Here is a blog post by my neighbor. She was a small little girl with bright eyes when she first stepped into our house. 15 years later, when she came up to me one day and expressed her interest in writing an article about my antique collection for my blog, I was really happy. Here’s her take on my antique collection. Hope you enjoy reading it. I certainly did! If you too have anything to share about antiques or any memories associated with ones used at your home, I would be glad to have your article on my blog.
What do we do with heirlooms? You know those things that are too precious to part with and too old to come out of the box. We cannot give them away, they are heirlooms. I never thought anything could be made of them; they never match any of the interiors. At our place, they always sat boxed up, in the darkest corner of the attic. I was of the belief that nothing good would ever come out them. But my perspective changed once I stepped into my neighbors newly constructed home for the very first time. I was about 7 then. The first thought that came to my mind was “Woah! I can totally sit inside the dining table.” I was so captivated; it was nothing like any other dining table I had ever seen. It was a huge water storage brass pot with a glass top. I mean, who could have thought that you can convert something of such great importance and history into something so basic, efficient and fascinating while retaining its cultural value. The front door of their house was a big traditional door with a chain latch and was locked from inside using a wooden log.
The next thing that hit me like a deer in head lights was the living area. I was gob smacked, everything that we would have thought as useless was sitting right there in the living room with pride. Another brass pot was converted into a coffee table and two big ones sat on either side of the arm chairs. I was transported into another dimension. Every artifact had its own story. I could not think of a place to sit, how difficult is that? You pick a seat and you sit, simple isn’t it? I could not decide whether it would be the Victorian bed with drapes, that served as a contemporary substitute to that traditional dewan; or that exquisite looking floral recliner, or those dark wooden arm chairs that made you feel important.
Let’s face it, all of us have a tick for beds with drapes, but the chairs looked so inviting and the brass pots next to it had water in it. At least that’s what I thought, until I took my seat on the chair and discovered that it was not actually water but glass that created an illusion of water. Sheer genius if you ask me. The whole living room had an aura of a King or Queen’s private parlor. The best part was that there were two huge windows covered with drapes. When pulled apart, they filled the room with abundant sunlight.
There was never an instance when I got bored during any of my visits there. Looking at the artifacts itself was intriguing. Every showpiece was an artifact and every artifact had a story and history. Not until recently did I know that all these were more than artifacts, they have an immense cultural importance. Every piece of antique collected depicts the way of life of the people. The betel box, torches and the ink pot were etched in my memory. Tumblers! Who could’ve thought that tumblers that we drink from can be used for decorative purposes? The staircase that led to the terrace had been decorated with brass pots of different sizes on either side.
The door to the pooja room was a compilation of different sizes and designs of block prints. I am still in awe of how many articles have been collected by Y.K. uncle (as I fondly call him). This beautiful house felt like a home from the moment I stepped into it. One reason being the beautiful people that make it a home and the other being because of the cultural reminiscences of our great ancestors who have taught us all that we know about family and life. This is not a mere house or a home, it is on par with any cultural museum you will come across with an ‘in-house curator.’
It has been almost been 15 years now and every time I enter the house, it still feels the same. Nothing has changed since then. Everything is still in place, the brass antiques are still shining, and over the years I have seen many more new items added to the collection. I strongly encourage you to take a look at Y.K. uncle’s collection via the blog. The blog is a great place to start, but nothing would beat the experience of seeing and feeling the antiques personally at the house. So why don’t you come experience it for yourself?
Boorelu are the classical traditional sweet dish of Andhra Pradesh. This sweet item is associated with celebration, joy, festivity and warmth. For happy occasions like marriages and for celebration of festivals, boorelu are a must. They are so much associated with something good and joy that when people want to ask a person when he is going to get married they simply ask when are you giving us a boorelu treat. Sankranthi is a very important harvest festivalof Andhra people and everybody in the family gathers together to celebrate this festival and the main sweet attraction in the celebration are boorelu. Tasting boorelu is a gourmet ecstasy.
Boorelu are round in shape and contain a mixture of Bengal gram and jaggery with cardamom flavour, dipped in the batter made out of black gram and rice and deep fried in oil to a golden brown colour. Mookudu is a frying pan. Thus, boorela mookudu is a frying pan used for frying boorelu. I am now going to share with you the story of brass boorela mookudu that is more than 90 years old and is a rare antique in my collections.
Boorelu – The Ultimate Sweet Dish in Andhra Food
Boorelu taste best when they are served hot. They are eaten along with ghee. It is a ceremonial custom to make a hole with the pointing finger on the top of the boore (singular of boorelu), fill up the hole with hot ghee and then place the whole boore in the mouth like pani poori chaat. The taste of boore gets enhanced many fold when eaten with fresh hot ghee. Boorelu can be stored for two days without refrigeration since they are deep fried. Eating boorelu is an epicurean experience wherein the bite gives you the taste of crunchy salty taste of the outer fried batter combined with the succulent sweet taste of poornam inside and is further enhanced by cardamom flavour.
Boorelu are also called Poornalu (poornam is singular). Poornam means complete, all contained, all inclusive, and wholesome. Thus, boore is a complete and wholesome nutritive sweet dish. The black gram and Bengal gram dals provide the proteins, rice provides the starch and the jaggery gives the iron. Boorelu are called Sugeelu or Sukkinunde in Karnataka, and Suzhiyan or Sugiyan in Kerala.
Boorelu are made not only for festive occasions but also for religious occasions, particularly for poojas associated with Goddess Durga mata. For Ugadi (Telugu new year day), all the grama devathalu (local guardian deities) are offered boorelu. It is a must to have boorelu for Dasara festival since the festival is associated with Goddess Durga and for Varalakshmi pooja which is associated with Goddess Lakshmi.
The Story of Boorela Mookudu
Sampara Kavamma was the mother-in-law of my paternal grandfather Mr. Yenugu Krishna Murthy. Once in our village Someswaram, an enterprising gentleman came out with a lottery scheme in which each interested person should buy a lottery ticket for four annas (equivalent of ¼ th of a rupee) and the winner of the lottery would get two brass items, namely one Boorela mookudu (frying pan) and one gangalam (water storage vessel ). It so happened that Sampara Kavamma garu was one of the participants in this lottery and with her luck she happened to win the lottery. With the help of my uncle Mr. Bapiraju, she got the possession of her prized items and brought it home and ever since these two items have become a part of our family. These items have seen Kavamma gari generation, my grandfather’s generation, my father’s generation and they are now a part of my antique collection. My mother tells me that these items were acquired in the year 1922 and these should be more than 90 years old.
How to Prepare Poli Poornam Boorelu
1 cup rice
1/2 cup black gram dal/urad dal/minapa pappu
1 cup bengal gram/channa dal/senaga pappu
1 cup sugar or 1 cup grated jaggery
1 cup grated coconut (optional)
3/4th tea spoon cardamom powder
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying
Soak black gram dal and rice in water, each in separate vessels for 6 hours.
After draining water from the black gram dal and rice, grind the two items to a fine paste similar to dosa batter. Add a pinch of salt and leave aside with proper cover.
