Gold Krishna & Cobra Pendant (Nagar) Inset with Rubies, Diamonds & Emeralds
height: 6.3cm, width: 4.6cm, weight: 38g
This gold pendant is set with rubies, diamonds and emeralds. The form is of the multi-headed cobra Kaliya which acts as a canopy for a small image of Krishna who plays a flute. Krishna dances on the body of the cobra and is worked in gold and studded with emeralds. Krishna’s face comprises a single emerald beautifully carved with facial features – this sort of work is reminiscent of the Mughal preference for carving emeralds.
The lower edge is lined with three rows of hollow gold beads (there is some minor age-related crushing to some of the beads, similar to other illustrated examples mentioned below.)
The reverse is of sheet gold chased and engraved with the back of the body and head of the cobra with the lower border comprising the heads and bodies of a pair of addorsed serpents.
The pendant has a good size and weight but is likely to be filled with lac. Small loops from heads of the cobra probably once would have allowed for the suspension of small pearls or similar.
A very similar example which also has a carved emerald face for Krishna, is in the Susan Beningson Collection and is illustrated in Aitken (2004, p. 79) and ascribed to the 18th century. Aitken comments that such an ornament would have belonged to a Vaishnavite women and often were worn by young woman trained in dance who were married to a god (
devidasis). A nearly identical example also is in the National Museum, Delhi. Originally, these would have served as braid ornaments to be worn on or near the forehead, but now they are more likely to be worn as pendants around the neck. The example here has been strung with a black plaited string so it can be worn as such.
Aitken, M.E., When Gold Blossoms: Indian Jewelry from the Susan L. Beningson Collection, Asia Society & Philip Wilson Publishers, 2004.
private collection, UK
Inventory no.: 2759