Among my personal belongings, the one which is the most priceless to me is my jewelry box. It was a gift from my mother from Nepal after she came back from a work stint there. The wood that was carved to make the box is so dark one gets the impression of thick, tall trees in a Nepal forest somewhere high up in the mountains. Which hardwood is this? No doubt it is a hardwood- the texture says as much, and so does the weight and feel of the intricate floral pattern on its surface. The jewelry box could be made from mahogany, teak or ironwood. I like to think it is teak. Teak thrives a lot in Nepal, and it is used to make high-quality furniture such as this dark box of mine.
Everybody knows about Pandora's Box. In ancient Greek mythology, Pandora was given a box by Zeus and ordered never to open it. At that time man had no problems. Pandora's curiosity got the better of her as time went by and she opened it one day. According to Greek mythology war, diseases, spite and all the problems we have in society today came out of that box and spread all over the world. The last thing to get out of the box was a little thing called "Hope." I like to think that my jewelry box is like Pandora's Box. Not in the manner that it has problems inside, but when somebody looks at it, it arouses curiosity instantly. The box catches the eye of the beholder, and there is beauty in the way it begs to be touched, and all its nooks and crannies felt.
Nepal is the original country of Buddha. About 2500 years ago, a young prince fled from the comfort of his father's palace and what he saw around the kingdom shook him to the core. People were suffering. Beggars were all over; he saw sick people and other horrors. The young prince vowed to live his life as a beggar until he knew the meaning of life. After years living as a beggar, he finally found that life is made more meaningful when one curbs his or her desires. The young prince became Buddha. Buddhism discourages materialism of all sorts and attachment to things. It is ironical that a carefully carved box such as this one my mother bought for me, came from Nepal where Buddhism is the main religion.
I am much attached to this Jewelry Box and not just because it looks like a model of the "Pantheon of the gods." There is a lot of parallel of the art forms on this box and Ancient Greece. Carved onto the sides of the box is twisting vines which make the box feel alive. Its like the box has a will. It makes me wonder about the history of this box. A Nepalese artist made this box where I put my jewelry. It is a work of it, and it must have taken a long time to transform a piece of hardwood into a thing of beauty. This artist may have known about Ancient Greek art, and he may have been inspired. Alternatively, it could be that the artist came up with the "pantheon concept" independently without being influenced by the art of the ancient Greeks. Nepal is a mountainous area, and some places are entirely cut off from the world. Hence, it is possible that his environment inspired the artist. The twisting vines could be a local plant with a particular meaning to the artist. The vines could also be something fresh from his imagination. Inspiration in art comes from anywhere. The best I can do right now is guess on the concept chosen by the artist. No doubt it is something unique just like the jewelry box.
The feature about the box that makes me think of it as the Pantheon in Athens is the tapering shapes along its sides. The forms have holes bored shallowly onto the surface. That is what makes them look like windows. The box is a house and not just any house it is a pantheon- a house of worship. I put my valuable jewelry in this pantheon. My best jewelry enjoys the luxury of calling this beautiful box their home.
We all value things differently. Some things are more valuable than others. What makes me think of my jewelry box with fondness is some reasons. There is the sentimental aspect to it- which is the fact that it is a gift from my beloved mother. If I lost it (God forbid), I would feel horrible because I would feel like I have failed my mother. I take great care of the jewelry box partly because of the emotional bond I have with my mother. The second reason I value this jewelry box so much is the mystery around it. I know it is from Nepal, but I do not see the artist who made it, and so I find myself guessing the history of the artist. Was it a woman who carved it? What was her inspiration? What wood is it made of? Did Pandora's Box look this beautiful? The questions are infinite, and I can only guess at the possibilities.
The third reason I value this jewelry box of mine is the fact that is from another culture far away. Nepal is a destination I see myself visiting shortly. There is a link between me and Nepal and the material evidence for that link is my jewelry box. This jewelry makes me travel places at least in my mind. I look at it, and I think of Greece and Nepal. I think of the rich cultures of Nepal and ancient Greece. Those cultures can be felt up to now, and whenever I open my jewelry box, it's like I have opened a window into these diverse cultures, and the feeling is so intense and real.
The best feature about the jewelry box is not its pantheon like feel, nor is it the twisting vines that look like a Nepalese forest. According to me the best feature of the box is the puzzle that goes into opening it. The combination is a closely guarded secret. Every time I open the box, I think about Nepal, and it is like I am having a sneak peek preview of part of the Nepalese culture. A half-second after I open it I feel the Pantheon in Athens built millennia ago. There are three compartments in the box. In the middle chamber there is an engraving of a plant which, like the vine engravings, I don't know what it is. On the inside of the box's lid, is an engraving of the same plant which when closed sits over the one on the middle compartment. The central chamber has a slide lock mechanism on the wooden lid. The other two compartments on either side of the chamber are open.
I think there is a lot of relationship between my jewelry box and nature. The engraved twisting vines and the plants are testament enough that nature inspired the design of the box. The pantheon box is a fine concept one which creates a contrasting look between Nature and Architecture. So much of the natural environment is put into art and architecture. The stark contrast between the pantheon which is an artificial construct of man and the vines and plants which are naturally occurring, is perhaps what creates this beautiful look on the jewelry box. There is a real possibility that the Pantheon inspired the artist in Athens. It could be that he or she holds the Ancient Greek art and architecture in high esteem. The Ancient Greek style has inspired much of the buildings and art forms of today.
My jewelry box could offer a hint on how we humans value items and personal belongings. The jewelry box has a history in the fact that it is made in Nepal and by a Nepal artist. If one looks at it without knowing this, he or she would be forgiven if they think it's from Greece or Rome. It has a European look to it, but it is actually from Nepal. The jewelry box is a "marriage of cultures" in this manner. The jewelry box is precious to me- perhaps even more than the jewelry I keep in it and wear.
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