In search of the Snake Earring

It is always a thrill to match objects – we had such a thrill the last time we went in search of a ring. We continue on that path once again but this time is an ear ring ! Not any ordinary ear ring – but a snake earring !!

We had absolutely no clue of what it was when Raman Sir showed it to us. First question was if it were some amulet ! Even when he told us that it was an ear ring we were apprehensive. Even still when he told us that these were very much prevalent in Tamil Nadu right upto the 19th C we were not really sure. It looked too complex but then when we started comparing these with the modern day version of the heavy ( looks heavy but is mostly hollow – plated) earrings worn on dis intended earlobes by the village folk – could not but imagine at these the root word of the ear ring could be the same – Pambadam ( Paambu – snake) !

He proceeded to show us the same design in multiple materials – silver and copper.

Some googling helped us to land on this interesting article “Snake earrings of India” There the author had given a name to it – Nagavadura.

Further searches led us to sites assigned dates in the 19th C to the specimens.


Yet, despite multiple searches we have not been able to photograph of an actual person wearing this beautiful ornament. Raman sir made our task easier by letting us know that there exists a Paavai vilakku ( Deepa Lakshmi) in a popular temple with the same Ornament. So we had our antennas up when we visited the shrine and there she was. However, we couldn’t take obtain good photographs then.

Luckily our friend Mr. Veeren managed to source them thanks to mr. Vasanth Kathirvel (of Pondicherry.) – a big thank you to both of you. ( you will know why after seeing the photos next !!)

Such a masterly bronze – dating to the 17th – 18th C. Beautiful ornamentation and there is our Nagavadura.

I do hope some modern day jewellery designer works on this design but maybe he needs to find a way for it to be worn on a normal ear !!

In search of a Ring

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.

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

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.

What a fantastic ring !!

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.

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 !)

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

The Characteristic styling is pretty evident.

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