Religious jewelry is one of the oldest forms of jewelry in India. Although not similar to ancient jewelry, religious jewellery is an ancient craft form. The earliest of this type was crafted using wood and other commonly available materials. One of the reasons a particular piece was considered religious or sacred was because they would be exclusively worn by temple priests and religious leaders or would be given to the temple, to the gods and/or to the priests as a religious offering.
However, the purpose for considering jewelry as sacred changed gradually. In modern times religious jewelry is largely made of precious metals and features a pendant etched with the motif of a god or goddess inlaid with precious or semi-precious stones. The strong belief in Astrology, Numerology, the Zodiac and other related sciences is one of the main reasons why religious jewelry is so popular in India.
One of the most identifiable and popular forms of religious jewelry in the country are the Rudraksha maalas. Made from rudrakhsha seeds shaped like beads, sages in Varanasi and followers of the Hare Krishna diaspora are known for sporting this form of beaded religious jewelry.
Gold religious jewelry is considered the most sacred and most auspicious. So much so, that there are special days on which the buying of gold religious jewelry for women, is said to be bring good luck. One such occasion is the festival of Akshay Tritiya, where families and husbands purchase gold jewelry with a special religious significance for their daughter and wives, respectively. Wearing a symbolic representation of Goddess Lakshmi by the woman is said to bring wealth and prosperity into the family.
Other types of custom religious jewelry meant specifically for women include the bridal bangles and the mangalsutra. While earlier, these forms of religious jewelry were meant as outward symbols of one’s devotion, they are now associated with fashion and style. This shift in perception can be witnessed in the rising popularity of modern designs and motifs.
Religious jewelry for men is popular in the form of single gold chains with a medallion or statement piece at the end or as finger rings inlaid with semi-precious stones. Religious jewelry rings made from gold are more popular than any other precious metal. Also certain religious symbols are more sought after than others. For instance, the Om symbol is universally loved and favored by men, followed by motifs of Lord Ganesha and Lord Krishna. Men’s religious jewelry is as popular in the urban areas as it is in the other parts of the country. However, in the metros it takes on a more style-oriented flavor. It is the one and only accessory that a man will wear as it is motivated by strong religious and spiritual beliefs but also adds a unique factor to the overall look. Men also prefer wearing this form of jewelry on special occasions such as a wedding in the family or a festival that honors their preferred deity.
By and large, antique religious jewelry has returned to mainstream fashion as a preferred accessory type. Jewelry pieces that were earlier considered a reflection of one’s personal beliefs are now seen as a reflection of one’s personal style preferences. Whether it is beaded jewelry, gold jewelry or even special motif jewelry, many men and women all over the world now purchase these items as their original styles have undergone certain changes with time and these changes appeal to a wider customer base.
Style and Varieties of Antique Religious Jewelry
For those who are religious as well as stylish, religious jewelry is perfect as it reflects both sides of their personality. Religious jewelry pieces can be worn with ethnic party wear garments such as the lehenga choli or salwar suit and will add both style and an ethnic flair to the look.
Women today prefer wearing religious jewelry such as a mangalsutra in modish designs showcasing contemporary fashion jewels such as diamonds, crystals or zircon. This creates a stylish look for the traditional piece and also makes it more versatile in terms of accessorizing. It goes well with daily-wear, office-wear and party-wear ensembles equally, making it the preferred accessory for most women. Contemporary mangalsutra designs can be quite abstract as well and women will find both elegant minimal styles and ornate, elaborate styles to choose from.
It is also common for women to choose churas or bridal bangles in a shade of red that matches the hue of the bridal dresses. Recently, gold bangles have also been added to this accessory, not only because gold is seen as an auspicious metal, but also because they add to the overall glamour and regality of the bridal look.