The Mughal Influence On Indian Jewellery
Indian jewellery has been described differently at different points in history, with ‘ornate’, ‘handcrafted’, ‘heritage’ and ‘festive’ being just a few. There have been many significant influences on the style and design of Indian Heritage jewellery through the centuries. One influence that has stood out, and has had a deep impact on the jewellery, clothing and culture of India is that of the Mughals.
The Mughals ruled India nearly five centuries ago. They invaded the country during the 16th century, and over the next two centuries, their art, culture, crafts and architecture permeated the land. It was during their time that jewellery making flourished. Simple necklaces and bangles began to get more ornate, and jewellery came to reflect the fine artistry and handiwork of the artisan.
ORIGIN OF MUGHAL JEWELLERY
The Mughal rule in India during the 16th century brought with it the practice of royalty wearing heavy, expensive pieces of jewellery for most occasions. Emperors & high ranking courtiers wore pieces set with massive stones set in intricate designs while presiding over official functions. When the Mughals married into the Rajput families of Rajasthan in the North Western Frontier, two distinct design styles came together to underline the delicate artistry and fine craftsmanship that has defined Indian jewellery ever since. Rajasthan then opened up as an exclusive jewellery making hub, and it is believed that the fine and intricate art of making cutwork or Jali-work Jewellery had its origins here.
The Mughals influenced jewellery making throughout India. From Kashmir to Orissa, Gujarat to Andhra Pradesh, their influence has been so deep that the rough-cut stone necklaces and elaborate ‘jadau’ thick-set toe rings and bejewelled turbans are much coveted and adored by people till today. Among the places where they made the greatest mark was Hyderabad, and the city still has some of its original antique jewellery passed down through generations of families even today.
MUGHAL DESIGN INFLUENCES
Besides the fine Jali-Work, there are many other design influences of that period. Enamelled & mounted Kundan jewellery with Precious Gems set into gold foils, are highly coveted even today. Adorned by courtesans during the reign of Jaipur’s rulers, Kundan was considered an art form and can be traced to the Jaipur and Bikaneri Gharanas. It is an integral part of a traditional bride’s trousseau even today and integrates Indian motifs and religious symbolisms seamlessly.
MUGHAL MOTIFS AND SYMBOLS
It isn’t just in the techniques and designs that we find Mughal influences. The taveez is an amulet with deep spiritual connotations for Muslims, and this too makes an appearance in many jewellery designs of the time. Today this amulet is used in contemporary versions of jewellery, moldable onto different pieces and is just as unique in its appearance.
Arabic inscriptions have been found on our buildings and monuments and it is no surprise that they will also have found their place on a necklace, a bangle or some piece of jewellery. The Mughals used calligraphy extensively as a medium of ornamentation. The swirls and flows of scripts put forth varied creative possibilities for decoration. These scripts were usually prayers, positive affirmations and blessings for people going into war. Much of these scripts carry into contemporary jewellery today.
MUGHAL STONE WORK
Unlike traditional Indian stonework practiced on jewellery by the ancient Indians, Mughals brought into the country their own distinct style. Rather than fine gemstones and embellishment, there was more emphasis on the techniques of handling gemstones, a preference for large stones and unique placement of design elements. The large stones and lush extravagance of Mughal jewellery traces its history to a time when ornamentation was flaunted not just for its price but also for its craftsmanship. The inlaying of stones with gold, another unique technique, enamelling and encrustation of precious stones like jade, built and flourished during their reign.
MUGHAL COLOR INFLUENCES
Green, white and red were the repetitive color patterns that they used in everything, from clothes, to decorations and even jewellery. Mughal design therefore corresponding to emeralds, rubies and diamonds are a common recurring feature in most ornaments. The Mughal rulers infact referred to emeralds as ‘Tears of the Moon’.
Given the extensive influence of Mughals and their special patterns and designs on Indian jewellery, our ornamentation is more exquisitely defined, stronger, bolder, more colourful and versatile, and every jewellery piece carries a little of them in everything.