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Kerala Traditional Wedding Jewellery Designs

Blessed with white sandy beaches, a beautiful network of backwaters, blue hills and rainforests, Kerala is befittingly called ‘God’s own country’ . ‘Simple living and high thinking’ is a way of life here. The absence of overly lavish, opulent palaces is a testament to the ‘down to earth’ attitude even amongst royalty. The simplicity and elegance of Kerala is evident even in its traditional outfit – the ‘Kasavu mundu’ and ‘Settu sari’. The rich and the poor alike prefer to wear this gold-bordered beauty for special occasions, including weddings.

The women in Kerala are socially aware and form an active part of the administration. The new-age ‘Malayali Manga’ is an entrepreneur, a collector, a metro train driver, a Municipal Chairman and even climbs a coconut tree with elan. She strikes a perfect balance between the modern and the traditional. Nowhere is it more evident than at weddings!

Although gold is still largely preferred, others such as white gold, platinum, pearls and diamonds are also finding their way to the modern bride’s trousseau. Many Christian brides prefer diamond necklaces to complement their white wedding gowns, while gold is reserved for the reception when she changes into her ‘Mantrakodi’, a richly embroidered sari gifted by the groom.

The maang tikka called ‘Netti Chutti’ is a must for Hindu brides. It may be a simple maang tikka or with two chains outlining the forehead and perfectly framing the face. It is usually embedded with coloured stones such as rubies and emerald. Uncut diamonds are a hot favourite among modern brides. Keralites on the Tamil Nadu border areas, often follow the Tamil custom of wearing ‘Suryan’ and ‘Chandran’ on either sides of their hair partition, in addition to the Netti Chutti.

‘Jadanagam' which means ‘hair serpent' is another hair embellishment borrowed from the neighbouring state, worn on the neatly plaited braid. Muslim brides also wear the Netti chutti, although some prefer the ‘jhoomar', a beautiful Mughal inspired ornament worn on only one side of the hair partition. A Christian bride wears a lovely tiara that holds her veil in place.

Exchange of rings “Mothiram Mattal" during engagement is a custom followed by all religious groups in Kerala. Christians however, exchange rings during the wedding as well. Many Christian brides prefer diamond rings for engagement and gold ones for the wedding ceremony. Gold rings embossed with the name of the spouse is the traditional preference. Although, platinum and diamond rings are gaining popularity.

The earrings are almost exclusively ‘Jhimkis’ also known as ‘Jhumkas’- bell-shaped hanging earrings that come in a variety of designs and sizes. ‘Some brides prefer broad stud earrings called ‘Thoda’ which may be embellished with pearl, diamonds, rubies or emerald.
‘Kasu Mala’ made of elaborate gold coins is again common to all religious groups. Hindus, however, have motifs of Goddess Lakshmi on their coins and hence call it the ‘Lakshmi mala’ or ‘Lakshmi Kasu mala’. Kasu mala with many gold coins stacked close together is called ‘Adakku Kasu mala’. The ‘Palakka mala’ or leaf shaped necklace is traditionally green and made of gold and special green coloured glass. However, today it is available in different colours including red and blue. It usually has a matching round pendant.

