2613

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Rare South Indian Shiva-Parvati Double Rudraksha Necklace with Ruby-Inset Gold Mounts

South India
18th-19th century

width of pendant: 5.3cm, height of pendant: 7cm, length of necklace: 31cm, weight: 75g

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Provenance

private collection, UK.

This extremely rare pendant necklace features a large double, binary or co-joined rudraksha seed. Double rudraksha seeds are rare. Examples this size are rarer still. “Very rare” double rudraksha beads symbolise the union of Shiva and his consort Parvati (Beer, 2004, p. 217) and so have special significance to devotees. That is clear with the example here which has been selected as a single pendant and decorated with solid gold mounts. This inseparable form of Shiva and Parvati is sometimes known as Gauri-Shankar.

The pendant is suspended from a rosary necklace of 48 smaller rudraksha seeds each threaded to the next with fine gold wire. A gold clasp inset with two cabochon rubies on either side completes the necklace.

The gold mounts on the double rudraksha feature pearled gold wire edging and petal-like gadrooning. The seed is suspended via two gold loops decorated with small gold flowers. Three pendant terminals are applied to the gold base and these also are decorated with small gold flowers.

Such a necklace is not an ornament but a sectarian ritualistic device, and would be worn on special occasions by Shaivite priests, wealthy Shaivite devotees and possibly might have been used to adorn a temple statue.

The rudraksha seed is the stone of the fruit of the utrasam tree and is believed to be sacred to Shiva. The name ‘rudraksha’ means ‘eye of Rudra’, an ancient name for Shiva. The seeds are made into beads and worn as rosaries, necklaces and bracelets by Shaivite devotees and priests. Many devotees never remove such items, considering them among their most sacred possessions.

The example here is in superb condition. Each rudraksha has wear and patina, including the main double bead which shows ample evidence of ritual wear. Overall, this is a remarkable, rare and museum quality piece. It is in a stable, wearable condition.

References

Bala Krishnan, U.R. et al, Icons in Gold: Jewelry of India from the Collection of the Musee Barbier-Mueller, Somogy, 2005.

Beer, R., The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs,Serindia, 2004.

Filliozat, J, Parures Divines du Sud de l’Inde, Publications de l’Institut Français d’Indologie, 1966.

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