From the History of Tilla-Kosh Jewellery

The set of Uzbek traditional jewellery, just like dress, evolved throughout many centuries. Standing out among them is women's jewellery. Its forehead-and-temples group is represented by various kinds of diadems and pendants: tilla-kosh (golden eyebrows), bargak (literally, a small leaf), silsila (chain), mohi-tilla (Moon gold), zulfi-tillo (golden locks), khabatak, etc.

During the first half of the 20th century tilla-kosh diadem was the most important element of festive attire. The base of the adornment was cut from silver plates and its shape resembled continuous eyebrows or spread wings of a bird. Its upper part was crowned with a lacy top of intricate design inlaid with numerous beads of turquoise, corals and other semiprecious stones. In Samarqand this adornment was called koshi-tillo or tilla-kosh, and in Bukhara - bolo-abru (Tajik for 'above eyebrows'). The word "balo-abru" can mean different things due to similar sound of its components: "bolo" means "upper", and "balo" means "grief (in ancient times the word also denoted "demonic creature", "vixen"); "abru" is eyebrows, and "obru" is "prestige" (1, p.99). In Fergana Valley and Kashkadarya it was called tilla-kosh (2, p. 11), in Nurata - tilla-bargak or takhtacha-bargak (3, 82-b).

During the period in question this adornment was worn mainly by married women. Yet, in Shakhrisabz and Karshi it was presented to a bride on her wedding day or during kelin salom ritual (when the bride bows and welcomes everyone who enters her new home) mdyuzochar (seeing the face) ceremony as an essential component of the wedding attire. In Samarqand and Bukhara tilla-kosh was also considered to be the bride's main head-dress worn during nuptials (4, p. 100). In Samarqand this adornment was usually complemented with a feather plume. In the 19th century the finest tilla-kosh were made by master craftsmen from Tashkent, Samarqand and Fergana Valley cities. The diadem itself constituted an integral ensemble with tilla-bargak, gajak, zirak, zebi-gardon, etc., which were decoraied in the same style.

Up to this day tilla-kosh is one of the essential elements of traditional bridal attire. It is believed that this adornment was very common among urban population as well as among rural residents who engaged in farming and cottage industry. However, our field studies have revealed that tilla-kosh adornment was also popular with Deshti-Kipchak Uzbeks whose culture was largely a reflection of nomadic tradition, and proof of it can be found in academic literature (5, p. 35). In our view, the tradition of wearing tilla-kosh among people of steppe evolved as a result of ethno-cultural relations with sedentary population during a later period.

Of a particular interest is the name used for the adornment: "tilla-kosh". So far, there has been no consensus reached as to the etymology of it. Some authors suggest that the reason for naming it "tilla-kosh", i.e. "golden eyebrows", was the fact that its lower, main part was shaped like eyebrows (6, 82-b). Other researchers, including D. A. Fakhretdinova, believe that tilla-kosh shape originated not from the representation of eyebrows, but was inspired by the image of spread wings and repeated in metal. Actually, human eyebrows usually do not have this kind of curve, and the word "kosh" sounds similar to the word "qush" (bird). To support this interpretation, one may also refer to the fact that in traditional embroidery a pattern similar in shape to the tilla-kosh is called "qush qanoti" (bird's wings) (1). In this connection, keeping to the opinion of the aforementioned authors, let us recall that in ancient times the indigenous people of Central Asia regarded birds such as peacock, pheasant and rooster sacred (7). With them they associated the idea of fertility and bounty. Therefore it is no accident that bird image is reflected in gold and silver jewellery adorned with a feather.

"Avian" theme has been generally popular in the jewellery set. For instance, in Bukhara there existed adornments such as qush duo (bird's blessing) and qush kokili (bird's plait), and in Khorezm - butun timoq (full claw) ъгАуапт tirnoq (half claw) (1, pp. 116-117). Jewellers from Kokand were particularly skilled in making jewellery featuring birds (8, p. 283). According to G. Grigoryev, temple adornment gajak (ringlet, lock) was also based on the image of a bird (9, pp. 21-24). On the whole, forehead or temple adornments featuring birds or their parts (claw, wing, feather) were characteristic of sedentary farming population. We believe that tilla-kosh is one of the most ancient local piece of jewellery and was perhaps inspired by the beauty of surrounding nature. The original basis for the shape of the adornment was bird's spread wings, however with time the meaning was lost and people only retained an association with a graceful line of woman's eyebrows.

A closer look at tilla-kosh reveals that its bottom rim is adorned with a thick fringe of pendants gently rattling with the slightest move. 0. A. Sukhareva pointed out that the original version of the adornment had no pendants and could be worn over the very eyebrows. Eventually, when tilla-kosh was complemented with various pendants and inlaid stones, it turned into a forehead decoration (10, p. 100,82-b). It should be emphasized that when making jewellery, Uzbeks since long time have skilfully used various gems and semiprecious stones. Some of the stones were used to treat human illnesses, being firmly believed to possess healing qualities (11, pp. 37,152-153). These beliefs were common not only among peoples of Central Asia, but also in many countries of ancient Orient: people strongly believed in magical properties of gemstones.

Tilla-kosh was an important item in woman's jewellery set up to the end of 1920s. In the second half of the 20th century new kinds of jewellery began to appear in everyday life that were more in demand due to new socioeconomic and cultural transformations in the life of society, and were gradually squeezing out the once popular diadem.

As a bottom line in our discourse about tilla-kosh and its evolution it should be noted that some researchers misinterpreted available facts and connected the history of this adornment with later period. For instance, a statement made by ethnographer N. G. Boroznaya that tilla-kosh entered everyday life in late 19th - early 20th century (12, p, 35) does not, in our view, truly reflect the reality. Information above also proves that tilla-kosh has passed a long path of evolution and has ancient history. It would be appropriate to cite the opinion of B. A. Rybakov, an expert in ancient Russian culture, who argues that images on diadems and kolts should not be regarded as simple aesthetic filling. These are more of enigmatic symbols, a key to ,whichispaganbeliefs(13,p.269). Г"

To this day there are still mai.-/ different items of jewellery which have the properties of both decoration and magical protection. Their shapes, designs and symbols reflect ancient believes and notions about nature, and an indissoluble connection between spiritual and material world. Going back to tilla-kosh we should mention that this traditional jewellery item still remains one of the most exquisite and favoured adornments among Uzbek women.

Saodat Davlatova


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