Here's some jewellery that's fit for the gods
The heady scent of incense, the sound of the priest chanting mantras in the background, and more importantly, a resplendent Radha-Krishna idol welcomes you as you enter Kalpana Sonthalia’s pooja room at home. Our gaze falls on the golden Krishna, who stands tall, his headgear bearing not just the customary peacock feather, but an elaborately bejewelled crown. His consort, Radha, not to be outdone, is decked in red, a traditional palakka mala from Kerala adorning her neck, with matching earrings and bangles — all designed and custom-made by Kalpana herself.
Kalpana’s morning routine involves adorning the idols at her home daily. “I don’t believe in rituals much, but I am deeply spiritual. My creativity stems from my strong belief and adherence to two traits — bhakti and seva. For special occasions like Ram Navami, Janmashtami, Navaratri, Durga Pooja, Diwali, etc, the adornments are a little more elaborate,” she adds. Her designs are already popular among her friends and family — in fact, there is a WhatsApp group of over a hundred people who wait every morning for a picture of the idols adorned by Kalpana.
Encouraged by her friends and family, this Chennai-based designer has been making jewellery pieces, both heirloom and costume. Her interest in this picked up after seeing beautifully adorned idols of Gods and Goddesses in temples, especially in the South. “I have always loved jewellery, and like most people, I too have a few treasured pieces in my trousseau, handed down by my mother-in-law. In Chennai, I was introduced to the concept of temple jewellery, and took an interest in making jewellery for deities, about six years ago, after I realised that nobody was really designing jewellery specifically for this purpose,” she says as she shows us some of her favourite pieces from her collection.
From traditional Kerala designs (like the palakka mala and the mulla mottu mala) to statement pieces of Tamil Nadu’s temple jewellery (like the kireedam, and kempu pieces) and even designs from her hometown Kolkata, Kalpana does it all. Her pieces are all customised depending on the size of the idol and her customer’s requirements. “I make jewellery with everything from gold and diamonds to pearls, beads and tassels, depending on what the client wants,” she explains. Ask her about her most challenging project and she says, “There was once a client from Kolkata who wanted coin necklaces (3 coins, 7 coins, 13 coins), and asked for 20 of each. That was the longest and toughest project that
I worked on.”
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