsmiths. A blue Iris handwoven shawn is available for $7,500 and other offerings including a Panchlada necklace of amethysts and rubellite for $48,000, a tanzanite necklace for $35,000, an enameled camel chess piece for $5,750 and many other baubles.
Dagger hilt, locket and chape, carved from rock crystal and inlaid with rubies, emeralds and banded agate, length of hilt 130 millimeters
Two of the most impressive pieces in the show are carved from rock crystal, following the inlaid hardstone technique familiar in Islamic architecture: in the first gallery a "Dagger Hilt, Locket and Chape" in the form of a horse, (India, Mughal, later 16th-first half 17th Century A.D.), in the form of a horse head, is inlaid with gold in "kundan" and set with rubies, emeralds and agate. Nearby is a delicate cup cut from rock crystal no ordinary achievement at that time also in "kundan" technique and precious gems, but this time with the addition of stones under-painted with miniature faces and kingfisher feathers visible only through a magnifying glass! (India, Deccan or Mughal, later 16th-early 17th century A.D.). The single-hair brush was used in Mughal miniatures and in situations like this.
A delicate, sculptural "Spoon," with a handle carved from nephrite jade, inlaid with gold in "kundan", is set with rubies and emeralds. It is one of the most sophisticated and beautiful utensils ever created, considering that most of Europe and Great Britain were still eating with their hands or spearing large items of food with an enlarged version of a chopstick. This "prong" or fork can be seen at Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-on-Avon, at the home of his wife Anne Hathaway.
There is much to absorb at this magnificent show, including the more recent examples of enameled jewelry, collectively so georgeous it is hard to select only a few pieces. A fine "Box," India, Deccan or Mughal, circa 4th-5th decade 17th century A.D.), fabricated from gold, champleve-enameled, set with rubies, emeralds and diamonds, is a refreshing departure from the red/green/white/gold palette with a sky blue background color on its inner lid. (6.27 in catalog)
Unlike most of the techniques used in the collection, enameling had no relevant background in India. Enameling was imported by European jewelers who came to India in the 16th and 17th centuries. Mughal-Indian enameling was a direct result of the inventiveness and technical abilities of the Indian jewelers in this medium. In Akbar's time, "artistic delegations" between the Mughal court and the Portuguese enclave of Goa strongly encouraged the cross-fertilization of cultures.
The swirls and curves of Islamic design are highlighted in an "Archery Ring," (India, probably Deccan, 16th-early 17th century A.D.), which has the unusual addition of turquoises set in "kundan" with rubies. A delicately enameled handle of a "Katar Dagger," or "punch" dagger with its unusual handle, (India, probably Mughal, 3rd-4th decade 17th century A.D.), but with small amounts of over-painted details of fine delicacy. The blade is of "jawhar" steel and the hilt is gold over iron core. There are a large number of sculptural "punch" daggers which were designed to be pushed into the victim, along with the punch.
A "Bracelet" (India, probably Mughal, 17th century A.D.), bears the same motif of the dragon/sea-creature at the clasp as the ruby "Handle" described earlier. The creature's eyes are set with chrysoberyl catseye. It would look magnificent worn with a "Pendant" (Indian, Deccan or Mughal, 17th century A.D.), featuring a single ruby, several diamonds set in "kundan," and a gorgeous, dangling pendant. The slight unevenness of all of the stones in this piece gives it an extraordinary allure.
For a down to earth touch there is the "Flywhisk Handle" (India, probably Deccan, 18th century A.D.), champlevé-enameled in green and gold, set with a mind-boggling number of rubies and diamonds. This extraordinarily imperial object was used by the Mughal nobles to swat flies or perhaps for their persons-in-waiting to swat flies - during those long, boring ceremonies. Presumably long strands of silk or horse-hair completed the object d'art in its hey-day.
This show exudes romance and razzle-dazzle glamour and encourages flights of fancy; a very elderly grey-haired man turned to his wife and said "I wish I could give you that bracelet," with a twinkle in his eye. The "Bracelet" in question is lavishly set with diamonds, rubies and a spinel. It is easy to imagine romantic Shah Jehan giving it to his beloved Mumtaz Mahal on a birthday or anniversary. When she died he built the Taj Mahal in her memory the largest, most beautiful symbol of love in the world. When it came to romantic gestures, the Mughals were unsurpassed.
