Friday, August 5, 2016

Antiquing in Western Massachusetts

Recently I traveled with my sisters to check out the Brimfield antiques show in Brimfield, Massachusetts.  While walking in and out of tents, feasting my eyes on things from the past, I came across a familiar face. Instead of saying "guess who" (since I am sure no one can guess) i'll  just tell you that I found a wooden face mask of the village god Ayyanar.  Of course, I brought him home.

Ayyanaar wooden mask

If you are from Tamil Nadu, India, then you know who Ayyanar is. You probably saw his huge and colorful statues during your visits to your ancestral villages for summer holidays.  I certainly recall them from my youth. Ayyanar is considered a protector god of rural villages,  Ayyanar statues are honored with lots of pomp and show at yearly festivals.

Ayyanar statue guards village
If you haven't seen one of these statues in your travels, check out this excerpt from a Tamil movie song (Singam)! The song and translation are as follows (do watch the video clip)

கருக்கு வேல் ஐயநாரு கலையாத்தான் நிக்குறாரு
களவாணி யாரும் வந்தா களவாங்க விடமாட்டாரு

Ayyanar with a sharp vel (trident) stands upright and handsome
If a thief appears ayyanar won’t let him through

I wonder how my Ayyanar got to this part of rural Western Massachusetts. What would his travel diary look like? Would he have an hashtag #madras2massachusetts? However he traveled - by boat, plane, or truck, right now he is hanging out in my "little”ton corner welcoming guests from all over.  Come say hi anytime - and if you have an Ayyanar anecdote or picture do share!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gemstones from the ages - Lapis Lazuli

I have always thought of myself as an earth tones kind of girl (carnelians and garnets), but of late I have found myself drawn to the gemstone lapis lazuli - a prized stone which has been used to make jewelry and amulets for thousands of years. The fact that it has been around since antiquity, and of course, the intense blue color attract me to this beautiful stone. The name lapis lazuli (or lapis) is derived from the Persian word "lazur," meaning blue stone. Lapis lazuli is composed of lazurite  and specks of yellow pyrite. When polished, the dull blue becomes a beautiful shade of rich ultramarine, and the bits of pyrite give out a golden shimmer.

Raw lapis stones are a dull blue

Lapis Lazuli pendants set in silver

Historically, lapis was a stone of royalty. The Egyptians regarded it as heavenly and used it in statues of gods and burial masks. The famous gold mask of King Tut has lapis lazuli which imitates kohl around his eyes. Most lapis is mined in Afghanistan, Russia, and Chile, and smaller amounts come from Italy, Mongolia, Canada and the US.

Renaissance artists used ground lapis to make ultramarine - the finest of blue pigments. In the world famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring Dutch painter Vermeer used ground lapis for the brilliant blues of her headband. (circa 1665)

Lapis was also used in the ornate carvings in the Taj Mahal. Visiting tourists’ eyes are drawn to the nearby bazaars selling marble plates and boxes with lapis inlays - I couldn’t resist buying one! 

Lapis lazuli used in inlays in the Taj Mahal

Marble plate with lapis lazuli sold outside Taj Mahal
In Ayurveda and yoga, lapis is considered to be a celestial stone which strengthens the body and mind with its healing properties. Lapis is also said to help open the throat chakra - a center for creativity and self-expression.

Ultramarine blue oval lapis pendant

Lapis lazuli is truly a stone for queens and creativity. Wear lapis today, increase your inner strength, contribute to a long, rich history, and, of course, enjoy the color! Check out Kate Middleton wearing lapis and diamond earrings during her recent trip to India (April 2016) and checkout Mayil' lapis collection. Enjoy the tiny points of golden light shining through!

The book of chakra healing - Liz Simpson
King Tuts mask, Vermeer painting and Kate Middleton - Google images
All other images are copyright of Mayil

Monday, March 14, 2016

Its more than a coin - its a memory

Walking on the streets of Hyderabad near Charminar last summer, I came across vendors selling piles of old Indian coins.  My friend, an avid coin collector got on her knees and started sifting through these piles. I joined her, since anything vintage always piques my interest. Since I live in the US, nowadays, I covet anything that is “Indian” and old.  I therefore picked up lots of coins with the vision of wearing a piece of India as a charm to satisfy my nostalgia, and to pass my wonderful memories on to Mayil fans.


Pile of old Indian coins

Coin collectors dream

A coin is “a piece of metal stamped and issued by the authority of a government for use as money” (  The word coin has its roots in the Latin word “cuneus,” meaning wedge.  Coins have been in use since ancient times as early as 700BC in China and Greece and 600 BC in India.  Ancient India was one of the earliest issuers of coins according to The Indian Encyclopaedia. In India, early coins were made of silver bars and were irregularly shaped because they had to be manually cut. These coins were punch-marked with one or more symbols.  Later period coins were punched with a royal “standard” symbol to maintain uniformity.  During the Maurya period (500-400 BC) coins were made in large quantities and used for trade.  In addition to silver coins (rupyarupa) coins were also made of lead, copper and gold. The word rupee probably has its origins from these rupa of the Maurya period. After the Maurya period, the Gupta dynasty began minting coins using molds and dies, giving them uniformity in shape. The goddesses of wealth (Lakshmi) and learning (Saraswathi) were used on coins during this period. The trend of marking coins with royal portraits began during the Indo-Greek period, and continues today.

