7 Classic Timeless Jewellery Motifs Portraying South Indian Culture And History

Nature has always been the inspiring muse for various artists all over the world because of the attractive and captivating patterns found all around us. Be it the venation patterns found in the leaves, or the perfect hexagonal pattern of the honeycombs, or the swirling waves that hit the shore, there is a pattern in everything we can observe. In South Indian culture, intricate motifs, patterns, and designs are integrated into textiles, jewellery, and architecture by heavily drawing inspiration from nature. The South Indian jewellery often reflects the traditions, culture, religions, and customs of people by the inclusion of meaningful motifs such as blooming flowers, animals on the run, flying birds, fruits, and mythological creatures. Such jewellery motifs are not just aimed at beautifying the piece, but they also act as a reverence to nature offered by people.

Flora and fauna are an inseparable aspect of Indian Jewelry design. Even ordinary food patterns are incorporated into the jewellery designs in order to appease deities for food and sustenance and hold religious importance. Such sacred pieces of jewellery remain a forever favorite that never seems to go out of style. Let’s have a look at some of the prevalent classic and timeless jewellery motifs along with their significance and importance in South Indian culture and history. 


The mango is one of the common jewellery motifs which is deeply associated with the Indian culture. While the mango tree is considered a wish-fulfilling tree and is the symbol of fertility and longevity, the mango leaves are believed to possess high protective potential. Also, this droplet-shaped pattern of Persian and Indian origin symbolizes good fortune and prosperity. The mango jewellery motif not just adds a decorative element to the jewellery piece, but also lends a significantly deeper meaning to it. 


The floral-design motifs are becoming one of the most sought after jewellery motifs to be integrated into the jewellery designs as they are considered to be magnificently beautiful. They are often offered to the deities in the Indian ritual practices that signify their utmost pure nature. These motifs are indicative of happiness and abundance, and are usually integrated into jewellery designs as they look traditional and contemporary in equal measures. From three petaled blossoming flowers, to floral vines adapted into a design, the importance of the rendering plants and flowers in jewellery can be easily traced back to centuries and the craze continues till date, especially among the brides as it is a perfect blend of both traditional beliefs as well as modern day practices.   


Leaves of Banyan and Pipal trees are extensively employed as jewellery motifs in South India. The banyan tree is a symbol of the Trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The tree is considered sacred and holy to women as it signifies fertility. Similarly, the leaves from the Pipal tree are also considered sacred to Hindus. The leaf motif is depicted to rest gracefully on the shoulders of a Chola period bronze deity. 


The usage of mythical winged creatures as Indian jewellery motifs dates back to the monuments of Bharhut and Sanchi. The mythical creatures include the composite creature (Yali), demon face (Kirtimukha), and crocodiles (Makara). A Yali is a mythical chimeric creature usually portrayed with a lion’s body and head, an elephant’s trunk and tusks, and the tail of a serpent. It is associated with strength and ferociousness. As it is an ambiguous Chimera, it is also believed to be the mount of Lord Budh (Planet Mercury). In Hindu mythology, Makara is a sea-creature that is depicted as the vahana (vehicle) of the river Goddess Ganga, Narmada, and the sea God Varuna. Makara shaped earrings appear to be worn by the Hindu God Shiva, the Sun god Surya, and the Mother Goddess Chandi. The usage of Makara motifs has been observed in jewellery in the form of bracelets. 


One of the most extensively used jewellery motifs in South Indian culture, the peacock is usually known to represent love, beauty, immortality, and wisdom. In South Indian culture, a peacock is considered to be the vahana (vehicle) of Lord Murugan/Karthikeya, who is known to be the God of love, war, victory, and wisdom. In Hinduism, the peacock’s presence is observed alongside Goddess Lakshmi, who is considered as the Goddess of compassion, good fortune, and fortitude and the peacock’s presence symbolizes supportiveness. In addition, the spreading of the peacock’s plumage at the onset of spring is a symbol of the flourishing of love. 


 In Hindu mythology, the parrot is  associated with Kama, the God of love and affection, and his consort Rati. Kama is portrayed as riding a parrot and focusing on an aim with his bow and arrow. Parrots are also a symbol of fertility and each shade of the plume holds a different significance. Green color, for instance, addresses earth after a downpour. Goddesses in South Indian temples are also depicted to hold parrots in their hands which are considered as the symbol of a messenger and surveillance.  With such significance, parrots are one of the classic motifs used in South Indian sarees and jewellery.


The elephant is undoubtedly one of the most revered of animals, and believed to be a representation of power, intelligence, royalty, and abundance. The animal is worshipped in the form of Lord Ganesha, the bringer of eternal prosperity. The elephant is also an important point of attraction in South Indian temple pillars, sculptures, and architecture. When they are part of the jewellery design, this holds a greater significance as elephants stand for visibility, calmness, and gentleness.  

We, at OVJ Original Vasavi Jewellery Mart, strongly believe that these motifs hold religious and traditional importance in the lives of South Indian people and it is beautiful to see how the religious beliefs and symbolism have extended to the South Indian people to form a part of their daily lifestyle. The impact of religion is highly prominent in our jewellery designs as an effort to preserve our long-held South Indian culture. Our jewellery shop in dindigul believes in preserving this culture and tradition and hopes to take it forward for the years to come.   

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