Drain the water from Bengal gram and grind it into a fine paste adding a little water.
Steam cook the Bengal gram paste just like you prepare idlis by keeping the paste in greased idli plates for 15 minutes. Cool the steamed batter and then crush it into granules. When you crush it in between your palms, it will break into granules. Set aside.
Mix powdered jaggery along with water in a heavy bottomed vessel .The quantity of water should be just enough to soak the jaggery. Let the jaggery melt in the water. Boil the jaggery water.
When it starts boiling and you see bubbles, add the Bengal gram granules and mix well. Also mix the grated coconut (if opted).
Cook till it forms a thick mixture. Add cardamom powder and mix well.
Let it cool. Take a table spoon full of the mixture and shape into round balls.
Take a frying pan and add enough oil for frying and heat the oil.
Dip each Bengal gram ball into the batter of black gram and rice and let it be coated uniformly.
Gently drop each ball into the hot oil. Deep fry them till they turn into a golden brown colour.
Kalasam is the most sacred symbol of Hindu religion. All Hindu religious rituals start first with kalasa pooja. It is considered as Sarva Devata Roopam (image of all Gods), Sarva Veda Roopam (image of all vedas ) and Sarva Divya Nadee Roopam (image of all sacred rivers). Because of its sacred nature, kalasam is invariably found on the top of temples, temple towers, temple chariots, and on temple umbrellas. The kalasams are made with brass and some of them are coated with gold. I have collected a magnificent temple umbrella kalasam and I am happy to introduce this sacred artifact to you.
The significance of Kalasam in Hindu religious rituals:
Firstly, we will talk about how to make a kalasam. Take a copper or silver pot of medium size and fill water till half. Decorate the pot with sandalwood paste, haldi (turmeric) and kumkum and place few mango leaves around the mouth of the pot in such a way that the stem portion of the leaves are in the pot and the other half is above the rim of the pot. Now take a coconut with the fibre handle and decorate the same with sandalwood paste, haldi and kumkum. Place the coconut in inverted position on the opening of the pot with the fibre handle facing upwards. Now the kalasam is ready. The kalasam has to be sanctified by inviting the Gods, Goddesses, Vedas, and the holy waters from the oceans and Bhoodevi by chanting the following mantra. While reciting the mantra, keep the right hand on the top of the kalasam.
By reciting this mantra we do ‘Aavahanam,‘ that is inviting the following Gods and the holy creations of God to come and occupy their positions in the pot to make it sacred.
We invite Lord Vishnu to the mukha or opening of the pot, Rudra to the neck, Brahma to the base, all matruganas (Goddesses) to the center, all oceans, seven dweepas (continents) and the entire earth, and all four Vedas to the belly of the kalasam.
Now we do Aavahanam, that is invite all sacred rivers to the kalasam by reciting the following mantra.
Now all the sacred rivers, Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Saraswati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kavery have been invited and settled in the kalasam.
Now the kalasam is the personification of sarva devatas (all Gods), sarva divyanadee (all sacred rivers) and Sarva vedam (all vedas). It now becomes sacred. Symbolic to this, kalasams are made with brass and are placed on the top of the temple umbrellas. One such brass umbrella kalasam is in my collection.
Temple Umbrella Kalasam Design
The kalasam has a beautiful shape and is hand made with brass sheet. It is designed basically in two parts. The bottom part is a round stepped pedestal that sits on the umbrella. The second part is the actual kalasam that has a pot decorated with eleven mango leaves around it. An inverted coconut sits at the opening of the pot with the conical fibre part on the top. Since the kalasam is sacred, it is kept on a pedestal. The entire kalasam is hollow so that the top end of the wooden pole of the umbrella can be inserted into it. There are two holes in the middle of the kalasam. These holes are meant to drive the screws to hold the kalasam securely to the umbrella pole. The kalasam on the top of the umbrella serves two purposes, first it covers the naked wooden pole that protrudes out of the upper part of the umbrella, and secondly, the holy kalasam brings divinity to the ordinary umbrella.
Measurements of the brass temple umbrella kalasam
The height of the kalasam from bottom to the top is 15 inches. The diameter of the base pedestal is 8.5 inches. The round top of the pedestal is 5 inches diameter. The protruding mango leaves are one inch long each.
It is a part of the ritual poojas to the Gods to take them out on a procession, seated on various vahanas (mounts) around the temple streets with royal regalia. The procession consists of the God/Goddess seated on the vahana which can be a palanquin, chariot or animal or bird vahanas carried by men. The Gods on the vahana are invariably covered by decorated large umbrellas held by archakas (priests). These umbrellas are mounted with a kalasam made out of brass on the top of the umbrellas. There will be a leading procession in front of the God consisting of nadaswaram, drums, tableaus, traditional dances like kolatam, bhajans, garaga dances, puliveshalu, yakshagana characters. These colorful art forms and performances add life to the procession and make the procession vibrant. Thousands of devotees participate in the procession. Though there will be colourful electric lights, there must be the traditional oil kagada (torch) in the lead. The devotees participate with pomp, gaiety and spiritual fervour.
The Tradition of Annual Tirupati Umbrella Procession in Chennai
An organisation called Tirupati Umbrella Charities and Hindu Dharmartha Samiti donates special umbrellas to Lord Venkateswara at Tirupati every year. Ten decorated umbrellas, two big and eight small, are taken on a procession in Chennai for two weeks and finally reach Tirupati on the day of Garuduseva during Brahmostavam of Lord Venkateswara. The umbrellas are used for the procession on Garudostavam (fifth day of Brahmostavam). The umbrella procession starts from Suncoovari house in George Town in Chennai and this house belongs to one of the founder members of the endowment. The distance from Chennai to Tirupati is 176 kilometres and this distance is covered by the procession in 14 days, stopping en-route at many places for devotees to offer worship to the umbrellas considered as Lord Venkateswara personified. The procession consists of 150 people. The procession stops at Tiruchanoor and two umbrellas are offered to Padmavathi Ammavaaru, the consort of Venkateswara Swamy. On reaching Tirupati, the umbrellas are received by the Devasthanam with due honour and they are paraded on the Garudaseva day.
These umbrellas are specially made by the traditional experts. The handle is made with teak wood and the collapsible frame work of umbrella is made of cane. The covering cloth is made of pure silk. The wood work and the silk lace work are done in Chennai and the cane/bamboo work is done in Kanchipuram and the final assembly is done in Chennai. The umbrellas are massive and fine pieces of art work. All these umbrellas are fitted with brass kalasams.
I purchased this beautiful item from an antique dealer in Chennai in the year 1968. Whenever I see this kalasam in my collection, images of great processions of temples with colourful umbrellas decked with kalasam on top pass through my mind. I drift to a spiritual state of mind where I see everything blissful, beautiful and celebration. I hope and wish you too experience the same feeling.
