Convenient to put on, as compared to a set of many lone or isolated thin ‘churis’, ‘chura’, with its extra breadth, afforded wider scope for ingenuity, artistic manipulation and inlay of desired gems and displayed greater splendour. Hence, unlike ‘churi’ which confined to the feminine world, ‘chura’ was as much the chosen piece of ornament also of the males, particularly the kings and nobility. As suggests excavated material, ‘churi’ fashioned the Indus life; however, this forearm ornament’s male counterpart ‘chura’ seems to have emerged a bit late. Metropolitan Museum, New York, houses a second century BC terracotta plaque recovered from Chandraketugarha, West Bengal, India. This plaque in Shunga art style portraying a royal couple and its young prince, all three putting on series of ‘churas’, or ‘kankana’ as it was known in contemporary Sanskrit literature, represents an early specimen of such broad form of ‘chura’. As suggests a second century AD image of Bodhisattva Maitreya wearing identical ‘churas’, in the collection of the National Museum, New Delhi, ‘chura’ must have emerged as a component of divine jewellery around the same time. From such pre-Common Era royal or divine ‘churas’ to the bamboo-woven ‘syngkhas’ – the term by which a ‘chura’ is known in Meghalaya, a ‘chura’, with whatever name, medium or form, defines one of the India’s ultimate jewellery traditions that fashioned her lifestyle over millenniums.
May have been once a mere means of fashioning a lifestyle, this forearm ornament, known among various ethnic and regional groups of Indian people by various names, has been ever not merely an essential component of a woman’s adornment but the very essence of her being : her womanhood. A means of defining a woman’s social status, particularly the marital, one whose husband is live, or a widow, ‘churas’ have in most of Indian societies : Hindu, Jain, Sikhs and Buddhist, besides hundreds of ethnic groups, greater ritual sanctity than has any other piece of ornament, even the ‘mangalasutra’ – the auspicious thread of married women, comprising ordinary beads or cast of precious metals and gems. In Indian social order there might be a woman without a thread around her neck, but not one without a bangle on her wrist. Among all sections of Indian society bangle, expensive or inexpensive, is the ever first and the most auspicious gift that a newborn – female or male, gets from its maternal grand-parents and even when its tiny hands cannot hold a feather’s weight is often seen wearing a pair of gold or silver bangles ringing around its cotton-like soft delicate wrists.
Designed for a normal healthy forearm this ‘chura’, a sterling silver piece, has been cast in two well distinct parts soldered together : one, the thin barrel-like broader part consisting of seven sections joined together to make its breadth, to put on the forearm’s upper side, and the other, a thicker ring with extra diametric body and circumference, its crowning part, to lay around the wrist and thus comprise the formal and decorative base of the entire piece. A set of flower-shaped loops have been used to join these two parts. Apart such pieced casting procedure, the ‘chura’, as it is, consists of two parts connected by a set of inbuilt clutches and a long screw-nail to lock, obviously, after it has been put on the arm. The four of the seven sections of which the chura’s upper part consists are identical courses of beads, dots and threaded lines used for framing in between the other three main sections, one in the middle consisting of the repeats of a four petalled flower motif, and the other two, consisting of squares. The base-ring has been decorated with courses of dots-like tiny beads encircling it diametrically laid at equi-distance. In between each two of these courses there are diagonally opposed triangles consisting of larger beads. In Tantric diction these opposite triangles are symbolic of male and female principles used perhaps for indicating the wearer’s marital status and happy union.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.