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DIVINITY around your neck

TINA GARG explores the realm of spiritual jewellery where the rudraksha, the Maltese cross and Celtic alphabets work their charm

Rudrakas can look trendy too. — Photo: K. Murali Kumar

WALKING DOWN Brigade Road the other day, I stared shamelessly when I noticed a chic, jean-clad woman wearing armlets and a mala of huge rudrakshas. She didn't look the least bit ascetic and I wondered if I was missing something here. To my query, she replied: "Rudrakshas are meant to reduce stress and balance the energy in the chakras. Why wear other metal jewellery which obstructs energy flow in the body when I can have aesthetic jewellery made of these beads?"

Looking at what the Bangalore market has to offer, the wave certainly seems to be in favour of replacing those crystals and stylish gold chokers with something that's really caught on — spiritual jewellery.

Iconography was popular in Indian jewellery for a long time with many deities depicted in pendants and earrings. Stone-studded Balaji pendants and lockets bearing the likeness of Krishna and Ganesha continue to be popular amongst older women. Not to mention Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Durga, who stands for victory of good over evil.

Cashing in on the trend, jewellery manufacturer Intergold has launched a classy collection targeted at the older woman, which has caught on amongst the younger generation. The collection, titled Svayambhu, has sub-collections featuring different Hindu deities. Designs have prominent depictions of Ganeshas with a rudraksha standing in for the tubby deity's tummy, or with diamonds in the crown and around the trunk. There are subtly indicative ones too like the Krishna collection where fluid forms indicate the deity playing the flute. A careful scrutiny of a circular arrangement of gems set in gold reveals the raaslila.

There are also many symbols from Hindu scriptures, like the sun and its rays, a trishul with a rudakash, and the ubiquitous Om. "Lakshmi Yantra and Shree Yantra are also popularly depicted on pendants today, as are verses from the Ramayana," says Vatsala Bagla of Rugs 'n' Riches, who sourced some bangles, bracelets and pendants from Myanmar, which have images from Rama's life.

Vatsala feels this type of jewellery is popular with the older people who have moved to spirituality and wear it at occasions like satsangs. According to her, younger people wear it more as a fashion statement: they really don't care what the symbols signify. But what really moves fast with the youth are the Yin-Yang and the Om designs.

Ajay Panjwani of the Ostara Shop also sells this kind of jewellery as well as rings, earrings and pendants with semi-precious stones like amethyst, rose quartz, tiger's eye, and so on, which he says, help reduce stress. Use of such stones embedded in gold and silver ("gold must be worn above the waist level and silver below the waist"), also finds mention in Ayurveda, which also recommends ornaments made of five metals (panchloha) and the navratnas (nine gems) worn according to the planetary propensities. (See box.)

Ostara also sells Egyptian and Runic pendants, which are based on the Runic alphabet with a combination of letters signifying different meanings like justice, strength, wisdom and so on. Ajay, who feels that such jewellery stands out because of the unusual designs, recommends the Chakra pendants, made of precious stones and supposed to energise different charkas in the body. "It has a dual purpose," he says, "it looks trendy and it works on the body too!" (See box.)

Besides the Hindu symbols, one also finds several Buddhist, Chinese, Nepalese, Egyptian, Tibetan, Celtic and Christian designs that are popular in spiritual jewellery. The jewellery is not necessarily metal; they could be bone, metal, horn, terracotta, glass, and semi-precious stones.

Buddhist symbols could be the conch shell, twin Fish, Wheel of Dharma, water vase, fly whisk, lotus blossom or even the `Om Mani Padme Hum' mantra (used for protection), while Tibetan designs, which overlap Buddhist ones, depict prayer wheels, Sakyamuni Buddha, the Kalachakra, the vishwa vajra or dorje — a symbol of destroying ignorance and protection from all evils.

Christian and Celtic symbols, popular among young men too, depict the cross studded with various gems, the Celtic cross, Celtic drum, the spiritual healer with a globe, the dove of peace, the hand of Fatima and so on. The cross especially finds easy market amongst the youth who wear it as casual jewellery on an everyday basis.

Bangalore's youth also prefer abstract designs, says jewellery designer Ishrat Chowdhuri who is fascinated by symbols like the spiral, which she believes "is a symbol that denotes the continuity of life". Often said to be an ideal gift for those on a self-discovery trip, this symbol finds a place next to the celebrated Tree of Life.

Chinese pendants find ready buyers, as do zodiac pendants and rings. The Chinese symbols, some of which are symbols from astrology, often stand for happiness, good luck, prosperity, longevity, and freedom.

Some pendants also work as a talisman with the jewellery piece opening up for a niche to keep a mantra in it. Most people also prefer to string their talismans and special-purpose pendants in semi- precious stones as Seema Ghosh of Things boutique does for her customers. One can take one's pick from simple and ancient symbols like Om, the snake and lingams here, delicately strung with coloured stones in this shop.

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