Antique Ladakh Woman’s Waist Ornament, Early 20th Century, Brass Disc, Cowrie Shells, Bells
Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir State, India c.early 20th century.
This is a rare and part of the traditional female costume of Ladakh, Western Himalayas, a waist or belt ornament (known as a dodchas) and still worn today. It is quite heavy at 375 grams (13.22 oz.) and hangs by a bar across the back of the top of the brass disc, from the waist on a silk waistband hanging at the side of the body. It has a large circular 12.5cm (5") openwork brass disc, with the central decoration in the form of the knot of eternity (or endless knot), one of the Eight Auspicious Emblems of Buddhism. This Buddhist symbol representing the interconnection of all things. The element below attached to the circular brass disc is made from three rows of brass and copper tube castings (sometimes characterized as a "needle case") and held together with wooden pegs. (There are two pieces of wood in this tube). From the tube the four strands of cowrie shells are securely threaded on strong leather strands. These have over time been repaired - as are most examples that I have seen. There are brass bells on the ends of these hangings (one bell is missing). Originally the waist ornament would have had six strands of cowrie shells. The shells have natural slits through the middle of the back of the shell and are threaded onto leather strand. The cowrie shells are said to be or represent money--and in ancient times in Tibet this certainly was the practice. There are signs of extensive wear - but still a beautiful piece.
The overall length is 55cm (21")
Brass Disc: 12.5cm (5")
Weight: 375 Grams (13.22 oz.)