I am glad to introduce to you all a 60 years young lady, Mrs. Sudha Balachandran. Her indomitable spirit to succeed, motivated her to become an entrepreneur and deal with Temple Jewellery. With customers all over the world and orders flocking in, she has launched her own website! In a brief interview, she talks about the origin of temple jewellery and its significance in the present day context. 1. What is temple jewellery or kemp jewellery? Tell us about its origin. This art, the hall mark of gifted goldsmiths who lived in the interior rural villages of Tamil Nadu has at least 3000 years of unbroken tradition. It has been nurtured for centuries and handed down for generations. The designs we incorporate are based on traditional South Indian temple jewellery, which have adorned the deities in our temples. The antique jewels are made of silver and 24 ct gold leaves (thin gold foil). The fabrication of the jewels is made out of silver linings. The top visible layer is adorned with natural un-cut stones & gold leaves are used to form the lining of the stones. The jewels are then gold plated to attain a high quality finish. This ensures that the jewels retain the sheen for years. In the 20th century. kemp jewellery or temple jewellery adorns not just classical Bharatanatiyam and Kuchipudi dancers, but women everywhere who have a taste for the aesthetic. "More than a fashion statement, it has become an iconography of refined culture and historic relevance. From its beginnings in temple precincts, this exquisite style of jewellery has not only survived the ravages of time but, in spite of the popularity it enjoys, it's quite removed from the commercialization that plagues objects of art." 2. What color stones are used? The colors used in temple jewellery are mostly red and in between green and white cut stones. Most designs are from the nature like birds like peacock, swan, mango, flowers like daisy and jamanthi and serpants etc. 3. It is adorned by gods, bharatanatiyam dancers and brides during their muhurtham. What is its significance? Temple jewellery was used to adorn deities in temples and were used only by kings. Previously, Temple Jewellery was made with gold. Then, an alloy of gold and silver became the base .Now silver is mainly used as the base metal. Temple jewellery used to adorn deities in temples and the dancers in temple arts like bharathanatyam and kuchipudi. It's a must for the dancers. There is significance in the headset of the dancers. The whole universe is symbolized in the headset. The asaris say that when a girl wears kundan and other jewellery, she will look attractive but once she wears temple jewellery she will have a divine beauty. It protects her from all evils. It's more or less a dying art since there are only very few of the new generations coming in to make the jewellery. They don't want to waste their lives making such intricate craft for such a poor remuneration. Many of them move to gold work because it's more remunerative. 4. For how many years have you been dealing with Kemp Jewellery? And what have your experiences been? I came into this field 15 years back.The main person who blessed me and gave me the first consignment was the late Manickam Asari who had received Gold medal for his craftsmanship from the president of India. The second time when I went to purchase from him, I was describing how people liked the jewellery. But none of them bought the pieces since they dint carry enough cash with them, I said. Then he said something which I can never forget. He said, ``You should have given them the pieces they liked. I said ``How could I? Those were people whom I didn't know at all He replied, Everybody will pay you the money, Amma. They won't cheat. If they do, let them do that and be happy. ``A poor man living in a pitiful atmosphere could say such a thing and here I am, who has other ways of living not willing to trust people! So I decided to follow him. I started trusting people. And till date no one has cheated me. . When I started the business, I dared not to spend more than 3000 Rs at a time, Now after 15 yrs of experience , I would not mind putting all my savings into this because I know that it's all going to be sold rather snatched away. When I first brought few pieces to Cochin, I was rather hesitant. How will the Malayalees look at the typical Tamil looking jewellery? On the contrary, I was shocked at the way ladies and girls flocked around my items. Many of them said and still say that they search for good temple jewellery and my jewels fulfilled their expectations. Since its not made in a large scale, Ordinary shops do not display temple jewellery. Few shops in Cochin claim that they sell temple jewellery but they only sell dance items that too get it only on order.
I started understanding that customers of Cochin are designer crazy and thus I started getting designer pieces, The problem with my aasaris is that they don't like to move away from tradition. Even if they know of the popularity of designer pieces, they still cling on to the age old designs. The pieces, they make for me with reluctance, get sold off like hot cakes. Since Malayalees don't like much chunky jewellery, I started a new section called Jr. chokers. I get pendants attached to gold plated chains. Also mix and match units from different chokers. The problem with them is that I won't be able to duplicate most of them. Another contribution from my side is that I started naming the pieces I get. I select names form the puranas or the names of the customers who buy them. Thus I have Gandhari, Droupadi, Madri, Gouthami, Charulatha, Kalyani,etc in chokers; Madhavi, Kannaki, Kalika etc in drops; Swarnalatha, Suryakanthi, Nayana, Thara etc in studs and from my customers emerged Roopa, Soumya, Meena, Sumithra etc.