The final gallery is so dazzling it inspires oohs and aahs from old and young alike; a magnificent Rajput "Shield" (India, circa 18th century, A.D.), shown at the top of this article, is hammered up from silver sheet, champleve-enamelled and gilded, set in "kundan" technique, with rubies, diamonds, emeralds, chalcedony, agate and rock crystal. The Rajputs were noble and legendary Hindu warriors and a thorn in the side of anyone who tried to conquer them, including the British. Their wives practiced "suttee"by burning themselves on their husband's funeral pyres until the British banned it. A line up of warriors brandishing shields as amazing as this would dazzle anyone into submission or at the very least distract them.
Every woman dreams of wearing a "Choker" (India, probably Deccan, 18th-19th century AD). In Mughal India, a man was just as likely to wear one like a collar - as a woman, and they appear over and over again on the necks of maharajahs, princes and noblemen in turn of the century photographs. This choker is a glorious blend of diamonds, pearls and gigantic emeralds.
Shah Jehan had continued in the tradition of religious tolerance of his father and grand-father, but his son Aurangzeb, (1618-1707 A.D.) ruled his empire on the basis of the Shariat the orthodox Muslim law. He re-imposed the religious tax on non-Muslims, stopped the construction of new temples and destroyed important Hindu temples. Cows, which are holy to Hindus, were butchered inside their temples, and he banned the Hindu festivals of Divali and Holi.
Aurangzeb's reign marked the beginning of the end of the Mughal dynasty in India; the peace and prosperity of his forefathers was overshadowed by austerity and the fanatical influence of religious Muslims. Aurangzeb placed his father under palace arrest for the last eight years of his life - from his prison window Shah Jehan could see the Taj Mahal. A succession of wars ensued and from 1707 to 1858 A.D. (when the British took over) there were 19 Mughal rulers: Tarun Chopra describes it well in his book "The Holy Cow and Other Indian Stories," (Prakash Book Depot, New Delhi, 2000):
"The last of the great Mughals, Aurnagzeb, ruled India with a fanatical zeal. He realized in his last days that he had sowed the seeds of discontent, and wrote:
'I came alone and
I go as a stranger.
I do not know who I am
Or what I came for. The instance
Which has passed in power
Has only left sorrow behind.
After me, I see only chaos.'"
These are prophetic words in the dark days of fundamentalism, but historically Islam has seen great glory, refinement and tolerance, and better days must lie ahead. Shah Jehan's legacy, the Taj Mahal, still stands in Agra, a shining symbol of the magnificence achieved by the Mughal dynasty. As the sun sets, the white marble of this ultimate symbol of love it turns a deep rosy pink, very much like the beautiful old ruby spinels in the show. This is a must-see extravaganza for the holiday season.
The Story of Kouh-e Noor and Daryay-e Noor Diamonds
By: Safiyeh Sheibani
Summary: Daryay-e Noor, is the largest and most beautiful diamond among the national jewelry of Iran. The 182 carat diamond dates back to nearly 1,000 years ago. Kouh-e Noor and Daryay-e Noor, were among booties brought to Iran by Afshar King Nader Shah. The Kouh-e Noor whose weight before being cut was over 793 metric carat, now weighs 108 carat, and is encrusted into the crown of the British queen. When Nader Shah was killed, Kouh-e Noor was taken to Afghanistan by one of Nader’s military commanders.
Daryay-e Noor, also called the sister of Kouh-e Noor, is the biggest and most beautiful diamond among the national jewelry of Iran, extracted nearly one thousand years ago.
Like other diamonds, Daryay-e Noor was heavier than now before being cut. It now weights nearly 182 carats.
Daryay-e Noor along with Kouh-e Noor were among the booties taken and brought to Iran by the King Nader of Afshar dynasty.
After Nader, his grand son Shahrokh took possession of the Daryay-e Noor. Then it fell to the hands of an Mir Alam Khan who was an Arab and then to Mohammad Hassan Khan Qajar, the ancestor of the Qajar kings. After the murder of Mohammad Hassan Khan and following a series of incidents, King Karim Khan of Zandiyeh dynasty became the owner of the diamond and after his death it was passed to his son Lotfali Khan.
In order to defeat Lotfali Khan, Agah Mohammad Khan of Qajar dynasty attacked Kerman and Arg Bam castle, massacring the innocent people. It is said that the eyes of 200,000 people in Kerman were taken out and piled up in the city of Kerman. At last, Agha Mohammad Khan, in collaboration with a person called Ibrahim Khan Kalantar, a Jew who had converted to Islam, managed to arrest Lotfali Khan, the brave young king of Zandiyeh dynasty. Lotfali Khan was tortured and made blind and the diamonds, Daryay-e Noor and Taajmaah were detached from his arm band and attached to the arm band worn by Agha Mohammad Khan. So it was how the Daryay-e Noor diamond was transferred to the Qajar dynasty.
