Gulab Kothari’s book on jewellery is full of stories about everything from the rituals and superstitions associated with ornaments to the scientific principles behind wearing them. It traverses the terrain of ayurveda, astrology, mythology, religion, acupuncture and medicine, while explaining the characteristics and properties of gemstones, metals and various kinds of ornaments.
It also delineates the history, traditions, and evolution of jewellery from the Vedic period, when ornaments like kundal (earrings), mekhla (waist chain) and valay (rings) were given importance, to the Mohenjo-daro and Harappa civilisations, when gold, silver, bronze, ivory, china clay and beads were popular. The topics covered are diverse, from the cosmic influence of gemstones to modern trends in jewellery.
What lends flavour to the book are the range of pictures, from those of 12th century statues of apsaras to ones of Rajasthani women in traditional jewellery. There are also diagrams and charts explaining various things, like the different chakras controlled by jewellery of various colours. Or the relationship between the elements of nature and organs of the body.
To someone who has always looked at jewellery simply as a means to enhance beauty, the book was an entertaining read, even if some of its claims might be debatable. A small grouse would be that it could have been edited better. But otherwise, it offers a panoramic view of the vast landscape of Indian jewellery.
JEWELLERY: A SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF SOCIAL TRADITIONS
Author: Gulab Kothari
Publisher: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts