On the heels of my post on Jewelry inspired by temples in Chennai, here is a post on Jewelry based on famous personalities. A city is just a geographical expanse of land if you fail to consider the people who lived and are living in it. It is the people, the inhabitants of a place – both past and present who add life to that expanse of land. Likewise, my Patinam, would have been incomplete without Jewelry based on famous personalities. These are stalwarts who live in our memories.
From the Left: Rukmini Devi Arundale, MS Subbhulakshmi and Sir Thomas Monroe
Rukmini Devi Arundale
Before moving to Chennai, the only thing I knew about was that she was a famous dancer. But living close to Kalakshetra, the school of dance, music, and art that she established in 1936 made me try and understand a little more about this legend. Though born into a traditional Tamil Brahmin family, Rukmini Devi Arundale broke all rules of caste by marrying Dr. George Arundale, a theosophist, educator, and Anne Besant’s right hand after falling in love with him. This was in 1920’s colonial India. Inspired by Anna Pavalova (the ballerina) she began to learn dance from Gauri Ammal and Meenakshisundaram Pillai. She brought together “Bharatanatyam” in the form that we know today and did her first stage performance in 1935. This was a time when a dance performance was sadir natyam performed only by Devadasi women (Women who were dedicated to temples (and the village) and later sexually abused).
She established Kalakshetra – the school of dance, music, and art in 1936. She designed the dance clothes and jewelry to be aesthetically and culturally relevant than being seductive. The need for the revival of dance costumes lead to the revival of the traditional Tamil Sarees – the Mubhaagam saree (saree with three parts) also known as the Kalakshetra saree. This educationist was also a champion for the cause of animal welfare. She was invited to become the first woman president of Indian 1977 but she declined as she “liked going barefoot” and “hated taking to arms”.
The necklace that features Rukmini Devi Arundale is the title card of this collection and you must have seen it in all the social media promos and introductory blog posts. I made one of the Arundale necklaces for myself and one for sale, which is sold now. Mine, unfortunately, got spoiled after the third wear and I am trying to fix it. I have one more piece coming up with another sketch of Rukmini Devi Arundale.
Fondly called MS Amma, by her admirers, MS Subbhulakshmi was a Carnatic music legend. A child prodigy, she recorded her first music album at the age of 10 in 1926. She was extremely talented, beautiful (she was the heroine of the iconic movies Meera and Savithri) very intelligent, and yet, extremely simple. Best known for her renderings of Vishnu Sahasarnamam and Bhaja Govindan, this Bharat Ratna’s (India’s highest honour for civilians) voice is immortal.
There is an interesting story that connects her with textiles. It is said that she once approached Nalli Chinnaswami Chetty, a famous Textile merchant in Chennai with a Mid sea blue colour yarn and asked them to create a saree for her in that colour. After many experiments the store came up with the exact colour dye and wove her a saree. Enamoured by its beauty, MS, ordered many more and wore them frequently at her concerts. The saree – known as the MS blue saree achieved iconic status with its wearer.
In this shades of blue necklace, I have used a black and white image of MS where I have colored the MS blue saree. I have created a kalamkari fabric connector bail wrapped with dye jade and used glass and ceramic beads in several shades of blue.
Sir Thomas Monroe
When I was creating this collection, I was asked by a friend if I was creating Jewelry based on famous personalities. She quickly went on to ask if Thomas Monroe was a part of the collection. Humbled by my ignorance of not knowing who he was, I quickly researched him and made him a part of this collection.
Sir Thomas Munro, was a Scotsman appointed as the Governor of Madras in 1819. He established a direct practice o administration making the collector the head of a district to manage both the revenue as well as the local police. His respect for local traditions, and his affiliation to the Tirupati temple and Raghavendra Mutt earned him the affection of locals wherever he went. He rooted out corruption wherever he was psoted. Kids were named after him as Munrolappa and a poem called Munroe shaib was written in his memory. It is said that he had a vision of the mythical “Bangaru Thoranam” (golden garland in Telugu) visible only to Pure souls His Equestrian statue – “The Stirrupless Majesty” is very well known in Chennai. In my necklace, I have combined with the Monroe pendant, is a tartan check beads and black and red chintz print bead
During the presentation at the Press institute, the guests loved the form of the necklace. But they all had a question to which I had no answer then. They asked if I knew of a woman would be willing to walk around wearing a picture of a foreigner (man) around her neck. It made me question my decision to make the piece and after repeatedly hearing the same comment, considered ripping it apart and remaking it. Then, I got a message on Facebook from Ms. Padmapriya Bhaskar, a historian, and researcher asking about the piece.
Here is what she had to say about the piece on Facebook “I fell in love with the Patinam collection not just because of its ingenuity but also because it celebrates Madras in a very special way. As a heritage blogger and researcher, I felt I needed to own this to create more recognition both for the city and for the collection and I was not disappointed. I ordered for a black and red Chintz and Madras checks necklace with a Thomas Munroe pendant. To me, Munroe is not just as the Governor of Madras whose statue we see everyday at Gemini, but a truly blessed man who got the vision of my guru Sri Raghavendra Swamy. I got my order promptly and am loving it. Hope to wear and cherish it. More power to Divya to come up with many such lovely creations!! Cheers!!”
I am indeed happy that two of the pieces are with people who truly understand them. The shades of blue necklace is looking for a loving home. Will that be yours?
I wonder if this line of thinking – of creating Jewelry based on famous personalities will be interesting to wear and collect. If so, I would like to explore it further. What are your views? I have just started to work on a piece inspired by none other than Rajinikanth. I am interested in creating pieces based on a celebrity on order. If you would like one based on your favourite celeb, please contact me.
I hope you find it interesting