When it comes to Gypsy folklore, the picture I paint in my mind is always of uniquely-clad men and women staring deep into the sunset, appearing to me only as silhouettes. What they seek is peace; as is evident from their complete harmony with nature’s ways. As prominent factors of Hindu mythology, various gypsy tribes today have emerged from the ashes with their unspoken magical powers and of course, the godly attire they bring along with them.
I often fantasize about the Lambanis of western India, travelling and serenading through forests and roads alike, with eyes sparkling and jewelry jingling. Descendants of the ancient Rajputs, The Lambani Tribe are the ‘wild child’ of gypsy cultures across India. Residing mainly In Rajashan, north-west Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, these wanderers are also called ‘Lakha Banjaras’, a name apt for their keen traveling passion. Known for their bright, colourful and distinct way of dressing, the Lambani jewelry is a vital part of their traditional clothing.
The power of jewelry and ornaments in Indian culture has often been under-appreciated; it is still regarded as the best gift to a woman, be it her coming-of-age, wedding day, or even as a token of love. A few, like the traditional nose ring, the mangalsutra and toe rings are quintessential for married women. It is essentially quoted as a symbol of femininity and wealth. The rich legacy of the tribe highlights the beauty of adornment that we Indians so lovingly possess, in the most contemporary yet evergreen way.
Lambani jewellery pieces can be categorized as emblems of the nomadic Gypsy culture. The women of the tribe display ornaments heavily inspired by their spiritual beliefs, that is, the Goddess Shakti. It is traditionally crafted out of silver and other metals like copper and white metal, which gives it an unnaturally perfect finish. The finesse of these pieces has earned them takers on the Indian Runway from people across the world.
The art of turning metal into art is a remarkable skill that has been passed down through generations vin the tribe. Their costume and metal jewelry is one of their greatest attributes, depicting life and beauty intently.
The process of this jewelry making is, however, a highly skill-intensive one. Metal sheets are cut into required shapes and sizes on the basis of the desired designs. The strip is then placed on a metal block with the design inverted and hammered into preferred shaped. These are then melded together using heat and skills of the metal-smith. The most common Lambani motifs are simple, circular ones that are similar to spot in earrings, neckpieces and heavy, layered bracelets.
The craft and process is deeply rooted in the Lambani craftsmen, and is gradually skidding on to the modern fashion scene. However bespoken, this art fails to lose its charm and elegance. It would be righteous to say, that their art binds the craftsmen together. In an ode to the lost skill, hand-picked collections are available on Tjori; a gentle reminder of the beautiful aspect of Indian culture.