Sandalwood paste is an integral part of Indian culture. Sandalwood paste is called Chandanam or Gandham in India. Indian women from time immemorial used sandalwood paste to beautify their skin. They decorate their face with smearing of sandalwood paste on their face either as a dot in the forehead of a strip on the cheeks. Priests use sandalwood paste to decorate the utensils used for ritual puja. In some temples, Gods are given ceremonial bath in sandalwood paste mixed in water known as chandanaabhishekam. For particular idols of Gods sandalwood paste is given a layer of coating called chandanampoota and the dried chandanam, after scaling it from the deity, is distributed to the devotees as a sacred prasadam.
For marriages or religious functions, guests are traditionally welcomed by smearing sandalwood paste on the either sides of the cheeks, for ladies and on the wrist for gents. There will be a traditional welcome plate in which, silver items like rose water sprinkler called panneer buddy, gandhamginni, scent bottle and few flowers are placed. When guests come to the function few ladies stand at the entrance and first sprinkle rose water, then they smear chandanam paste, apply few drops of perfume and give them flowers.This is a traditional way of welcoming the guests. The Sandalwood paste is stored in a vessel called Gandhamginni in Telugu and Chandanamkinnam in Tamil. These lovely chandanam pots come in different designs, shapes and materials. I happened to collect two such vintage chandanam pots and with great pleasure I introduce them to you.
Gandhamginni in White metal
This Sandalwood paste bowl is hand made with White metal. It has a beautiful shape with a round base and a conical cup, both connected with a vertical handle. There are vertical ribbed embossed lines with graceful flow on the entire surface of the cup. These vertical lines add to the aesthetics of the body apart from serving as a grip for holding the cup by the middle of the cup. There is also lovely design around the upper portion of the cup. There is a ring like rim on the top of the cup. This strong rim serves the purpose of not only giving sturdiness to the cup but also keeps the cup in shape. The rim also helps in preventing the slippage of the cup when held from the top side.There is also an embossed cute design on the base of the cup.There is a nice vertical grip holder between the base and the cup long enough to allow two fingers to have a tight grip of the holder. I have purchased this cup from an antique shop in Chennai in 1973, approximately 40 years back.The antique dealer told me that it was in their shop for a long time and he could not tell me how old it is. I guess that it must be 50 years old at the time of my purchase thus working out to be around 90 years old. The cup is relatively big in size for a sandalwood paste container indicating that this cup is used in a temple, where the chandanam usage is high compared to domestic usage.
GandhamGinni in Silver
This silver chandanam pot is having similar shape as that of the white metal Gandhamginni. In fact this is a typical shape of a sandalwood paste container, with a base, a conical shape of cup with wide mouth at the end of the cup to facilitate easy picking up the paste with two fingers usually with the second and the middle finger joined together. The base and the cup are joined by a vertical holder. There are beautiful carvings on the base and on the cup. The rim is wider with a lotus petals design. This silver chandanam pot is used in the homes only for special occasions. This wonderful silver cup is presented to me and my wife by our family friend Shri. Vasireddy Suryanarayana garu in the year 1967, meaning it is 45 years old.
What is white metal
White metal is an alloy of metals like tin, cadmium, antimony, lead, zinc and bismuth. It is not necessary that all these metal should be there for formation of white metal. Basing on the purpose and usage the metals can be selectively chosen to get the desired effect. For example the base white metal used for making jewelry should have good flow characteristics, castable, ability to cast fine details and polish able. One can easily see all the characteristics in the white metal used for making the sandalwood paste bowl.
How Sandalwood paste is made:
The sandalwood paste is made by rubbing the sandalwood on a stone. Granite stones are available in market in various sizes and shapes. For making the paste sandalwood piece of handy size is used. First water is sprinkled on the stone and the sandalwood piece is rubbed on the stone with mild pressure. Little drops of water are added to the rubbing process to maintain the consistency of the paste.Once required quantity of paste is obtained it is drained into a bowl called Gandhamginni in Telugu, Chandanamkinnam in Tamil. These vessels are available in decorative designs made with variety of metals like brass, white metal, silver and gold.
Benefits of sandalwood paste
There are two types of Sandalwood trees. One type is red sandalwood and the other type is white sandalwood. Red sandalwood is famous for its medicinal properties. The white sandalwood is known for its skin care properties. White sandalwood is enriched with anti-inflammatory, astringent, antiseptic, disinfectant and emollient properties. This sandalwood is used to treat skin rashes, dark spots, blackheads, skin blemishes and to get a spot-less fair complexion. To get the excellent benefits of sandalwood ,one can use pure sandalwood paste or with the combination of other skin care items like rose water, turmeric, black gram and honey to enhance the skin health and tonal quality.
Sandalwood is also used for incense material like incense sticks and powder cones. Sandalwood has been in use since 4,000 years in India, China and Japan in the temples and houses as incense material. Its oil is used in perfume industry.
The botanical name of the Sandal tree is Santalum Albumand belongs to the family of Santalaceae. It is a medium sized tree that grows to a height ranging 10 to 15 meters. It will take 60 to 80 years for the tree to reach its maturity. The richest oil content is available from the sandal tree when the center of the slender trunk (the heart wood) reaches the maturity. The essential oil develops in the roots and in the heart wood as the tree grows at least to an age of 20 years. Since the roots are also precious due to availability of oil in them, the sandal tree is not cut but is uprooted to save the roots in the rainy season, when the soil is soft and the oil is at its best in the roots.The sandal trees in the forests of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu produce the best quality of the oil.
Andhra food is very spicy, hot, pungent and aromatic. It is well known that Andhras take the hottest food in India. Within Andhra each region has its own flavours. The most distinct factor in Andhra food is its Talimpu technique of seasoning the dishes which gives spicy flavour to the dish. Talimpu is also called as Popu. My mother used to create wonderful spicy flavours with the Talimpu technique by selectively chosen spices for frying. She has a special iron Garite with long handle (ladle) in which she is to fry the spices for Talimpu by keeping the Garite in the fire wood flame and dipping the hot Garite in the main dish to flavour the main dish. I am going to tell you the story of this antique Popula Gatite and the mystery of creating tongue tickling spicy hot food with Talimpu art of cooking.
The Talimpu Garite or Popula Garite is made out of iron. We also used to call it Inapa Garite, meaning lron laddle. This Garite is exclusively designed and made only for Talimpu particularly for liquid dishes like Rasam and Pulusu. I know that my mother was using this Garite since 1950 .She told us that the Garite was there in the house before she took charge of the kitchen implying that the Garite has been used by her earlier generations. It will be easily over 100 years old.
What is Talimpu ?
Talimpu is a cooking technique in which whole spices seeds and other spicy items are fried in ghee or oil to liberate essential elements from the spices and thereby enhances their flavours .The fried spices are poured over the prepared main dish along with the ghee or oil. Other ingredients like ginger ,onions, green chillies and garlic are the add on items as per the taste preference. This kind of coking is used mainly in India and mostly in South India. The most distinct quality of Andhra food is its Talimpu also called as Popu. Talimpu is called Chaunk or Tarka or Tadka or Bagar in Hindi, Thaalithal in Tamil,Vaghaar in Gujarati,Phoron in Bengali,Fodni in Marathi,Oggarane in Kannada , Baghara in Oriya and Baghaar in Urdu.
