Antique Betel Boxes

 

Betel Box From Yk’s Collection
Betel boxes are used to store and carry paan and the various ingredients that go into making a chewing paan. Paan is basically a preparation made out of of betel leaf (piper betle),areca nut, quicklime (slaked lime) paste (Calcium Hydroxide) and a brown powder paste of katha (or Kaatha).
Betel Box in Peacock Shape- From Yk’s Collection
Betel Box in Peacock Shape Showing container

Firstly, slaked lime paste is applied to the leaf followed by the Katha paste and fine pieces or slices of areca nut are placed on the leaf, and the leaf along with the contents is rolled into a chewable shape. Paan is mostly consumed in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South-East Asian countries and in other parts of the world by the Asian emigrants. Chewing paan gives a good red colour and pleasant aroma to the lips and mouth. The nut of the areca palm is mistakenly called betel nut, which in fact is a wrong notion. Betel refers to the leaves of the betel wine, and this wine does not bear fruit or nut. So, it is the areca nut and not the betel nut that is used in a paan.

Betel Tray Containing  Paan leafs and Accessories
Cuttings of the Areca Nut and Paan Rolls
Though there are so many variations and varieties of paan, the following three varieties are commonly used.

Sada or Simple Paan –

This is prepared out of basic ingredients like paan leaves, slaked lime, katha and areca nut slices. A simple paan can be consumed after it is chewed.

Sweet Paan –

In this, firstly, basic paan is prepared and then ingredients like clove, cardamom, desiccated coconut, peppermint balls, candied Gulkand (rose petals in sugar syrup), fennel, saffron and other ingredients are added as per the choice of the consumer for an added special taste and aroma. A sweet paan can be swallowed after it is chewed.

Paan with Tobacco – 

In this variation of the paan, flavoured and treated tobacco is added to the basic paan. This paan is chewed and then kept in the mouth for some time to get the heady feeling and the high of the tobacco, and is later spit out. Spittoons are used for this purpose.

Paan is an integral part of the Indian Culture. Not only is it a product of consumption but is used in various religious and social functions as well. The following are some of the ways a paan is used:
  • Whenever money is given to the priests or elders, it is placed in the paan and only then is money offered as a token of respect.
  • The idol of a god is placed only on a paan leaf and never directly on the ground or on any other surface.
  • In some parts of India like in Bengal, the bride enters the marriage dais with her face hidden behind the paan leaves, and these leave removed at an auspicious time to exchange first glances with the groom.
  • In all auspicious occasions including Indian marriages, a tray full of well decorated paan leaves is an essential part of the ceremony.
  • On all holy occasions, paan is offered along with a coconut or a fruit as an expression of hospitality to the guests.
  • Betel leaves are used as mouth fresheners, as antiseptic and are also used in the treatment of coughs and colds.
  • Any offerings to god, like coconut, fruits or flowers are offered only after being kept on paan leaves.
  • Paan is a part of wedding feasts and receptions and is served at the end of the feast. Paan is believed to aid in the digestion of a heavy meal, and it also acts like a mouth freshener.
Betel Box in Betel Leaf Shape- From Yk’s Collection.
Compartmental View of Betel Leaf  Shape Betel Box.

 

Betel Boxes :

Betel Box in Heptagonal Shape-From Yk’s Collection
Compartmental view of Heptagonal Shaped Betel Box

Paan leaves and the ingredients are stored in compartmentalized boxes to make it convenient to prepare the paan. Users can carry these boxes along with them. These boxes are also called  ‘paandan’ in India, as they hold the paan. These boxes are made of brass, copper, silver and even gold. A traditional betel box would have individual compartments to store betel leaves, betel nut slices, lime and various other spices used in the paan. Depending on the family, society and tradition, the variety of the box that is used changes.

Betel Box With Decorated Handle and Borders-From Yk’s Collection
Compartmental view of  the Box at the left

To show hospitality to the visiting guests it is customary to keep the betel boxes fully stored when offering a paan to them. These boxes come in various shapes and sizes. The status and position of the family is revealed through these boxes. The style and decoration of these boxes depends on the culture of the society, location and the owner’s wealth.



Gallery :

Betel Box with Perforations-From Yk’s Collection
Spittoon
Lime Box-From Yk’s Collection
Lime Box Open View
 


 




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