Since it was thrown open to public last month, a record 35,000 people have visited the Jewellery Gallery in the National Museum. The collection had been away from public gaze for over a decade.
Placed under 15 different categories, the 255 ornaments — included in the “Alamkara” collection — range from beautiful bead necklaces unearthed from Mohenjodaro and Harappa to the fabulous jewels owned by Mughal emperors and the maharajas.
“This gallery was opened on November 7. Since then, 35,000 people, including students, have visited it. Jewels from the Indus Valley civilisation and Sirkap in Taxila are two of the most important categories in this collection. These are the oldest pieces found anywhere in India, many dating back to 2600 BCE. The ornaments were usually made of gold, bones or stones. Though these materials are chemically inert and last for thousands of years, our conservation team has made special efforts to ensure they don’t get damaged,” National Museum Outreach Department head Jayati told Newsline.
Excavations carried out in Mohenjodaro, Harappa and other cities had reportedly brought”a “treasure trove” of jewellery, which is now exhibited in the gallery.
“A sophisticated bead-making industry existed then… This category shows the incredible variety of raw material, knowledge of metallurgy, technology of fabrication and range of forms and styles that existed more than 4,000 years ago,” a department official said.
The ‘Gods and Goddesses’ category reflects the custom of idol-worship prevalent in several parts of India. Ornaments include necklaces and mukuts inspired from temple bells, featuring popular gods and goddesses on necklaces and head-gears.
The “Sartorial splendour” category includes ornaments once owned by maharajas. “Many of the earliest pieces were donated to the museum by kings,” Jayati said.
The “Head to toe” category features necklaces such as Kolhapur’s Thushi, Rajasthan’s Timania and Hansli, bangles from various parts of India, hair accessories from South India, Tika from Punjab and Rajasthan, choti and borla from Rajasthan, jhumar from Lucknow, chak from Himachal and Jadavihu from Karnataka.
Other interesting categories include the Mughal heritage, amulets and marriage pendants.
“The jewellery from the Mughal period is a unique combination of metals, gemstones and polychrome metal. Amulets were believed to ward off the evil eye. Tiger claws and elephant tusks were fashioned into ornaments, symbolising power,” an official said.