There are two ways of Talimpu preparation. One way is to first prepare the Talimpu in a frying pan and then add the main dish to it cook the dish for some time along with the Talimpu.The second way is to cook the main dish first then add Talimpu to it just before serving the dish. Talimpu gariti is used for the second method of seasoning the main dish.
Items requied for Talimpu
Dry red chillies (yendu mirapa kayalu )
Cumin seeds ( jeela karra )
Mustard seeds (Aavalu )
Chana dal (sanaga pappu )
Urad dal (minapa pappu)
Oil or ghee for frying (nooni or Neyya)
Curry leaves ( Karivepaku )
Coriander leaves (kothimeeri)
Turmeric powder (pasupu podi )
fenugreek seeds (menthlu )
asafetida (Inguva )
Salt (uppu )
Zinger (Allam )
Garlic (velli ulli payalu )
Green chillie (pachhi mirapakayalu)
Onions (ulli payalu )
Talimpu-my nostalgic journey
My mother used to create wonderful flavours with this Talimpu garite. She would hold the tail of the Garite and put the cup part in the fire. When it is hot she used to pour ghee in the cup and wait till the ghee is hot. Then she used to pour aavalu (mustard seeds ) first and wait till they crackle and then add other ingredients of the Talimpu one by one according to the order of their frying time .The main secret of the taste and flavour of the Talimpu is to know the order in which the Talimpu ginjalu are to be added to the oil for roasting so that each seed is perfectly roasted to get the best flavour .She would then stir them dexterously by jerking the handle of the ladle with brisk wrist movement so that the ingredients in the cup were moved up and down so that nothing is over fried .Her remote stirring is so perfect that not even a single seed would fall into the fire. When the entire Popu is done with she will take out the cup from the fire and dip the entire cup of the Garite along with the Popu contents into pulusu or rasam .The immersion of the hot iron cup create big sizzling sound along with the crackling in the liquid and the surrounding areas were spread with hot spicy air. The spicy flavours in the air used to tickle our senses such as tears in the eyes, light cough from the lungs, saliva in the mouth, and sneezing or water drops from the nose. Such was the spectacular effect of my mother’s Popu on our senses. It creates the right stimulant for getting ready for the lunch or dinner.
The popu varies according to the item. This Gariti is used mainly for the liquid dishes so that the cup along with the Popu can be dipped in the liquid for a better effect of the taste. Further the hot iron addle when dipped in the liquid item will get some iron nutrients which is good for the health. The spices in the Talimpu help in digesting the food. The same goodness you will not get with a stainless steel ladle though it looks trendy to use.
My mother used to use the Inapa garite very effectively for preparing popu particularly for liquid dishes like Rasam and pulusu. Pulusu is a very special dish in Andhra meal which is not found in the rest of Indian culinary items. It is Talimpu that gives the Andhra food the very special pungent punch. To know more about Andhra food, Pulusu, and Popu please follow the link http://ykantiques.com/2012/07/antique-brass-serving-pots.html written by the same author .
If we need large quantities of Talimpu for items such as chutneys, pulihara or other varieties of rice dishes , my mother used to use mookudu (large frying pan ) for preparing the Talimpu.
Dal fry or Dal Bagar is a special dish of North India where Talimpu is added to the cooked dal.If the Bagar is first prepared and dal is added to that and cooked again it is called Dal fry.If the Dal is cooked and then Bagar is garnished on that then it is called Dal Bagar.
This beautiful vintage wooden cabinet is made to store clothes meant for washing. Before the invasion of polyester or artificial fabric garments in India, both men and women used to wear cotton clothes. It was a tradition that once bath is taken in the morning every day, Indians used to wear washed clean cotton clothes invariably and kept the used clothes in a cane basket or a wooden cabinet that had enough ventilation. Those were the days when detergent soaps that clean clothes in a jiffy weren’t available yet. Every household used to have their own family washer man known as Dhobi in Hindi or Chakali in Telugu who will come once in 3or 4 days, collect the used clothes from the cane baskets or dirty cloths cabinet, wash them in a canal or tank or a traditional Dhobhi ghat known as Chaki Revu in Telugu.
The clothes were steamed with water mixed with soda powder called as chakali soda in Telugu before washing them in huge earthen pots and making them completely bacteria free. Washing cloths was and still is a professional job and clothes are given to the traditional professional washer men to be washed and ironed. The main source of income and livelihood generated by them is through washing the clothes. Then they used to iron the cloths and return them back to the owners.
Thus, it was a common practice in the old days that most of the houses used to have a covered basket to store the soiled clothes. Those who could afford used to have custom made wooden cabinets or boxes to keep the soiled clothes till the dhobi collected them. In my antique collection, I have one such excellently made vintage wooden cabinet made out of the rare jackfruit tree wood.
The Design of the used cloths box
The height of the box is 38 inches. The width and also the depth of the box is 18 inches. The cabinet is made to resemble a Radiogram, a combination of radio and gramophone record player which was a very popular entertainment system before the arrival of Television in Indian market. When the box was made in 1956, it was a fashion back then to have a radiogram in the drawing room and the family used to exhibit their social status by the class of radiogram they possessed. The carpenter who made this beautiful cabinet crafted it in such a way that it resembles a radiogram so that the box can be kept in the drawing room as well as a showpiece.
The front view of the cabinet appears as though it has 3 racks, a top rack to hold the record player, a middle rack for the radio, and the bottom rack to hold the record player discs. Actually, the entire cabinet is a hollow single box which has two openings, one opening on the top with a lid and another opening in the bottom with a drop down door held by a latch. The top lid is lifted and the soiled cloths are dropped inside. The clothes will be piled one on top of the other in the box as and when they are used and set aside. When the clothes are to be removed, the bottom door is pulled by unlatching the door latch. All the clothes can be pulled out effortlessly.
The other three sides of the box are made out of a single Jackfruit wood plank with vertical slots having 3 inches gap to provide ventilation to the clothes inside. Above 2 inches from the bottom of the box, there is a one inch black groove running on all four sides of the box like a ribbon. The whole box is imaginatively conceived and given a shape with beautiful finish. Even after 57 years, it still retained its charm and looks as beautiful as it did back then.
The Story of this antique wooden Cabinet
This beautiful wooden cabinet, known as Paatha Battala Butta in Telugu was commissioned by my father-in-law and mother-in-law in the year 1956. I was told that my mother-in-law, Machraju Satyavathi, was very particular about having a clothes cabinet exclusively made out of the ‘Jackfruit’ tree timber which was rare to find. There was an old Jackfruit tree in the gardens of my father-in-law ,Machraju Bhaskar Rao in their village ‘Vanapalli’ in the Konaseema area of Andhra Pradesh. The huge tree fell down one day due to cyclone and it was cut into planks so that furniture could be made out of the family owned tree. My father-in-law got one sofa set made out of the wood and my mother in-law insisted that a wooden cabinet for used clothes should be made with the remaining wood. I was told that the carpenter initially refused to make a wooden cabinet box for soiled clothes out of the pious wood of Jackfruit tree. But my mother -in-law was so fond of having one made that she persuaded the carpenter to make one with the best design he can think of and he crafted this amazing box, though a bit reluctantly.
