Each religion. Community of Kerala could be well distinguished from the kind of Jewels they wear. Though modern jewellery takes a pinch of all the traditions and blends it well, traditionally, each community has a unique set of ornaments to distinguish themselves. An attempt has been made below to list the traditional ornaments of the main religious groups in Kerala. That is, Hindu, Christian and Muslim.
Hindu Women: Most of the traditional jewels listed above are closely related to Hindu religion and its tradition. Lakshmi mala, karimani mala, mullamottu mala, patakkam etc forms an integral part of Hindu wedding and beauty concepts of Kerala Hindu women.
Christian women: The traditional CHRISTIAN women wore MEKKAMOTIRAM or Kunuk(heavy gilt gold ring) on the upper ear lobe. No ornaments for nose. Some Christians do not use ornaments. They wore a necklace called Ottezhapatakkom and rings of various kinds for fingers and anklets.
The traditional Nadar Christian ear ornaments are very different from other. The women wear necklaces and earrings of elaborate and considerable weight. The ear rings consist of Studs on the upper portion of the ear as on the earlobes. MUDICHI, PAMPATAM, THANDOTE and ARITHALAPPU are the ear ornaments. The traditional necklace is called the CHITTIRU.
A type of THODA, THAKKA made of wood, lead or brass in the dilated earlobe is worn by AVARNA women. They also used to wear OLACHUTTU (scroll of PANDANUS or coconut leaf) in the earlobe. A bead necklace, Kallumala was the usual ornament for the neck.
Muslim women have innumerable varieties of ornaments for the different parts of the body. The ornaments for the ear are MEKKATH, PACHAKALLU, ALICATH and JIMIKKI. They wear a number of coiled gold or silver earrings called ALICATH.
To adorn their hair MUDIPOO and MUDICHAKRAM are used-Nettippattam is worn on the forehead. Different types of PATHAKKAM, ASHTIK OTTAPATHAKAM, PADIMALA, PAANGOA and CHAKRAKANNIMALA are worn. They also used a waist belt called ARAPPATTA (of gold or silver is worn) silver ankle chain are also popular among them.
Today, jewellery concepts and designs are widely evolved from the traditional concepts. There are wide range of jewellery designs and patterns available with all the jewelers in Kerala.
The tribal women in the hills used to wear ornaments made of palm leaves, wood and beads from wild plants to adorn themselves. The Paniya women wore rolled palm leaves in their dilated earlobes. The cholanaickam use neck chains of beads from wild plants and bangles were made of a kind of grass.
The unmarried Mullu Kurumba women wore metal ear studs and a nose-pin known as PATHA. The married women wore bangles on both forearms and metal rings on the upper arms-KATHILA were also worn in the ears after marriage and a chain known as ELACE was worn round the wrist.
Fashion has caught on with the malayalee in a large way. All those traditional types of ornaments have given way to newer and newer fashions. KAMMAL (modern stud) gold rings, Jimikkies have stamped upon the old TODA or THAKKA. Various fashionable long chains and necklaces are available now-KAPPA (bracelet) has been replaced by vala (bangles) of numerous designs.
The jewellery of Kerala is specifically noted for its artistic perfection. Each caste or community had its typical ornament. Most of these traditional ornaments have become quite difficult to find today. However, Kerala women are still found in large number of ornaments, and jewellery items like necklace, bangles, chains, earrings, studs etc., in a variety of attractive designs.
The artisan traditions of Kerala also catered directly to personal adornment including decoration of the idols worshipped in temples. These are jewellery, handlooms and embroidery, jewellery in Kerala seems to have originated in connection with ritual and magical beliefs, though later it developed its aesthetics as an independent tradition. Rings were made in the old days out of the seeds of the Pala tree which is sacred to the patron goddess of the Hindus of Kerala. Moreover, rings were also made of tiger-claws and the teeth and hair of elephants. It was believed to be magical protection against wild animals. The memory of the first human settlements which involved clearing the forests and fighting the wild animals that infested them is preserved in these traditional amulets. Even when these unusual materials were used, the affluent used to set them in gold or silver.
Later, a tradition of work in precious metals and stones evolved in the state. The flora of the milieu insensibly affected the designs. Gold was cast in the shape of pepper seeds or rice flakes and worked into chains. Green stones were delicately cut to the contours of the mango in miniature to form necklaces. The appeal of the traditional designs in the jewelleries of Kerala has been able to stand competition from the sophisticated designs of the modern type that has come into vogue during the last decade or so.