Dıfferent cultures and magnıfıcent jewels from “Indıan Song” collectıon of Lydıa Courteılle

Following in the footsteps of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605 – 1689), Tamerlane and his greatgreat-great-grandson Babur (r.1526-1530) who established the Mughal Empire, Courteille travelled extensively in India seeking ideas for her next collections. ‘Indian Song’ is a collection full of colour representing the extraordinary colours of India. Courteille takes us on a journey temple to temple where we visit the festivals that are of such importance to the Indian people. Her inspirations for this collection come from many different themes as architecture or Indian cosmology.

Khajuraho Temple was a fascinating first stop for Courteille, the temple was built during the Chandella dynasty and is believed to have been built during the 10th and 11th centuries. The temple is covered in sensual and explicitly erotic sculptures and although there is no consensus about their origin, one understanding is believed to mean that the pilgrim should leave all that is associated with worldly pleasures outside before entering the interior of the temple walls. Courteille has created a particularly erotic ring to celebrate this temple. She created a ring which blends and combines the unusual beige of sandalwood, recalling the colour of the sculpted temple facades, with the deep red colour of tourmaline to create a ring which is both simple and complex at the same time.

Courteille’s next port of call was the brightly coloured temple of Madurai Gapuram which dates back to between the 12th and 18th centuries. It is a complex of fourteen elaborately sculptured and painted stucco decorated towers and is dedicated to the Lord Shiva and his consort the goddess Parvathi. She took the architecture of this fabulous complex to create her temple ring set with colourful cabochon sapphires, rubies and spinel which represent the stucco figures covering the temples facades. The carved emerald evokes the time of Moghul splendour and the pink sapphire Naga on the side represents the semi-divine figure who rules over the underworld. The Naga is represented as a cobra snake and it is guardian of the Earth’s treasures which include gemstones, gold, rivers and lakes.

Moving through time, Courteille then travelled on through Rajasthan to Agra in Uttar Pradesh to visit the famous Taj Mahal, built in white marble and decorated by mosaics inlaid with gemstones, the marble mausoleum was an extraordinary tale of love, built by the Moghul emperor Shah Jehan who reigned between 1628 and 1658. He built the mausoleum in memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is believed to have taken its inspiration from Tamerlane’s Gur-e-Amir madrassah in Samarkand where he is buried. In Jean-Baptiste Tavernier’s writings, he believed that Shah Jehan dreamed of and intended to build a mirror image of the Taj Mahal on the opposite side of the Yamuna river in black marble joined by a bridge. The Taj Mahal, regarded as a Moghul architectural jewel combining Islamic, Ottoman, Indian and Iranian architectural influences.

Mahabalipuram was another special place that caught Courteille’s interest, huge rocks of granite seem to have come from nowhere to standisolated and alone on beaches in the Pallava kingdom in Tamil Nadu. It is regarded as a world heritage site and is home to the rock relief ‘Descent of the Ganges’ in several Hindu scripts, and the Shore Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Fascinating is the fact that Chinese and Roman coins from antiquity have been discovered near Mahabalipuram showing that trade was active along this part of India’s coast. The rocks illustrate the tales of the Mahabharata carved out of the granite rocks. Naga Necklace. The story tells of the Hindu religions origins with the serpent Naga being born and ascending in the divide between the two major rock formations.

Sarasvati is the consort of Brahma, the goddess of works of art and knowledge, she is the the patron of dialogue, the sciences, the arts and music, and she is believed to have invented Sanskrit. Courteille renders homage to this goddess with four arms by creating a jewel using the symbols of purity and beauty, a swan and a peacock, two creatures that accompany Sarasvati wherever she goes. Sarasvati is often shown wearing a crown (akarandamukuta) surrounded by a halo and in her hand she holds the sacred scriptures and a rosary (akshamala) in another while playing a corded instrument, the veena, with her two other hands. The four hands represent man’s four stages of apprenticeship. She is often surrounded by lotus flowers. Sarasvati accompanied by a swan and a peacock, symbols of purity and beauty. Courteille’s interpretation of the goddess Sarasvati accompanied by her creatures a swan and a peacock.

The peacock has accompanied Courteille on her odysseys along the Silk Road, she first encountered the peacock in Constantinople and then in the symbols of zoroastrianism on her voyage of discovery to Samarkand and Khiva and now, once again in India where she saw the famous Peacock Gate of the City Palace in Jaipur. Peacock Necklace inspired by the Peacock Gate of the City Palace – 18k Gold, 1 glass jar 11 tanzanites 20.8 carats, 10 opals 4.4 cts, 11 emeralds 6.6 cts, 40 apatite beads, 60 emeralds and tanzanites beads 39 yellow sapphires beads, 14 apatites 15 cts, 4 yellow tourmaline 7.85 cts, 238 sapphires beads 105.88 cts, 585 sapphires 24.17 cts, 30 white diamonds 0.91 cts, 330 tsavorites , 92 yellow sapphires …

Taking the turra as a starting point, Courteille has created a pair of ear-pendants full of poetry, an ode to nature. She brings together the beauty of an idealised parrot and combines its tail to create the typical s-shaped hook of a turra to create her own interpretation, thus from an ornament worn on the side of a turban hanging past the ear, it has become a simple pair of earpendants suspending carved emeralds recalling the splendour of times gone by. Humming Bird Turra Ear-pendants – Emerald, tsavorite garnet, sapphire, red spinel, turquoise, 18k black rhodium-plated gold. Humming Bird Turra Ear-pendants – Emerald, tsavorite garnet, sapphire, red spinel, turquoise, 18k black rhodium-plated gold.

Courteille continued her way to the Hindu temple of Karni Mata in Rajasthan where thousands of rats live, venerated by the population. It is said that Lakshman, the son of Karni Mata, drowned while drinking from a pond and that he and all his male relatives were permitted by Yama, the god of death, to come back to the world of the living reincarnated as rats. To eat food nibbled by the rats is regarded as a huge honour. The white rat is regarded as a reincarnation of Karni Mata. The temple itself has beautiful marble carvings and beyond the exquisitely carved façade are doors forged in silver.

The great festival of Diwali with all its joyous colours was yet another catalyst, processions take place in the streets and elephants are painted to celebrate this great festival of lights. Diwali is celebrated by the Hindu, Sikh and Jain faiths and is the spiritual ‘victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.’ In the Hindu faith it is celebrated in honour of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and Ganesha, the god of good beginnings and the destroyer of all evil and obstacles.

The Hanuman ring is inspired by the Monkey king, son of the wind-god Vayu, and one of the main characters in the Hindu epic Ramayana, he also appears in the Mahabharata. He is seen to represent ‘strength, heroic initiative and assertive excellence’; he was granted immortality and is a gate-keeper for the goddess Kali (the divine protector – Mother Nature, master of death, time and change), alongside Bhairava.