Marriage Necklace (Thali)

Date: late 19th century

Culture: India (Tamil Nadu, Chetiar)

Medium: Gold strung on black thread

Dimensions: Bottom of central bead to end of counterweight: L. 33 1/4 in. (84.5 cm)

Classification: Jewelry

Credit Line: Gift of Cynthia Hazen Polsky, 1991

Accession Number: 1991.32.3


Elaborate necklaces of this type were presented by the groom’s family during wedding celebrations of the Chetiar community, a Shaivite mercantile caste, and form part of the bride’s wealth (stridhan) thereafter. The marriage necklace was initially part of marriage dowry gifted to the bride by the groom at a climactic moment in the marriage ceremony, the three knots ritual. This form of necklace is known as a Kali-Tiru, whilst the more elaborate type, which typically includes the central Shiva and Parvati on nandi medallion, a Thali. The four fingers of the central form are often described as denoting the four Vedas.