Until the time of Qajar king, Nasereddin Shah, the diamond was among the gems encrusted into one of the royal arm bands, but during his reign wearing arm band gradually got out of fashion. Then, the diamond was fitted into the hat of the king, put inside a golden frame along with other jewels such as the golden emblems of a lion and a sun as well as a begemmed crown decorated with 475 pieces of small diamonds as four pieces of ruby.
Daryay-e Noor, cut from both sides, is like a pyramid with a four by three centimeter base. All sides of the diamond are smooth. The phrase "As-Soltan Sahebqaran Fathali Shah Qajar" has been engraved on one side of the diamond upon the order of the Qajar king which has reduced the value of the gem.
Nasereddin Shah believed that the Daryay-e Noor diamond had been among the gems decorating the crown of Sirus (or Keikhosrow), and for this reason he was very much interested in this gem. He sometimes attached the gem to his hat or his watch chain or on his shirt. He even assigned some personalities from the rich and aristocrat families to take care of the diamond. The book "Montazam Naseri" which describes the events in Iran in 1878 writes that at that time Mohammad Rahim Khan Khazen al-Molk had been appointed to the post of superintendent of the diamond.
Later on, Daryay-e Noor was transferred to the National Jewelry Museum and remained there until 1908. In that year, Mohammad Ali Mirza, who had been defeated by the pro-constitution forces, took shelter in the Russian embassy at Zargandeh quarter in northern Tehran, along with some jewels including Daryay-e Noor diamond, which he claimed belonged to him. This precious gem of Iran, which was reminiscent of the battles of Nader Shah, was almost taken out of the country, as was its counterpart Kouh-e Noor. Due to the efforts of freedom fighters and nationalist forces and after long negotiations, Mohammad Ali Mirza finally consented to return Daryay-e Noor and some other jewels to the Royal Treasury.
The Kouh-e Noor, now placed on the crown of the British queen, has a wonderful story. Many fables have been written or told by people about the Kouh-e Noor diamond. For example, "Mahabharata", the book about ancient India, says that five thousand years ago, Karna, the son of the god of sun and the great Indian warrior, was the first person to own the diamond. The diamond belonged to a Raja of India in 1,000 B.C. in Rajputana. Other incidents have happened to the precious gem since the 8th century lunar hejira.
In the 14th century A.D., Kouh-e Noor changed hands between the Malwa kings ruling the countries northwest of India. In 1309 A.D., the diamond fell to the hand of Prince Aladdin Mohammad Khalji, the nephew and son-in-law of Jalaleddin Firooz Shah, and brought to New Delhi.
From 1506 to 1525, Homayoon, the son of Babar, defeated King Ibrahim Ludi, killing the king.At that time, the diamond which then weighted 40 grams, was gifted to Homayoon. Later, Kouh-e Noor was passed on to Orang Zib, Shah Jahan and Mohammad Shah and then brought to Iran after the attack on Iran by Iranian king Nader Shah.
After Nader was killed, Ahmad Khan Abdali Dorrani, one of the army commanders of Nader Shah looted the camp of the king as well as parts of his jewelry and then fled to Afghanistan. The diamond was seized by Afghan rulers.
After Ahmad Khan Dorrani, the diamond was seized by his grandson Shah Shoja. Doost Mohammad Khan Afghani, who had been elected as king by the people, attacked Shah Shoja and exiled him to Kashmir and Lahore (1812).
However, Shah Shoja brought the diamond to India. Regent Singh, the despotic and blood-thirsty ruler of Sikhs, known as the lion of Punjab, who ruled the Punjab Province (1780-1839 A.D.), asked for the Kouh-e Noor diamond.
The wife of Shah Shoja, who loved her husband very much, with the help of Lord Oakland of Britain, compelled Regent Singh, to help Shah Shoja regain its throne in Afghanistan, in return for Kouh-e Noor.
Accepting the proposal, Regent Singh helped Shah Shoja return to the throne in Afghanistan and in turn he took possession of Kouh-e Noor.
Unfortunately, after a short while, Shah Shoja was killed in Afghanistan and subsequently the diamond remained in the hands of Regent Sing until his death when it was passed on to his son.
In 1846, Dilip Singh, the younger son of Regent Singh rose up against the British colonial forces but was finally defeated and had its diamond treasures including Kouh-e Noor seized by the managers of the East India Company in 1849. Then, the governor of India sent the precious diamond to Britain as a gift for Queen Victoria.
