Magar Kundal

Throughout history, India has been described as the land of the rich & the royals, with plenty of gold, diamonds & home to many precious jewels, jewellers & fine artisans. This is why it is hardly a surprise that people from India handcrafted a lot of jewellery & were seen clad in pieces unique to our design language since ancient times. Not only women, but Indian men also wore a lot of jewellery made specifically for them. An example of an interesting piece hailing from the past was known as the Magar Kundal.

The Magar Kundal was an immersive ear ornament rather an earring made for men in Orissa. The story of its creation dates back to the past - right to the times during the reign of Akbar the great. Akbar was the 1st to introduce the culture of singing contests at royal courts, a tradition followed by the royals till date. In order to facilitate or praise the artists for their praiseworthy feats, they were gifted with Kundals or magar kundals during those times.

There were two types of Kundal earrings, the plain Kundal as well a unique form known as the Makara form. The Makara or the magar literally meant a crocodile-like sea monster with a characteristic long snout; just like the one of an elephant. Since this form was made to look like the magar, this earring came to be known as the magar kundal. Today, it might seem a bit unusual to have had earrings with crocodiles designs, but Indian history, art & architecture seem to state otherwise. These forms have been seen in art since the Shunga period. Many sculptures & paintings depict Lord Shiva & Lord Vishnu with Makara earrings. Goddess Lakshmi also has the Makara animal as her vehicle.

Throughout history, the makara was described as a proud creature who due to his size, strength & nature cast an unstated superiority over the muddy water area it lived in. This quality of the creature was said to be similar to that of a learned person who is surrounded by the ignorant society. Another reason which connects the makara to the learned artist is his vast knowledge of the ocean which can be compared to the artist’s vast knowledge about his subject.

When it came to their weight, the magar kundal were not lightweight & were deliberately made to be a little heavy in order to make the wearer bow his head. This was due to put into practice the belief that a learned person is always modest and does not roam around with a proud upright head like an ignorant one.

Worn largely by the brahmin purohit community, pandits & artists these beautiful earrings were made from gold & studded with gems like diamonds, rubies, sapphires etc. Gifted as symbols of honour & pride, more than 2000 Odissi singers are proud owners of these kundals at present.

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