Far, far away in the desert town of Dungarpur in South Rajasthan there's a 13th century hill-fort from the ceiling of the Aam-Khass of which two jewelled parakeets have been spirited away and enshrined in pure guinea gold to create this dazzlingly regal choker.
Even today, though in a sad state of ruin, you'll see the brilliant frescoes and murals and mirror-and-coloured-glass mosaics on the interior walls and ceilings of the seven-storeyed palace-fort built on a hillock overlooking the town. One of these mosaics, a composition of sprays of leaves and marigolds found beside the main door of the Shish-Mahal, informs the huge fan-like segment of a genda-phul that you see in the centre of the choker. Here, it's recreated with the mixed symbolism of flower and sun : the sacred and the powerful. The same marigold and other simpler blossoms are seen with dense leaves on scrolling stems along both flanks of the 'belt' while the two birds sit on the flower on opposite sides in perfect symmetry, again in the exact manner of the patterning of the mosaics in the palace's private chambers.
This pair of parakeets appears on the detachable centrepiece (it can be unhooked to become an independent pendant) as well, but now drawn close together and in ecstatic equipoise on their decorative cupped-crescent perch.
Note the double beaded border of the choker and the centrepiece, and the thick ring-ball bunches gathered along the edge of the crescent. They're consistent with the design aesthetic and add remarkable volume without making the ornament heavier. And the single drop of nectar, signified by the barfi chhela free-hanging pear in the middle of the centrepiece, sweetens the jewel and makes it glow with the scent and taste of love.
Crafted with care and patience in slow naksha, each swirling stem, every petal, leaf and bird meticulously chased by hand over and over again till the desired relief is achieved ; pierced and carved out in bits for the perforations ; then framed by kamal-chain and ball borders that also provide the support structure of the ornament ; and finally hand-chiselled and finished in a vermilion polish, Juna Mahal is an eloquent love song that captures passionately the romantic spirit of a crumbling, forgotten palace in a remote corner of our country where, in the royal apartments, the floors are mirrored, walls and ceilings embellished with aaina and coloured stones, windows open to bird's-eye views of the landscape, and cabinets conceal finely painted scenes from the Kama Sutra. There's nothing illicit about our jewel ; its passion isn't hidden in a closet of cornucopian kitsch but in fact simply, clearly and proudly declared by the bold birds who are first seen apart (on the belt) and then together (in the centrepiece) in their open tryst of sacred erotic love.
The ornament is similar in form to 'Sraboni', shown you in January,2017, and has for earrings the Tota Pakhi Kaan-Jhumka we'd put up earlier this month. Made for a young lady of exacting taste and determined anonymity, the choker was inscribed with her name and given as a surprise gift to her by her loving husband on their first anniversary. The passion of royal romance is thus writ into the very fabric of Juna Mahal.