A ruby, emerald and pearl-set repousse gold Hair Braid Ornament (Jadai Nagam) Tamil Nadu, 19th Century
with five-headed cobra fitting to top, sheet gold, filled with lac 62 cm. long approx.
On festive occasions, women in South India sometimes wear long linked ornaments (jadai nagam) over the lengths of their braids depicting cobras to symbolize fertility and sexuality. They also play on a commom poetic conceit equating women's braids with snakes and associations of wealth and fertility. The top of the jadai nagam is shaped like a multi-headed cobra, the snake sheltering the deity Shiva and his consort Parvati. The style and refinement of the piece point to a royal Madurai workshop, however there is another similar piece in a temple treasury in Mysore, Karnataka (Nanda Gopal and Iyengar, Temple Treasures, Crafts Council of Karnataka, 1995, cat no. 87).