Jackfruit Wood – Pious and Rare
Jackfruit tree wood is considered to be very pious and divine. This wood is mainly used by the Buddhist sculptors to make the statue of Buddha for temples. The main body of the traditional Indian stringed instrument Veena is also made out of the sacred Jackfruit tree wood which has excellent qualities of reverberation, durability and least vulnerability for moisture. Traditional south Indian drum called Mridangam and Kanjira are also made out of the wood of Jackfruit tree. In Kerala, where the jackfruit trees are cultivated widely, the Nambudri Brahmins sit on a plank made out of Jackfruit tree wood called Avani Palaka to perform the religious rituals.
The golden yellow Jackfruit timber with natural grains is used for making furniture, doors and windows, and in roof construction since it is termite-proof. The Jackfruit tree takes in the polish, beautifully highlighting the natural wood grains. This wood is also used as a dye by the Buddhist monks residing in forest monasteries to attain the characteristic distinct light brown colour of their robes. The sawdust or the chips of the Jackfruit timber, when mixed with alum, produce a rich yellow dye that is used to colour the cotton and the silk robes of Buddhist priests.
The Nambudri Brahmins of Kerala make sacred fire by rubbing the two dry branches of this tree.
The botanical name of the Jackfruit tree isArtocarpus Heterophyllus. The word ‘Jackfruit’ is derived from Malayalam word ‘Chakka’ and the Portuguese word ‘Jacca’. The species of the tree is from the Mulberry family. The evergreen tree reaches a height of 60 feet when fully grown. The Jackfruit tree is “cauliflorous” meaning that the Jackfruits are directly produced from the trunk. Unlike other fruits that naturally grow on tree branches, the Jackfruit is the only fruit in the world that grows directly from the trunk of the tree. On an average, each Jackfruit tree produces 30 to 150 fruits per year depending on the age of the tree and the variety. Each fruit weighs anywhere between 15 to 25 kilograms. The Jackfruit is also the largest tree bearing edible fruit. The Jackfruit tree is known in Hindi language as Chakki, Panos and Kanthal, in Bengali language as Katthal, in Malayalam and Tamil languages it is known as Pilaor, Pilavu respectively. In Telugu language it is known as Panasa.
How I Acquired the Box
This box was in use at my father- in-law’s place in Vijayawada where he was living a retired life with my mother-in-law, his son Purushothama Rao, and his daughter-in-law Parvathi, and his grandchildren Vani and Babi. My mother-in-law passed away in the year 1993, and Purushothama Rao passed away in 1996. Then my father-in-law shifted to Hyderabad and he passed away in the year 2002. Parvathi with her son Babi (full name is Bhaskar) and his wife Pradeepa moved into a flat and they acquired modern furniture suitable to the flat. This antique wooden box had no place or purpose in their flat. Knowing about my passion for collecting antiques, Parvathi gave this wonderful gift to me. This charming art work in divine panasa wood has a prized place in my antique collection.
Hope I have been able to refresh some memories from your childhood. If you had a similar box in your house, you would remember this for sure. If you haven’t, then now you know a bit about the way of life back in the old days and the significance that each item had in the household and the purpose it served. Also if you would like to be updated when I write my next blog post, please leave your email address in the subscription box below.
In olden days, temples and big houses used to keep huge brass rice cooking pots to cook and serve rice for important occasions. In Andhra Pradesh, these huge brass rice cooking vessels are called Gundigas (plural). In Vaishnavite temples, it is a common practice to cook rice in large quantities for preparation of Pongal (rice cooked with green gram), Daddojinam (curd rice), Pulihora (tamarind rice), and Chakkara pongali (sweet pongal). These items are offered to God as Naivedyam and then distributed to the devotees as Prasadam (sacred food). For such occasions where large quantity of rice is required, these Gundigas are used for cooking rice.
In our village Someswaram in Andhra Pradesh, Gundigas used to be available in only 2 or 3 large houses. We used to have one Gundiga in our house. Whenever there was a marriage or any religious ceremony in our village, the host of the occasion used to come to our house and borrow the huge vessel for cooking purpose and return the same duly cleaned after the function was over. Those were the days when still tent houses (rental business for large cooking vessels and associated items) or Shamiana houses had not entered the society and people had to borrow the huge vessels for special occasions from those who had them. Thus, there used to be lot of co-operative living in the villages in those days.
This Gundiga is more than 100 years old. This antique huge brass rice cooking vessel was gifted to me by my mother-in-law Machiraju Satyavathi and she got it from her father-in-law Machiraju Pullam Raju. There is an inscription on the Gundiga which reads “Ma||Pu||” in Telugu, the short form of the name Machiraju Pullam Raju. Knowing my passion for antiques, my mother-in-law gave this to me 20 years back, a few years before she passed away. This rare and beautiful Gundiga is a proud collection.
This huge vessel has a beautiful shape with a large belly. The height of the pot is 21 inches and the diameter of the belly is 21 inches. The height and the width of this large cooking pot are the same. The opening of the Gundiga is 12 inches in diameter. This antique brass rice cooking vessel weighs 18 kilograms. There is a slanting 2 inch circular rim at the opening of the vessel. This 2 inch wide rim helps in handling the huge vessel with a good grip. It also serves the purpose of draining the Ganji (strained water after rice is cooked). Ganji is the excess starch water that has to be drained out after the rice is cooked. For draining Ganji the mouth of the vessel has to be tied up with a clean cotton cloth and the vessel is tilted and is kept in that position for some time till the starch water is completely drained out through the cloth keeping the rice intact in the vessel. To know more about Ganji and how it is drained in domestic type of brass rice cooking pots, you can read another article about Brass Rice Cooking Pots written by me.
The large bellied Gundiga vessel has beautiful 3 line circular design around the middle of the belly that camouflages a fine joint at the middle of the belly joining two sections. There is also a circular joint at the bottom of the vessel which is visible. There are vertical joints at 2 places seen as a hair line crack. The joints are done by heating and joining the brass sheet sections and no welding rods are used. We should really appreciate the craftsman who made this beautiful vessel with such fine joints. This is another indication of its antiquity. There are similar 3 line circular lines at the beginning of the neck and at the edge of the rim of the mouth which add to the beauty of the vessel.
There are some scratches and dents on this lovely brass pot and these are due to constant usage and antiquity. We do not know for how many hundreds of marriages and religious functions this Gundiga was used to cook tasty rice items. It is like an old war soldier whose war marks add to his valour and courage. Same way the minor scratches and dents on this antique brass pot enhance our respect and admiration towards this gorgeous vessel.
