Such a necklace was worn by the women (or the men according to some sources) of the Toda tribe of Tamil Nadu is South India. It was worn during rituals associated with water buffaloes. The buffaloes themselves were decorated with related necklaces and ornaments.
It is a superb, heavy necklace. The silver beads and other elements are all threaded onto a silver wire plaited cord. The man bead in the middle is of oval form with multiple silver fins. It is very unusual and specific to the Todas.
The Todas are a small, simple rural community who live in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu. Their religious beliefs are very tied to water buffaloes and their milk-giving abilities, and the worship of a mother goddess.
Hoek (2004, p. 145) illustrates a similar example, as does Leurquin (2003, p. 235).
Untracht (1997, p. 227) observes that most of the jewellery made for the Toda people was made by the occupational Asari caste of Malabar who were working in Udagamandalam. However, Bala Krishnan (2005, p, 156) says it was the neighbouring Kota tribe who supplied the Todas with much of their jewellery.
The necklace is heavy for its size. It is stable and very wearable and closes at the back with an ‘S’-shaped catch.
Bala Krishnan, U.R. et al, Icons in Gold: Jewelry of India from the Collection of the Musee Barbier-Mueller, Somogy, 2005.
Borel, F., The Splendour of Ethnic Jewelry: From the Colette and Jean-Pierre Ghysels Collection, Thames & Hudson, 1994.
Hoek, C., et al, Ethnic Jewellery: From Africa, Asia and Pacific Islands, Pepin Press, 2004.
Leurquin, A., A World of Necklaces: Africa, Asia, Oceania, America from the Ghysels Collection, Skira, 2003.
Untracht, O., Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.