Jewelry worn by Chettiars in India

Indians love jewellery. Each state has its own set of traditional
jewellery associated with each function. Since I come from TamilNadu;
the southern state in India, thought I will write about it.

Giving and receiving jewellery for almost all important functions
and festivals is even a common practice today. Even though the gold
prices have soared, still people flock the jewellery shops to buy
jewellery either in silver or gold. Gold here is 22 kt and people
dont value the jewellery even if it is 18kt gold. But nowadays
people have started to accept that diamonds are best when set in
18kt gold. So they have compromised to that extent.

All communities in TamilNadu wear lots of jewellery during functions
and festivals. Weddings especially are very expensive because the
biggest expenditure is buying gold for the bride and the groom.
Infact there is a practice that when a girl child is born, the
parents start accumulating gold for her.

The Chettiar community has a lot of stories relating to gold. It is
said that in earlier days they used to measure pearls and corals in
a container that roughly holds around 1 and half kgs!

The jewellery worn by Chettiars have always fascinated me, because
their workmanship is very beautiful. They have ornate work on their
jewellery. One such jewellery given to the bride on her wedding day
is called ‘Kaluthooru’. This is a single necklace which comprised of
800 gms! But that was earlier when the gold prices were very
nominal. Even now they make it with 400 gms or lesser that. Again
this depends on how affluent the brides’ parents are.

This kaluthooru comprises of 34 gold pieces which are strung on two
twists of 21 strings. 15 pieces are strung on the top twist and 14
on the lower twist with two links to join the two twists. Three more
pieces are added the day after the wedding. The pendant in the
middle is in the shape of the shrine which has MahaLakshmi who is
the goddess of wealth. On either side there are paws of tiger which
is supposed to protect. All the other beads signify fame, strength,
education, success, children, wealth, food, prosperity, courage,
health and beauty.

This heavy chain is worn by the girl on her wedding day, her son’s
wedding day, her 60 and 80 wedding anniversary.

Kavitha Balakrishnan

Thank you, Kavitha, for sharing the enchanting history of Indian
bridal jewelry with us! I’m always fascinated by ethnic jewelry, and
the stories behind them. Would love to see more examples of this.

Linda in central FL

I missed the beginning of this thread but went and found it on the
Ganoksin site. Kavitha, your story really is wonderful and so is the
piece of jewelry you provided a jpg for. I too wanted to see more.
Here is a link to an online exhibition of Indian Jewelry that was
shown at the Asia Society in New York City in 2004.

Rhonda in Queens, New York