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Archive for October 18th, 2010

As an ornament and fashion accessory, Rings have always held their sway over mankind. It needed minimum work, shaping or piercing and was easy to put on take off, if you add the digits in the toe, you could wear 20 ( yeah it was worn on the thumbs as well) - and add to it the tag of love - engagement, wedding, wealth , power - you get the larger aura surrounding a ring. In the age of emails and digital signatures, the value of the Emperor’s crust or the Clan’s standard could be easily and safely carried on person with the Ring. No wonder,its tradition goes back almost 4800 years ( thanks wiki !!) but then that would mean trying to fix a date for India’s two greatest Epics. Pending the verdict, wouldn’t want to dwell more on it, but to mention that the ring plays a vital role in Ramayana, with Sita identifying Hanuman as a messenger of her Lord on seeing his ring on him and also in the reunion of Shakunthala with Dushyant, who forgets his marriage and his own son Barath, due to the sage’s curse, and then reminded by seeing his ring from inside the belly of fish ….we the great lineage of Barath trace our antecedents. More recently, the impact of the Lord of the Rings triology, showcased the power of the rings in middle earth!!!

Well, today we go in search of one such a ring, as we try and merge two different fields - Ornaments and Bronzes, as we figure the answer to a complex problem - of fixing reasonably accurate dates for bronzes. Many thanks to Mr Raman, for once again taking time to provide us with quality photographs, which also reinstate our request for viewers to try and take many photos of bronzes from Museums world over.

It all began with the 1000th year celebration of the Tanjore Big Temple, and the thoughtful exhibition that was organised to go with it. Mr Raman had documented the exhibition extensively and one of his albums had this exhibit of Chola period ornaments. One struck our eye, for its not often you get to see actual exhibits of period ornaments, and there is very sparse written details on them.

exhibit+tanjore+1000th+year

Being avid enthusiasts, we started talking about the ring that was being exhibited there.

chola+period+rings

He had also photographed quite a number of bronzes that were being exhibited with some detailed closeups of their hands and rings !! ( Most of the exhibits were from the Chennai Egmore Museum, but out there there are inside glass cases that are a nightmare for photography).

So, logical progression was to check the bronzes to see, if he could find a matching ring.

For that we needed a good closeup of the ring, first up.

closeup+ring
closeup+ring+face
closeup+ring+reverse

What a fantastic ring !!

First up, is this CE 10th Century, bronze Parvathi, from Kodaikkadu, Vedaranyam Taluk, Nagappattinam district.

10thC+umai

Just too stunning a bronze, but lets focus on the rings for now.

10thC+umai+lefthand
10thC+umai+lefthand+closeup

The rings are pretty plain ones, almost like thick wires with some amount of artistic work done on them

10thC+umai+rings

Next up, we shift another Century, This CE 11th Century Bronze Parvathi with an assistant is from Tiruvengimalai, Trichy

parvathi+11thC

Lets go a bit closer and study if the ring style / fashion has changed in this 100 years.

11thC+umai+lefthand+ring
11thC+umai+righthand+ring
11thC+umai+righthand+ring=closeup
11thC+umai+ring+closeup
11thC+umai+ring+lefthand
11thC+umai+ring+thumb
11thc+umai+ring

The fashion industry has definitely caught up, we see a more pronounced set stone in the center, with flower bud/petal like patterns around it.

Another example from the same period, the splendid Ardhanari 11th C CE, from Tiruvengadu , Mayiladuthurai.

11thC+ardhanari

The Umai ( left) side, has her delicate hand as we zoom in for the ring

11thC+umai+hand+ardhanari

The style here might be slightly before the previous Parvathi. Maybe this was early part of the 11th C, you can see the ring becoming more flattened at the centre and more definition in its design - shaping up like a ring now.

We might need to study a few more samples in the 12th and 13th C, but we met our result in the next exhibit. This Paravathi from Devarkandanallur, Tiruvarur District.

parvathi+15thC
14thC+parvathi

The date of this bronze is a bit unclear, as while she was in the Chennai Museum she was given a 14th C CE date, while the Tanjore Exhibition gave her a 15th C Date. ( will study the Catalogue and do a post on why she is given such a late date shortly !)

bronze+15thC

But, on the topic of this post, we did find the ring on her.

bronze+ring
ring+finger

The Characteristic styling is pretty evident.

ring
ring+marked

So now comes the tricky question. What is the date for this ring?

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