In my younger days, I have seen Brahmin cooks cooking rice in this Gundiga. First they used to dig a narrow and long pit in the ground on which the Gundiga is placed. Fire wood is kept in the pit, which is called Gaadi poyyi in Telugu, and the fire wood is burnt and used as a source of fuel. The temperature of the fire is managed by moving the burning wood or adding additional firewood to increase the fire. To know more about the Gaadi poyyi and how large scale cooking is done on ground by improvised fire wood stoves, you can read my article on Antique Brass Pulusu Gangalam.
Hope you enjoyed reading this article and knowing more about the significance and importance of the Gundiga and my experiences associated with it. Comments are welcome!
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Punjab is known for its great culture popularly depicted in Bhangra folk dance and spicy dhaba food. Punjabi food is not complete without a thick creamy Lassi. Lassi is a special Punjabi drink made with Curd or Yogurt or Dahi churned with sugar and spices to form a smooth thick liquid and is best served chilled in a tall brass glass. It is said that the heavy Punjabi food with spices and pure ghee is digested easily by taking a glass of lassi after the meal. For most Punjabis, a few Aloo parathas and a tall glass of lassi is a normal breakfast.
Traditionally, there are special glasses for serving lassi – the strong and tall glasses made with brass. There are also the small lassi glasses that are used to serve lassi to the children. Traditionally, lassi is also served in earthen glasses or tumblers known as Kullhad in North India. Punjabis are strong, tall, do hard work and enjoy life fully with song and dance, good food, and hearty laughter. All these Punjabi traits are depicted in the craftsmanship of their lassi glasses. With the invasion of stainless steel and plastic in our so called modern culture, the traditional brass glasses have taken a beating and have been replaced by steel and plastic glasses.
But even now, some of the traditional Punjabi families use these beautiful brass glasses for serving and drinking lassi. The taste of lassi is divine when taken in a brass tall glass. I have collected two antique lassi glasses and I am proud to introduce these wonderful artistic lassi drinking brass glasses to you.
The lassi glass shown in the picture is 5 inches tall and the bottom has 2.25 inches diameter and the top mouth opening is 3.25 inches diameter. It has a beautiful telescopic shape and there are very intricate carvings on the entire body of the glass. The glass is handmade with high quality of brass. I have purchased this glass from an antique dealer in Hyderabad who told me that he had acquired it from a Punjabi family when they were clearing some of their collection while shifting from Hyderabad. I am highly delighted to have this beautiful glass in my collection. Once in a while, just for a change we prepare lassi and drink from this antique brass glass for the thrill of it.
I have also collected another antique lassi glass from the same source which is smaller in size. The height of the glass is 4 inches and the diameter of the bottom base is 2 inches and the top mouth opening is 2.5 inches.
Lassi is as old as Lord Krishna. The stories of Bala Krishna’s playful mischiefs like stealing curds and butter from the houses of Gopis is beautifully narrated in Bhagavatam, the epic Purana that tells about the story of Krishna as an avatar of Lord Vishnu that dates back to approximately 5,000 years. Bhagavatam also tells us how child Krishna sits next to Yashoda, his caretaker mother, when she churns the milk and curds to take out butter from them. He used to drink the churned curds topped with butter which is now called Lassi in Punjabi. Lassi is known to have existed since 5000 years and is very popular not only in Punjab but throughout India. It is consumed in different ways in different parts of India. In south India, they dilute lassi with water and call it Moru in Tamil and Malayalam, Majjiga or Challa in Telugu, and Majjige in Kannada.
How Lassi is prepared in a traditional way
This recipe is to make one tall glass of lassi. You need a porcelain pot or a stainless steel pot and a wooden churning stick. Keep 2 cups of yoghurt or Dahi or curds in the pot, add ¼ cup of water for dilution and 2 full tablespoons of sugar and churn the curds with the churning rod by using your hands for churning. When you get a smooth flowing liquid consistency, add one teaspoon of rose water and freshly crushed cardamoms for flavour. Churn the contents for some more time till all ingredients are smoothly blended. The Lassi is ready. Serve chilled in a long brass traditional brass Lassi glass topped with Malai (fresh cream) and garnish with Almond slivers.
If you do not have time for traditional hand churning process, you can use an electric mixer or a blender and the process is same. Do not overuse the mixer because the liquid gets heated and tends to lose its texture. Also, the metal blades of the electric mixer alter the taste of the Lassi.
Tips to make good Lassi
– Avoid using ice cubes since they dilute the consistency of the lassi. Instead, use chilled curds or chill the lassi after preparation.
– If the yogurt is not thick and is runny, do not add any water to it. Churn or mix as it is.
– Always use fresh curds. Fresh curds have inherently sweet taste and hence very little sugar is required for sweetening.
– If you want real authentic taste of lassi , use traditional method of whisking by a wooden churning stick.
Varieties of Lassi
There are many variations of lassi depending on the region and taste of the people. Let us examine some of the varieties of lassi available in our great country.
Sweet Lassi – Sweet lassi is prepared by adding sugar and other sweetening and flavouring ingredients like rose water, lemon, strawberry etc.
Salted Lassi– Salt is added to the plain lassi to give a savoury taste. It quenches thirst and is beneficial to people with diabetic problem.
Saffron Lassi –Saffron lassi is a delicacy and a special item prepared for an occasion. Normal sweet lassi is prepared and is churned with strands of saffron flower. It gives a rich saffron colour and a fine aroma. When preparing saffron lassi no other flavouring items should be added. Only then can you enjoy the special flavours of saffron. Saffron lassi is also good for health since saffron has lot of medicinal properties including enhancement of complexion and skin texture.
Makkhaniya Lassi – Makkhaniya lassi is a simple lassi without salt or sugar but containing lumps of Makkhan (butter ). This lassi is very creamy and gives you the original taste of fresh curds and fresh butter.
Masala Lassi – Masala lassi is a lassi enriched by spices like cardamom powder, almond paste, roasted and grounded cumin seeds, pista powder, and saffron strands. The masala Lassi is normally taken for celebrating an occasion.
Flavoured Lassi –Flavoured lassi is a normal lassi flavoured with different flavouring agents. The flavoured items are rose water, Keora (kewra) water, Rooh Afza etc.
Mint Sweet Lassi – To prepare Mint sweet lassi, a fine paste made by finely grinding the mint leaves is added to the sweet lassi. This lassi gives the benefit of fresh mint leaves that are known to cool the human system. Hence, this mint sweet lassi is taken in summer where one has to cope up with high temperatures.
Mango Lassi –Mango lassi is prepared by mixing Yogurt and fresh mango pulp. Since mango has a natural sweetness, no sugar is added. If fresh mango pulp is not available, canned mango pulp can be used. Mango and lassi is a beautiful combination of taste. The taste is further enhanced by adding cream or ice- cream and pistachio nuts and almond cuttings sprinkled on the top.
Bhang Lassi – Bhang is a liquid derived from the cannabis (marijuana) plant which gives a high similar to the any drug intake. In many parts of India, consumption of Bhang is legal. Rajasthan is said to have licensed shops to sell Bhang. The lassi mixed with Bhang is Bhang Lassi and it is widely used by family members during the colourful festival of Holi which is celebrated in the entire northern belt of India in a grand scale. There are “Government Authorised” shops selling Bhang within the fort walls of Jaisalmer fort, Rajasthan that provide you any level of potency you may desire to acquire.
