A wedding necklace

16 June 2020

Wedding necklace in gold “kali thiru” (auspicious necklace) of the Chettiars nattukottai of Tamil Nadu in South India.

Former salt merchants, belonging to a caste of well-to-do merchants, they had once settled on the Coromandel coast and then migrated inland.

This necklace is composed of five very finely worked pendants alternating with mostly cylindrical beads. On the central pendant, a miniaturized temple stands out, the couple of deities Shiva (patron saint of Chettiars) and Parvati, goddess of love and fertility, sitting on their mount, and the bull Nandi; foliage, flowers and birds complete the picture.

The other pendants would evoke the crab claws and shells that Chettiars wore as an ornament (according to Usha Bala Krishnan) or would represent the hands of the bride and groom (according to Oppi Untracht). This ornament is part of the dowry offered by the parents to their daughter.

Marriage necklace kali thiru
Marriage necklace. South India. H. 105 cm. Inv. 2504-121.
Photo Studio Ferrazzini Bouchet. MUSÉE BARBIER-MUELLER.