On June 3, 1850, the Kouh-e Noor diamond was formally presented to the British queen and one year later in 1851, this beautiful Indian diamond was put on display for the public. Kouh-e Noor weighed over 793 carats before being cut.
For the first time, Shah Shoja gave the diamond to a jeweler to be cut, but the poor performance of the jeweler upset the king so much that not only he did not pay the jeweler his wage but also fined him 1,000 rupees as compensation.
Before being sent to Britain by the governor of India, the diamond weighed over 191 metric carats but its weight reduced to 108 carats after the British queen ordered the diamond to be cut for the second time by the jeweler of her court.
Kouh-e Noor, this controversial diamond, was inlaid in the crown of the Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) in 1937 and since then it has been carefully protected as a part of the royal jewelry.
It is interesting to know that some Indians believed that the diamond should return to that country because it belonged to India.
n the other hand, some other Indians considered the diamond to be a bad omen. Their reason is that all those who somehow took possession of the diamond have been killed or tortured to death.
The historical reasons put forward by the Indians are as follows:
1- Karna, the ancient warrior of India and the first owner of Kouh-e Noor was killedContrary to the Indians, the British believed that the diamond might be a bad omen, if any, only for men and not for women and for this reason they have got the diamond inlaid on the queen’s crown.
http://www.apunkachoice.com/scoop/bo...20050107-0.gifMughal-e-Azam sparks off craze for Mughal era jewellery
07th Jan 2005 09.19 IST
By ApunKaChoice Bureau
The Gen Y has been left dazzled by the show of jewellery in Mughal-e-Azam, sparking a sudden craze for heritage pieces, armlets, heavy necklaces and coloured stones.
"When Devdaas came, consumers suddenly started demanding the designs worn by Paro and Chandramukhi. So, it is no wonder that the designs showcased in Mughal-e-Azam are suddenly in demand," says G S Pillai, Director, Gold Souk.
"Mughal jewellery is known for its beautiful making, designing, colour combinations, arrangement, enamelling and engraving," says Varun Arora, of Orra, the official jewellery consultant for the new Mughal-e-Azam.
"When the Nizam's jewellery was put on show, people for the first time probably came to know of what designs had existed then and many designers took inspiration from that. However, now with the masses watching the movie, everyone wants to own a Mughal era set," says Arora.
Arora recalls it was very difficult to identify the setting of stones and especially their colours. The jewellery for the movie was originally designed by craftsmen from Hyderabad.
Orra came out with a special collection of Mughal era designs and he says most of it has already been sold out.
Mughal gem sells for record $2.2 million
Sanjay Suri in London
A rare Mughal emerald has sold for a record $2.2 million at an auction in London.
The sale of The Mughal, as the emerald is known, and other gems from India by Christie's yielded more than $7 million, the highest ever in an Indian auction.
The Mughal sold for more than twice the price it had been expected to fetch following dramatic bidding. The gem was finally bought for $2,272,400 by an anonymous bidder.
The sale price, the highest ever in an auction for an emerald, stunned the world of collectors.
The 217.80-carat gem dates back to the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb. Furious bidding raised its price a million dollars above the base price.
The vivid green emerald is believed to have been bought by a Mughal noble from Spanish traders who in turn got it from Colombia.
A magnificent diamond, enamel and emerald sarpech was also bought for close to $2 million in the auction. This too was bought anonymously.
The sarpech, set with 300 carats of diamonds and 300 carats of fine emerald beads, sold for $1,948,560, also a world record.
"A powerful momentum was maintained throughout the sale culminating in a magnificent climax," William Robinson, in charge of the sale at Christie's, said later. "Widespread interest was shown both before and during the sale in a broad range of countries."
Indian jewellery and gemstones were in great demand, he said. "Enamel jewellery from the 17th and the 18th centuries remained a strong and highly collectible area of the market." Among other items auctioned were Mughal jewellery, furniture and paintings.
Jewelry of the Mysore MaharajaIntroduction
First Online: August 15,1997
Page Last Updated: July 02,2005
My eyes feasted, hands trembled and my heart was overwhelmed with a sense of history as we ran through the jewelry of the former kings of Mysore (Wodeyars). There were precious stones, pearls, emeralds, diamonds and golden jewelry. There were even footwear made with pure gold. Necklaces, pendants, broaches.... each one a masterpiece of craftsmanship. Some were worn by the royal family members when they posed for Raja Ravi Varma's portraits.... Here are a few digitally scanned pictures in memory of the glorious era that has gone by.
-- K.L. Kamat
Carving on the golden waist belt
Precious stones of a Necklace
Pearl necklace with a decorative pendant
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