BAL KADAS BANGLES
India, Rajasthan, Jaipur, early 19th century
Inner diameter: 2,2 cm
A pair of gold child bangles BAL KADAS, with Makara (mythical sea creature) head finials, set with diamonds and rubies and enamelled in the traditional Champlevé technique, with a scroll of red flowers and green leafs on a white ground, with red and green parrots all executed in safed chalwan enamel, the outside with green enamel, kachnar ki patti. The use of red enamel work is only possible on 20k or higher pure gold.
The presentation of bangles to a newborn baby was a tradition, which originated in Rajasthan, the home of the Rajputs – the purpose being to bless and ward off the evil eye. This tradition stems from the initial practice of adorning a newborn baby with a black thread on both wrists and for this reason these bangles were enamelled in dark blue and even black. Bal Kadas were presented in a ceremony called Bhath, and were brought by the maternal uncle of the child. The rich execution and lavish embellishments on these Bal Kadas, Bal meaning child and Kadas meaning bangles, reveal the privileged status of the owner.
Since aquatic beasts play an important role in Indian mythology and art, the Makara, with the head of a crocodile and the tail of a fish, is one of the most indigenous among these fabulous Indian creatures. It goes back to a time more than two thousand years ago when the natural world was seen as both symbol and reality and fantastic creatures were invented to express the complexity of nature. The Makara has magical and occult powers and the motif has adorned the headdresses, earrings, armbands and hip belts of countless Hindu Gods and decorated the columns, brackets, lintels and ceilings of the temples that house them. It takes precedence over all other water creatures as a motif in Indian art, and figures prominently on torans, medallions, gargoyles, throne backs and jewellery. Traditionally, festoons and strings of pearls poured forth from the gaping mouth of this monster of the primeval waters, symbolising the abundance of the sea. The Makara is a symbol of the fertility of rivers, lakes and the sea, which consequently represents the essence of life. The Makara also symbolises happiness and is an auspicious sign, for it is the vehicle of several important Hindu deities: It is the vehicle or symbol of Varuna, god of the waters of heaven and earth: of Ganga, the great river goddess of the Ganges and it is the emblem of Kama, the God of love.
It appears from a study of the history of Indian jewellery that such bangles, but also some types of bracelets, , anklets, and bazu bands were always worn in pairs. This is related to the Indian concept of cosmic order and balance: Adornments on the right side of the body should be mirror matched on the left side of the body. Therefore one bangle was worn around each arm.
Although we do come across single bangles, it is very unusual to find a pair of such child bangles together.
Susan Stronge: “A Golden Treasury” Jewellery from the Indian Subcontinent. Pag. 90 ill 84
Asharani Mathur: “ A Jewelled Splendour” Pag. 53
Rinascente: “Gioielli dall’India” Pag. 166