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in India and Tajikistan

Updated on February 12, 2018


 Jewelry in India and Tajikistan

Since the ancient times, the art of India is closely linked with the art of the peoples of Central Asia and in particular Tajikistan. The proof can be found in archaeological discoveries, architectural monuments, painting, sculpture and jewelry.

The influence of the Gandhara style on the art of jewelry during the early Kushan era can be traced back to the artifacts of that period. In the early Middle Ages, discovered Buddhist temples on the territory of Tajikistan reveal the affiliations and liaisons in the art of jewelry, previously found in painting and sculpture.

Strong ties between India and Central Asia exist throughout the subsequent centuries. Thus, for a long time Indian jewelers worked and lived in the pre-revolutionary Kulyab (southern Tajikistan) and the surrounding villages of the area, fulfilling orders of the local rich people. Indian craftsmen also worked in Samarkand and Bukhara. The Indian tradition is evident in the Tajik earrings (both ear and nose rings); “Dika” adornment was popular in the Nur-Ata (the name has probably been derived from ‘tika’   see A.Pisarchik , “National Decorative and Applied Art  of the Tajiks, Dushanbe, 1987) – this was a combination of three small rosettes (about 1 cm in diameter) or a rhombus, gold plated and decorated with turquoise. This adornment was  glued between the eyebrows and temples with chewing gum, according to A. Pisarchik, a well-known Tajik ethnographer, a researcher of the Nur-Ata area. A similar style is noticed in the round brooches-fibulae, called kulfi-girebon, which were worn in the Khatlon Region of Tajikistan. The shape of the brooches is similar to the disk of the sun, depicted as a rosette, usually decorated with a center medallion that had an insert, adorned with granulated triangles, also found on the edges of the brooches. The favorite method of the Khatlon jewelers was fine granulation. Ancient jewelry discovered in this region here also has a similar decor, illustrating the deep connections and the succession of traditions.

According to L.A. Chvyr, author of the monograph "The Tajik jewelry,” brooches are the typical examples of the Southern Tajik jewelry. “The most common items are the so-called ‘kulfi-girebon,’ known as Kulyabi openwork fibulae, that are sometimes decorated with inlays of rare red glass or stones, chains and leaf-shaped pendants. The diameter and weight of the brooches ranges, which may be emphasizing their territorial segregation. In describing the so-called Kulyabi ornaments, L. Chvyr notes that "one of the most vivid characteristics of the Kulyab ornaments is the presence of a circular openwork brooch ‘kulfi-girebon.’ It was worn on the collar of a shirt, or combined with beads.

The distribution of such brooches in southern Tajikistan, where five out of one hundred and forty Buddhist monasteries mentioned in the Chinese chronicles were open, is clearly not coincidental, especially considering that their shape resembles not only the sun or he solar system, but also The Wheel of Buddha, known in the art and culture of India.

 The openwork brooch was not only a symbol or talisman proclaiming astral or Buddhist symbolism, and not only a way to secure the collar, as its name, kulfi girebon, suggests. The primary purpose of the metal disk was to protect a crucial vulnerable spot, the solar plexus (or the heart chakra). It is not accidental that the central inset on brooches was usually either coral that symbolized the sun or cornelian that brought contentment. It is important that brooches were made out of silver, and in the court of the emir they could be made of gold, i.e., metals, which supplied their wearers with energy.

In the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries such brooches became almost extinct, replaced by factory-made goods, decorated with colored glass.

Such brooches-fibulae were widespread among the ancient Romans, who wore them on the shoulder, fastening the edges of their tunics or capes. The Southern Kirghizs, Kazakhs, Turkmens and Latvians use similar brooches as accessories. The latter sometimes wear them as in the style of the ancient Romans, at the shoulder. Analogous brooches are also worn by Hungarians, and, specifically, among the ornaments of women in India. The popularity of these ornaments in the earlier historical periods of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is evident from the Tanjore and Mansoor style of paintings made in the south of the country. It is obvious that in the past, wearing of such jewelry served as an indication of a certain social standing: in Indian paintings and sculptures such jewelry is worn by the deities and celestial beings. Links between India and the Buddhist religion reflected in this kind of jewelry is also confirmed by the sculptures of Ajina Tepe, where one of the Devata torsos is adorned by a similar artifact (room 23).

There is no proof that Buddhism was ever the official religion in Tajikistan; however, the remaining artifacts confirm that Buddhism was widespread among the Tajik ancestors.

In her work "Traditional and modern dress of women mountainous Tajikistan," a well-known ethnographer Z. Shirokova draws our attention to the fact that the Kirghiz women and girls of the upper Karategin (Jirgital region) wear huge, the size of a tea saucer, brooches called teynoch, while Tajik girls in the same area wear smaller versions of the same brooches. In the lower and middle Karategin, the researcher notes, such brooches are small and simple in design. They often attach a chain-pendant called "Zareh" with ornate rhombus-shaped disks called "bargak" (leaf).

Note that sometimes items such as silver toothpicks, ear plugs, and tweezers for eyebrows were attached to the brooches; such brooches with attachments were a required part of a married woman’s attire.

In M. Andreyev’s monograph "The Tajiks of the HoofValley" describes a round metal buckle in the form of the chima brooch. Such buckles were worn in pairs on one’s chest, one on each side, explains the researcher. Sometimes the pantry key would be attached to the pin-buckle that held the chima to the dress; sometimes other accessories were attached, such as cosmetics or any other small items that the wearer needed to carry with her. Smaller brooches of the same type were called ‘toc.’

In conclusion: in this article we have examined the connection between the Tajik and Hindu influences in the art of jewelry making. At the same time, we found that this type of jewelry differs not only in the design, but also in its origin, its roots going into the ancient times. We must note that this object may have had its prototype among the treasure found at the Tegermansut burial located on the East part of Pamire Plateau. It is an openwork plaque made of bronze with a diameter of -6.8, probably made in the sixth century BC. There is another similar item: a brooch found in the Lyahsh II burial. It has a similar shape and the “kulfi girebon” style of decoration, is made out of gold, its center is decorated with a cornelian, the edges are granulated. This brooch is smaller, its diameter only 2.5, it was probably made in the fifth-sixth centuries. This brooch’s shape and design are similar to the above-mentioned pin on the torso of Devata of Ajina Tepe from the same period, seventh-eighth centuries. To some extent we were able to trace a kind of evolutionary series of this type of jewelry. It is also known that the combination of three differently shaped brooches with pendants was used as a kind of a bridal headdress in the southern regions of Tajikistan.

Our modest research allows us to prove that jewelry carries an informative function, and that an analysis of a single item can address and point out a variety of facts related to the study of history, material culture, and art of the Tajiks, the relationship with its neighbors, particularly with India, a country known for its ancient traditions and love of jewelry.


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