Chaas (A variation of Lassi) – Chaas is a very diluted variation of lassi with water. The butter and fat is removed from the chaas and hence it is called butter milk. This diluted lassi is added with Jeera (cumin seeds) powder, salt, fresh coriander powder, freshly ground ginger, and green chilli paste for taste. In South India, the fresh carivepaku leaves (Curry leaves) are also added for extra flavour. Chaas is very popular in states of Gujarat and Rajasthan where it is drank along with the meal. This liquid is supposed to be a coolant and aids digestion. It is called challa or majjiga in Telugu, majjige in Kannada, taak in Marathi and moru in Tamil and Malayalam.
Lassi in Hindu Ritual pooja – It is a pooja ritual in most temples to do Abhishekam with curds mixed with honey which is lassi in which honey is added instead of sugar. This ritual is done mostly in Shivite temples to the Shiva linga.
Health benefits of Lassi – Since ages lassi is consumed all over India as a health drink. It has rich calcium content which is essential for healthy bones. It is taken as a tested traditional medicine for gastroenteritis by adding Haldi powder (turmeric powder) to the plain lassi.
Lassi as a national drink – It was proposed by the planning commission at the national level that “tea” should be considered as a national drink. But many representations were made to the government that “Lassi” should be considered as the national drink since it is part of the tradition and ethos of Indian psyche since ages. Tea and coffee are alien to India and they were introduced to India since a few hundred years ago by foreigners. Though India cultivates the best Darjeeling tea and exports it to all over the world, it is not native to India. So the great lassi is the choice of millions for the National drink.
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The real joy of acquiring an antique lies in identifying an antique at its original source, persuading the owner to partake it and adding it to your collection. In this process, you get to know the source of the item, the genuineness of the item, the owner of the item, the history of the item, and the purpose for which the antique has been used. When we acquire an item from a known source, we can narrate a story around the item. Any antique will acquire its intrinsic value by its history and the story around it. The more mysterious the story is and the more intricate the history was, the value of the item will be greater. Antiques that do not have a story around them are mere objects and do not have the glamour and emotional bondage that are an essential part of an antique.
As they say, the journey is more interesting than the destination. Similarly, the drama that takes place in hunting for the antique is more thrilling than the mere acquisition of a piece. Buying an antique from an antique shop with the help of a catalogue and price list is like buying any other item from a shop or supermarket. Buying an antique from a shop is advised only when that particular item is required and is available in that particular store only and nowhere else. I prefer and enjoy collecting my antiques directly from the source and I share with you the top three methods I use to acquire them.
Explore and Exchange
Wherever I go – like a friend’s place, a relative’s house, or any other place , I explore that place with an eye to detect some old item which I assume that they may not be using or is underutilised. I do not make it look too obvious that I am searching for something, but at the same time keep an eye for anything that catches my attention. In my initial days of antique collection, I used to collect whatever was available to me. Slowly, I started collecting only those antiques that have a bearing on our culture and tradition. Now, I specialize in collecting and exhibiting cultural antiques and I specifically look for such type of items. When I see a real antique I get excited, my heart races, and a pleasant burning sensation engulfs me. If I can make a deal and get the item then it is all good. Otherwise that particular item haunts me in my dreams. The very thought that I liked it so much and still couldn’t get it plays in my mind for a long time. It takes time to erase it from my memory. Most of the antiques are acquired by emotion rather than by reason.
I once went to my brother-in-law’s brother’s house to attend a function at Pittahpuram, once the capital of the kingdom of Pittahpuram Maha Raja in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, India. My brother-in-law’s name is Shri. Vakkalanka Venkateswara Rao and his brother’s name is Shri. Vakkalanka Madhava Rao. Shri Madhava Rao’s wife’s name is Maniamma garu. His house is more than a hundred years old and many generations lived in that house. These sort of houses are the ideal places for hunting antiques. I started exploring. I went to the kitchen area where Maniamma garu (garu is added to a name in Andhra Pradesh to respect the person of that name) was busy cooking. While I was talking to her, she stretched her hand to pick up some salt from a nearby pot. When I saw the pot my heart raced and started pounding hard and I was excited. It was a China blue and white pottery vase. Immediately something from within me told that my hunt is over and I should work on how to acquire it.
I composed myself and asked Maniamma garu casually since when have they been using that Jaadi (jaadi is a local version of porcelain vase) to store salt. She told me that ever since she knew the kitchen, this jar has always been there to store the salt and that it was passed on to her from her mother in-law. Her father-in-law had worked for the Maharaja of Pithapuram many years back. Now my guess was confirmed. The jaadi was very old indeed. I again casually asked her whether she can use a similar new jaadi for storing the salt or is she particular about using only this jaadi. She told me that a jaadi is a jaadi and anything that serves the purpose of storing salt is good enough for her. I immediately came out of the house, went to the nearest market and purchased a porcelain jaadi that is cylindrical in shape having two colours of brown and white with a shining lid, one size bigger than the Blue pottery one. This new one was similar to the one that the locals use to store Aavakaya, a spicy mango pickle famous in Andhra Pradesh.
I bought the item to Maniamma garu and told her that I bought a new salt jaadi for her and if she doesn’t mind can she give me the old one. She was first surprised and wondered why I took so much trouble in buying a new one for her when the old one was serving the purpose. Then I revealed to her that I like old items and I am collecting such old items from people like her from good families. Then she washed the new jaadi with water mixed with Haldi powder and again rinsed with fresh water and dried the jaadi with a dry cloth. Then she transferred the salt from the old jaadi to the new jaadi and handed over the old jaadi to me. When I reached Chennai, the city I was living in at that time which is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, I showed the vase to an expert and he confirmed that it is a genuine antique china pottery vase.
Let Your Friends and Family Members Know Your Passion for Antiques
When you talk to your friends and relatives, be open and talk with passion about your interest in antiques and about your antique collection. Deep passion is something viral and it catches on. When they want to thank you for whatever you have done for them, or they want to express their love and affection to you, or when they want to gift you something for an occasion, they know that the best way to make you happy is to gift you an antique piece.
When I was in Mumbai, my wife’s friend Annapoorna who is from Hyderabad visited us in the year 1992. She was excited to see her friend after a long time. She saw our antique collection and participated in our passionate talk on antiques. Suddenly, she declared that she has one old Brass gangalam which is now stored in the attic of her house in Hyderabad and that she would love to gift it to us as a gesture of her encouragement. She further said that the gangalam will look better in our collection rather than lying unnoticed on their loft. She told us that whenever we visit Hyderabad, we should visit her house and collect the Brass gangalam. We thanked her and the conversation drifted to something else.
