Odissi dance is complemented by intricate filigree silver jewelry pieces. Filigree, in French, means “thin wire,” and in Oriya it is called Tarchasi. This highly skilled art form is more than 500 years old and is traditionally done by local artisans on the Eastern shores of Orissa. The jewelry pieces themselves are an important part of the Odissi dancer’s costume and is comprised of the tikka (forehead ornament), allaka (head piece on which the tikka hangs), unique ear covers in intricate shapes (kappa), usually depicting a peacock’s feathers, with jhumkis (bell shaped earrings) hanging from them, two necklaces- a smaller necklace worn close to the neck and a longer necklace with a hanging pendant, and two sets of bangles worn on the upper arm (bahi chudi) and wrist (Kankana). The process of creating each piece takes the collaboration of many artisans each specialized in one step of the many that turns a lump of raw silver into a handcrafted work of art.
First, the lump of silver is placed into a small clay pot and together the two are put into a bucket full of hot coals. The temperature is regulated through a bellow that is hand operated by a crank.
The melting process takes about ten minutes and then the silver is poured into a small, rod-like mold and cooled by submerging the rod in water. The rod is then placed into a machine that will press the rod into a long, thin wire. This tedious and physically demanding process had been done traditionally by hand and took two men to turn the crank. Once the silver is pressed into a flat, workable wire, the wire itself can first be hand carved with intricate designs, or immediately smoldered by a small kerosene fire with one artist directing the small flame with a hollow tube held in his mouth into which he can blow. This process makes it easier for the artisan to mold the wire into the desired frame for the piece before it is cooled. Next the wires are strung together and twisted and shaped into a design by the artist’s precise fingers. Soldering is done by placing the piece into a mixture of borax powder and water, sprinkling soldering powder onto it and then placing it once again under the small flame. This insures that the detail of the design will stay intact. Once this is done, the artist will then take the warm piece and shape it into its form as an ornament.
Finally, the ornament is filed down and polished by soaking it in a frothy mixture of water and split nuts from a tree called “soap nut.” The ornament is now ready to be pieced together to others like it and worn by the dancer.
Seenthi: Single jewelry piece placed on the hair and forehead
Mathami or Matha Patti: forehead ornament
Allaka: head piece on which the tikka hangs
Kapa : unique ear covers in shapes usually depicting a peacock’s feathers
Jhumkas: bell shaped earrings
Short necklace also called a chick
Long necklace with a hanging pendant.
Bahichudi or Bajuband: armlets worn on the upper arm.
Kankana (bangles) at the wrist.
Bengapatia: elaborate belt worn on the waist made of silver or similar materials
The crown, Mukoot or Pushpachuda, worn by the female Odissi dancer is made only in the devotional city of Puri in Odisha. It is formed from the dried reeds called sola. The reed is carved by a series of cuts into the rod-like stem. A string is tied in the middle of the rod and pulled tight. As the string is tightened, the flowers shape into Jasmines, Champa (one of the five flowers of Lord Krishna’s arrows), and Kadamba (the flowers of the tree under which Radha would wait for her beloved Lord Krishna).
The Mukoot consists of two parts i.e. Ghoba and Tahiya. The flower decorated back piece, called the Ghoba, sits around the dancer’s hair pulled into a bun at the back of the head. The longer piece that emerges from the center of the back piece is called the Tahiya, and this represents the temple spire of Lord Jagannath or the flute of Lord Krishna.
Other Hair Accessories
Ghungroo – Ankle Bells
Storing and Preserving
Most Odissi Jewellery is made of Silver or alternative white metal. Here are a few tips and tricks to help increase the life of your Odissi Jewellery.
1. Store all your jewelry in plastic containers to keep moisture away and prevent oxidisation
2. Before a performance, polish your jewelry with toothpaste powder (such as colgate)
3. if you are using filigree jewelry, make sure you wipe it out well after a performance or before storage. Moisture and sweat tent to blacken jewelry
4. Never cramp your jewelry during storage. The links are usually delicate and tend to loosen if cramped and stored. Pick a big box with enough space to accommodate all your accessories
5. Pin up jewelry to your costume as much as possible. There is nothing more distracting that a lose piece of jewelry during a performance. Stretch your hands up before you pin your long chain to prevent any tears during your show.
6. Filigree jewelry photographs very well and is best suited for photo shoots while plate jewelry looks best on stage performances. Choose your jewelry wisely.
7. Have 2 sets of ghungroos with you. One for practise and one for performances. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the performance ghungroo during stage rehearsals.