Rupya rupa coins from Maurya

Coins from Gupta period

With the end of the British rule, the rupee was subdivided into 16 annas, with each anna being equivalent to 4 paise.  In 1957 the rupee was divided into 100 naye paise (naye meaning new in Hindi and Urdu) and the word “naye” was later dropped, creating the modern day 100 paise/rupee relationship.

I grew up with these  naye paise coins and I was excited to find them in the pile at the market. I found round copper 1 paise, square 5 paise, scalloped 10 paise, golden lotus 20 paise and more.  These coins were demonetized in 2011, so with the help of my local jeweler in Palliyadi, TN, I made them into wearable charms. If you want to cherish a piece of India from the 60s and 70s, you’ll find the assortment of coins at Mayil. Wear these vintage coin charms on a kalamkari tie or a piece of picoed chiffon fabric. Wear them long or wear them close to your neck as a choker. You can even wrap them around your wrist. 

May Lakshmi and Saraswathi bless all your endeavors. It paise (pays) to have all the support you can.🌞
Coin charms

20 paise lotus coin

old indian coins

10paise coin

1 paise copper coin

coin pendants

sources (1) The Indian Encyclopedia (2) Wikepedia (3) Paise coin photos Manoj P, MRK Visuals

Friday, February 12, 2016

Chokers are back in vogue again!

And literally too - lots of them showing up on!! A choker is a piece of jewelry worn close to the neck, very much like a collar. Chokers have been associated with high fashion through the centuries and across cultures including the Chinese, Indians, Romans, Egyptians and Native Americans.

During the French revolution women wore a red ribbon around their necks as a show of sympathy and support to those condemned to the guillotine. In early 1800s Chokers were also worn by prostitutes.

The rise in choker fashion in the late 1800s can be attributed to Alexandra, Princess of Wales who was inspired to wear chokers by her visits to India, where she saw women adorning themselves with chokers made of silver, gold and gemstones. She started wearing pearls close to and stacked at her neck. Chokers then lost their unsavory reputation and became a trend among the European royals. People who could afford it wore elaborate chokers made of lace and pearls, rubies and sapphires. The common folk wore simpler chokers often a piece of ribbon or a string pearls.

Chokers saw a resurgence in the 1940s when American women started wearing them as symbols of feminine power. These chokers often made with lace, ribbon and cameos were nicknamed "dog collars." Life magazine made a spread in 1944 showing women wearing them. Chokers also saw a comeback again in the 90's when they were reinterpreted in the form of tattoo and goth inspired spiked chokers.

In India - a treasure trove of precious stones - royals always wore elaborate chokers made of gold, uncut rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Chokers are always a part of a bride’s trousseau. Its long history is evident in miniature paintings of the Mughal queens and temple jewelry of the southern states.

There is a wide array of choker styles you can emulate.  My fascination for ethnic and unique pendants led me to design Mayil's fabric chokers.  There is always left over bits of fabric from making Mayil scarves. I use these to design a bohemian style of chokers – easy to tie on with no hooks clasps.


Wear a Mayil choker this spring. Embrace Indian culture, wear a Ganesha or Buddha, paisa or paisley, mandala or mango !  You can find them here -

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The queens of scarves

Since antiquity, queens have been associated with setting fashion trends.  My scarf history research led me to these lovely ladies who were trend setters in their own times. 

Egyptian Queen Nefertiti (13th century BC) wore finely woven scarves underneath her conical headdress. Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine (12th century) was a colorful and enlightened queen who brought customs from Aquitaine, such as language, respect for women, and fashion, to Paris, a then unimpressive city. Women of Queen Eleanor's time hung lengthy scarves from their high headdresses. 

Queen Isabelle II (1833-1868) of Spain popularized the mantilla style of draping a silk or lace shawl over one's head and shoulders. Scarves and shawls ascended to their status as popular fashion accessories during Queen Victoria’s (1837-1901)  time. Queen Victoria herself crocheted eight scarves and gave them to soldiers as a special award for heroism during the Boer war.

Empress Nur Jahan (1577-1645) whose name means “light of the world” was a highly influential and favorite queen in Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s court. She took an active role behind the scenes, encouraging trade, fashion and the arts.  During her time, Nur Jahan and the ladies of the Mughal court wore expensive silks, brocade and fine muslin embellished with gold, silver and precious gems.  Rani Lakshmibai (1828-1858) the famous queen of Jhansi, fought against the British when they tried to annex her kingdom. She was an excellent swords woman and horse rider.  Even during battle she wore a sari, but draped like a dhoti (‘Nauvari sari’) and a scarf on her head.

Gone are the days when a scarf used to be just a sweat wiping cloth (a sudarium) worn by Roman soldiers. 
Embrace your inner queen with scarves!