After three months from this incident, we happened to go over to Hyderabad and informed her that we were in Hyderabad. She invited us for dinner and after a well spent evening with her, her husband, and children, we got up to leave her house. She asked us to wait for a minute and called her servant and instructed her to go up the attic and bring down the brass gangalam. She further told the servant to clean it up and put it in our car. We were surprised that she remembered her word given to us at Mumbai and were happy to know that she meant it. As a courtesy, we politely told her that we will take it later. But she insisted that we stay a little longer and take with us her gift.
Of course, we happily stayed for some more time and collected the gift. It is a beautiful Brass gangalam that was mostly keep at the entrance of the house in good old days filled with water so that whoever enters the house will first wash their feet and then only they enter the house. This was a tradition in the good old days. When we first saw the brass gangalam it was almost black in colour due to long storage and oxidation. We wanted to know the age of the gangalam but what Annapoorna told us is that she got it from her mother and her mother got it from her mother in turn. She said that it is there since 4 generations in their family. We brought it to our Mumbai residence and got it cleaned. It is now a proud possession in our house. We affectionately call it “Annapoorna Gangalam”.
Attend Local Exhibition cum Sales Events
I closely follow the newspapers and magazines for information on exhibitions cum sales events happening in the city. These advertisements normally fall into the following three categories:
1. Families that want to reduce or dispose part of their collection
2. Families that are shifting to a new location within city or to other cities
3. Families that are leaving the country and settling abroad
Most of the people falling in the above three categories want to sell their valuable collection. I invariably visit these sales since it gives me an opportunity to buy the antiques from a known source and when purchased I can ask them the history and related story about the antiques. I also generally get them at a very reasonable price since the people who leave the country to settle abroad have to clear their items within a set time. Most of these sales will be for one day only. Hence, I make it a point to go with adequate cash to purchase the item on the spot if a deal is struck. If you are interested in having a wide selection, you have to go early and clinch the deal. Of course the first half of the day’s sales will be at a relatively higher price, and as the evening sets in the prices start getting reduced, but you will have the limited choice. I have acquired most of my collection through such “Sales”.
Once I attended a sale in Madras (now renamed as Chennai ) by a family who were leaving India to settle abroad. I saw a beautiful stone sculptured statue of a lady drummer similar to the sculptures of Konark temple. The sculpture was very captivating with a gracious posture, enchanting hair style, and well-rounded body curves. I asked the house owner as to what is the price for the sculpture. He said it is priceless. Then he added that I can give him whatever I value I feel is right for that piece since he has to close the sale that evening. I could see how much feeling of separation he had felt to part with that piece. I gave him whatever I thought at that time was a reasonable price is and came out with that lovely statue. You can have a look at that wonderful stone statue.
These are just a few tips and experiences that I have written down. I’m sure you will have your own experiences to share. Feel free to drop in your comments and suggestions. I will be glad to read them and reply.
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I had visited J. Krishnamurti Foundation India located in a deep forest near Bangalore recently. My friend Mr. Sekhar Rao recommended this place for me to attend their three day course appropriately called “Retreat”. It is a marvellous place full of forest greenery, variety of colourful birds, and wild flowers. In the evening, one has to invariably carry a battery light as it is dark and one has to watch each step. The place is absolutely silent but for the chirping of the birds, wind passing through the well grown trees, and occasional odd jungle sounds.
As part of the Retreat programme, we took a “Nature Walk”, an exercise that takes you on a walk through the forest giving you a chance to appreciate and be part of nature. There are 2 guides who escort the group, one in the front and one in the back, and show us the way through the jungle and protect us from the forest surprises. This was a wonderful experience, particularly for a city dweller like me who is surrounded by concrete jungle all the time.
During one such walk, I saw beautiful red coloured tall and well-built anthills in the campus and they immediately caught my attention. This was a surprise for me! I have never seen such a natural wonder from such close proximity. I touched and felt the anthill. It is very hard and rough. It is a structural marvel built with a fort like design and can be as tall as 10 feet high. This generated a lot of curiosity and I felt like exploring more anthills. I snatched few hours in the morning and started hunting for more anthills in the wild jungle. I saw a variety of anthills and I luckily carried my camera with me so that I could take pictures of these magnificent mud castles built by tiny creatures that we call “ants”. While taking the pictures, I was a bit apprehensive about going too near to the anthill as I heard that snakes generally occupy them and make it their residence once it is deserted by ants. Of course, any snake wouldn’t dare enter an anthill when the colony of ants is in possession of the anthill. I am excited to share the pictures I clicked in this article.
Ants are great architects and builders that nature has ever created. The anthills I saw were built like towering forts ranging from as tall as 8 feet to 12 feet with protective ramparts. There is a central single hole leading to a pipe like passage to the bottom of the pit. The pipe like structure is surrounded by heaps of mud protected by rib like structures on its sides to reinforce the strength to the main structure and to ensure that it does not collapse under adverse conditions. Though there are some other holes on the anthills, I was told that they are designed and built by the ants as false entry holes to mislead and confuse the enemy about the entry point.
Ants build their habitat with supreme vision, great planning, seamless effort, and hard labour. Ants keep on excavating the earth until they find the water bed. Like a royal castle, they have separate sections within the anthill like chambers to eat, sleep, breed, and secure the larvae that is the next generation of ants. By instinct, the anthills are built in un-trodden and secluded areas. The primary purpose for this could be to avoid contact with the human being who is the most destructive creation of nature on the earth.
The basic family unit of ants is called a “colony”. The ants build their life cycle around their colony. A typical ant colony is centred on the egg laying ant or ants with “worker” ants that are sterile female ants. The colony also consists of sexual winged female and male ants whose job is to produce the next generation of ants. Seasonally, the male and female winged sexual ants go out of the nest in swarms for romantic nuptial flights. The males die after the mating along with majority of females and few lucky females which survive come back to the colony to initiate new nests and give birth to the next generation of the ants by laying the larvae.
Basically, an anthill is a pile of clay, sand, or earth, or a combination of these materials that are excavated by the ants in the process of digging. The colony is built and maintained by an army of worker ants. These worker ants carry minute bits of earth and deposit them outside of the exit hole so that the particles do not slide back into the nest. Some variety of ants actually design and architect the anthill to specific shapes to create chambers for their various functions and purpose within the anthill. These robust structures have survived heavy rains, cyclones, sun and other adversities of nature since decades and stand tall and brave for our admiration.
Ants are capable of creating vast empires for themselves. They create super colonies under the ground across countries and continents with underground tunnels. It is quoted that a great super colony was found in the Ishikari coast of Japan consisting of 306 million worker ants and one million queen ants living in 45,000 nests interconnected by underground passages over an area of 2.7 km2 (670 acres). Such super colonies are found in many parts of the globe and these are considered by researchers as parts of a single global mega colony.
In certain countries like Zambia, giant abandoned anthills are located and the natives use the mud to make bricks.
I’m unsure about the binding element that ants use to build such strong hills with tiny particles of earth. I assume that they use their own saliva as a cementing liquid. I touched the forest anthills and they feel so hard. Though this article steers away from talking about antiques, the beauty of these mud castles created by miniscule insects like ants inspired me to write this article and share it with you.
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