A stunning single-owner collection of 17th, 18th and 19th century Indian temple jewellery used to ornament the Hindu gods, will be sold by Bonhams
through private treaty.
The 28-piece collection was put together by a Spain-based owner passionate about these objects. The jewellery was made to honour the Hindu gods Shiva, Krishna and Nandi amongst others, and to generate good fortune for the gift giver.
Normally these objects would have been stored in a temple treasury and brought out to adorn the gods for festive occasions and holidays. The objects include 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.
Alice Bailey, Head of Bonhams Indian and Islamic Department, which is selling the collection, says: The collection is in wonderful condition. Its value lies in the wide variety, good quality and sheer range of temple jewellery seen among these 28 lovely pieces.
Hindus believe that deities enter icons to make themselves present to worshippers. When the deity is present in the physical world it acquires human needs such as food, cleansing, entertainment, dressing and adornment. Gifts to the gods both sustain the deities and gain merit for the gift giver.
The image or murti is adorned in gold and precious gems as believers feel that wealth and jewelled objects illuminate the deity. The donated jewellery is kept in a treasury and taken out on special occasions when the deitiy might be dressed in armour for example or given particular gifts. Sometimes there is a direct association between a type of jewellery donated and a request from a deity. Women desiring marriage or children often give bangles, a fine example of a repousse gold marriage necklace or thali is also offered in the collection.
In addition to temple shrines, there are also family or personal shrines. Wealthy families would provide their murti with suits of clothing, and special jewellery, as well as utensils for worship.
People also carried the divine with them in wearing devotional jewellery including images of deities made of gems or repousse gold and silver work. On festive occasions, women in South India sometimes wear long linked ornaments (jadai nagam) over the lengths of their braids depicting cobras symbolizing fertility and sexuality, a particularly large and fine gold example of which is included in the collection. Traces of red paste found of some of the objects confirm their use in personal devotion.