‘Moonizhamani mala’ is made of three gold chains linked together with a pendant. ‘Poothali’ or flower necklace is a beloved choker with intricate designs of flowers and leaves. ‘Kingini mala’ and ‘Elakkathali' which is a gold choker with thin, highly polished strands of gold that glimmers and shines with the slightest movement are a hot favourite among Christian brides.
Mughal influence is highly evident in the Muslim bridal jewellery designs. The bridal trousseau includes elaborate, ornate jewellery with large, broad pendants, highly embellished with diamonds, rubies, emeralds or other precious stones. The ‘ Jhoomar', an ornament for the hair and ‘Haathphool', which is worn on the hands with a prominent centrepiece and delicate chains attached to rings on the fingers, are signature Mughal jewellery pieces.
The most important piece of jewellery, however, is the ‘Thirumangalyam’ or ‘Thali'. The leaf-shaped thali attached to a thread is fastened around the bride's neck by the groom during the wedding ceremony. It is akin to the Mangalsutra. Hindus, Christians and Muslims in South Kerala, all follow this tradition. The thali for Christians has a cross embedded to it while Hindus often have the “Aum” on theirs. Muslims often have their holy symbols on the Mangalyam too.
‘Mookuthi’ or nose rings are usually simple, a single diamond stud being the most common choice. Waist belt or ‘Oddiyanam’ is a thick broad gold belt with intricate, detailed designs of various deities for Hindus or nature-inspired designs for Muslims. It is heavily adorned with rubies, diamonds or emeralds. Some brides prefer more feminine designs with several delicate chains linkedbeautifully together to grace the hip and the waist.
‘Cheruthali kootam’ or ‘Edakkanni thalikootam’ both made of small motifs of the leaf-shaped ‘thali' is a must for the Namboothiri bride. There are many more kinds of necklaces such as Pathakam, Thamara Poothali, Dalaminni, Soochi Mulla mala, Kamizhthi mala, Chandraminni mala, Vairaminni mala, Kuzhiminni mala, Chakramala, Kasavu mala, gothambu mala, kanaka mala etc. The list is inexhaustible, just as the Malayali’s love for gold.
Antique gold jewellery and Temple jewellery are quite in vogue these days. They include heavy pendants with intricate, handcrafted figures of various deities. Necklaces, pendants, oddiyanam, vanki and bangles in mesmerising designs, worn mostly by royalty in the bygone era, is sure to turn heads on the bride's special day. ‘Ashta Lakshmi’ mala and bangles, with eight forms of the Goddess, ‘Dasavatharam’ mala and bangles with the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu and pendants of Lord Ganesha are also popular picks.
The ‘Nagapada Thali’ is similar to the Palakka mala, except the motifs resemble a snake's hood. The ‘Manga mala' consists of paisley shaped motifs resembling the ‘manga' or mango. It is also traditionally green and available in different colours today. The ‘Pichimottu mala’ and ‘Mullamottu mala’ both resemble jasmine buds. The former consists of elongated jasmine bud motifs while the latter is made of more rounded ones. These are usually worn as a middle or last chain.

The ‘Pulinakha mala' as the name suggests, resembles tiger claws and comes in many colours. It comes in both choker and long chain styles. ‘Kazhuthila mala' made of leaf-shaped motifs can be made of plain gold or embellished with rubies and emerald. ‘Gaja mala’ has motifs of elephant head and is usually a long chain. ‘Manimala’ is made of round beads while ‘Avil mala’ has beads shaped like puffed rice. ‘Karimani mala’ as the name suggests has both gold and black beads and resembles the North Indian ‘Mangalsutra’. The armlet called ‘Vanki’ or ‘Aaram’ is mostly worn by Hindus and is not very common. It is inverted ‘V' shaped with designs of a serpent or Hindu deities. It is usually embellished with coloured gemstones and hanging beads.

The ‘Palakka vala' with a leaf-shaped pattern to match the Palakka mala, ‘Nagapadam vala’ with the same design as Nagapadam mala, ‘Navratna vala' with the nine gemstones, ‘Palakka manga vala’ with mango motifs, ‘Lakshmi vala’ with motifs of Goddess Lakshmi etc are the more traditional ones. Modern designs include pearls, diamonds, rubies, uncut diamonds, Rhodium etc. in contemporary designs for the millennial bride.
A Malayali bride adorned with scores of bangles from the wrist to the elbow is a pretty common sight in Kerala. Catering to the love for bangles, there is a wide range of styles and designs to choose from. The thick kada bangles are called ‘thadavala', and the thin ones are called ‘Ottavala’. The kadas can be round thick bracelets or flat, broad ones with intricate designs.
The traditional sights and sounds of the nadaswaram, church bell chimes, mapilla pattu, nilavilakku etc. remain an integral part of modern Malayali weddings. And so does the jewellery! For Malayalis, gold is not just a precious metal; it is a status symbol, an investment and insurance. Although gold is traditional and much loved, the advent of Kundan and Polki jewellery indicates a change in trend among modern brides. Many brides prefer a single statement jewellery piece of diamond, Polki or Kundan with matching bangles and earrings for that regal look that will make the groom go weak on his knees.

You will find all this and much more in the “Muhurat” floor at Kalyan Jewellers, a whole floor dedicated exclusively to bridal jewellery.