History of pearls in India: An overview
by Nisheeth Nayar on May 30, 2023
In India too, they have been mentioned countless times. From the ancient epics to the current globalised market. Pearls are a popular choice for jewellery in India and have been used as part of traditional wedding ceremonies and other important occasions for ages. They were also used as currency in some parts of India before the introduction of coins or paper money. In Hindu mythology, pearls are associated with the moon and the god Vishnu, and they are believed to bring good luck and prosperity.
The use of pearls as an ornament has been continued in the Indian tradition for thousands of years. In the ancient epic Ramayana, there is a mention of queen Sita gifting lord Hanuman a necklace featuring 27 pearls for his exceptional heroism.
In the epic Mahabharata too, Lord Krishna has been mentioned as wearing a pearl necklace named Taravali. Also, Karna, the eldest brother among the Pandavas who fought against them is mentioned wearing the iconic body armour - ‘Kavach Kundan’ where the ‘kavach’ is referred to as body armour and the ‘Kundan’ refers to pearl earrings. Apart from these major epics, these gems are also mentioned countless times in various old temple carvings and scriptures.
Many of us may not be aware, but Indian culture also has a long-standing belief in the medicinal properties of pearls. The Charak Samhita, a treatise composed by the ancient Rishi Charak, mentions the use of these natural gems to cure eye diseases, as an antidote for poisons, for the regeneration of bones and other ailments, and for the improvement of strength and overall health.
The beauty and rarity of pearls have been treasured for centuries, with rulers throughout time, and throughout the Indian subcontinent. From the Cholas who used pearls as an important trade currency to the Mughal Emperors such as Akbar and Shah Jahan to the Bengal trade port, appreciating their worth, they have been an integral part of the Indian timeline. Indian pearls have long been sought after for their exceptional quality and have been exported around the world.
The demand for this commodity became so high that an entire city became known as the city of pearls.
Hyderabad has been the capital of the Nizams for a long period and Nizams are known for their love for these rare gems. The demand for pearls in India at this time became so high that Hyderabad was not only known for exporting pearls but also for importing them from the middle east mainly Basra, Iraq.
It is a common saying in Hyderabad that Nizams were renowned for their generous and lavish gifting habits - often presenting their wives (a.k.a. ‘begum’) with the most exquisite and valuable pearl jewellery. The story is still renowned of how Begum Sahiba Niloufer Sultana Farhat(1916-1989) married Moazzam Jah, son of the Last Nizam and her signature attire of chiffon and crepe saris adorned with pearls earned her title of 'natural beauty. It is even recorded that many craftsmen even stayed and started a living in Hyderabad, coming a long way from Middle-east.
Still to this day, Pearls lies in a sweet spot for the women of this Nation. Celebrities from India and abroad flock to our country to get a taste of the distinct art of handcrafted pearl jewellery
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We believe in the colourful spectrum of festivals and special occasions in our nation and realise that there can be a pearl for every occasion. Reviving the art and making it a legacy is the main purpose of our brand.