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Antique Mobile Wash Basin

Antique Mobile Wash Basin From YK’s Collection
When you go to a good restaurant, you are usually provided with a napkin, and after completing the meal a finger bowl to wash your fingers. This is a courtesy and comfort they provide you and save you from going to the wash room to wash your fingers or hands.

As far as a fine dining restaurant is concerned, a finger bowl would suffice, as you have your entire cutlery (knife, fork, spoon etc.) to eat the food. So, the possibility of dirtying your hands is minimal. But imagine, you are at a typical Indian feast, where guests are seated on a cotton or woollen laden floor; in some traditional houses guests are seated on low level square wooden platforms. And in a typical traditional Indian feast, food is consumed with one’s own fingers and palms, and there shall be no use of cutlery. In this scenario, a finger bowl would definitely not suffice for washing your entire palm, and the hosts would not want to be discourteous by asking their guests to make use of a washroom (which may be located at a fair distance from the dining area). 

Antique Basin
Antique Pitcher with a Snout


The hosts extend their hospitality by arranging a mobile wash basin thus, enabling the guests to wash off their hands in their very seats. While one bearer carries the mobile wash basin, another carries a metal container with water, followed by another who would provide with the napkin(s) for drying the hands. In houses where a dining table is used, the mobile wash basin is brought to the table carried by the servants along with a water jug. Table napkins are placed on the table so that guests can use them for drying their hands.

Antique mobile wash basin and pitcher -Top view
Antique mobile wash basin and pitcher -Front view


A mobile wash basin, also referred to as a ‘Salfachi’ in Urdu, ‘Chilamachi’ in Hindi or a ‘Lavabo’ is not a new concept, and has been in use for several centuries now. A mobile wash basin generally consists of 2 major components, viz. the basin and a vessel (with a snout). While the basin is what you wash your hands in, the vessel, an Indian version of a pitcher, stores the water used for cleaning.

Top View of the Basin with the Filter
Top View of the Basin with the Filter Removed
Top View of the Filter Alone


The antique wash basin shown in the picture along with the matching water jug with a snout to pour water gently is made out of copper. The water jug shown in the picture looks similar to the pitcher without handle but with a snout or an Indian lota with a snout.  The wash basin has a big basin where hand washing is done and underneath the basin is a bowl attached to collect the water. There is perforated filter disk that lies between the basin and the bowl. Any food particles while washing will be filtered by the perforated filter disk allowing only the water to reach the bowl. The second purpose of the filter disk is to prevent the unclean water from surfacing. This filter disk is detachable. When the water is to be emptied from the bowl, the filter is removed and the water is thrown out. The wash basin also has a handle to carry the wash basin. There is an intricate metal carving work on the wash basin as well as on the water jug. This set, I have collected 20 years back from an antique shop in Chennai in the the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The set is now available in my house in Hyderabad city, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Gallery :

Brass hand washing basin
Hand hammered in Fez Size: D: 14″ H:18″
Consits in 3 brass pieces, basin, basin cover and kettle
Exquisite Vintage Royal Blue Washbasin & Pitcher with Dutch Farm Scenes and Windmills
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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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Katar –The Dagger

From YK’s Collection
Katar is a dagger with a hilt comprising two parallel bars connected by two or more cross-pieces to provide grip. One of the cross pieces is located at the end of the parallel bars and is fixed to the blade. The rest of the cross pieces are fixed at the center of the parallel bars which serves as the handle. Katar is basically a punching dagger and was mostly used by the Rajput, Sikh and Mughal warriors of India. Katar is a very powerful dagger and can even penetrate through the armor of the enemy.

Yk’s Collection

What is unique about Katar dagger–

Its unique design with thickened tip and powerful central rib to prevent the blade from breaking or bending can pierce the type of armor used by Indian warriors. When Katar is gripped properly in the clenched fist, the blade automatically takes position in line with the fore arm that it thrusts forward giving a straight punch. The entire forearm force is behind the dagger punch along with the weight of the body creating powerful force to attack the opponent. The Katar is more of an offensive type of weapon and has little scope for defense. The opponents attack could be blocked only with the sides of the handle.

The design of Katar dagger-

Katar is purely of Indian design and origin. Katar is a dagger with a hilt comprising two parallel bars connected by two or more cross-pieces to provide grip forming a “H”shaped design.. One of the cross pieces is located at the end of the parallel bars and is fixed to the blade. The rest of the cross pieces are fixed at the center of the parallel bars which serves as the handle for grip.The advantageous aspect of the Katar is its handle with the blade directly in front of the holder’s knuckles which is congenial to give a powerful punch to the enemy. Jamadhar Katars are distinguished with their multiple blades that create psychological impact on the enemy and have additional penetrating power. It is a formidable weapon that can give punching stabs to the enemy with speed and penetrating power. In subsequent modern design of  Katar single-shot pistols were incorporated along with the parallel side bars of  the handle to give a killing blow to the opponent.

History of Katar dagger

Katar is derived from the Tamil word kattari  the native language of Dravidians from Tamil Nadu,a state in south  India.The word Kattari  became Kataar in Punjabi and when pronounce by the North Indians it became Katara and subsequently with usage by multi-cultural ethnic groups of north india became Katar. History traces its first use by then flourishing Vijayanagara empire of  south India.In 17th century Maratha rulers adopted this design and developed a form of gauntlet sword known or otherwise called  Pata.  Subsequently when Katar dagger became popular throughout India it acquired a status symbol similar to “Kris” of  South east Asia and   “Katana “ of Japan.   Since short blades are used for making Katar even broken swords are used for making Katar .After colonization of India by Britishers,Ueropean collectors have started collecting Katars for their private collection.

Gold Katar

Katar as status symbol-

In the later stages , Katar was used by the Indian nobility as a status symbol. Katar handles are covered with enamel work, silver and gold foils with decorative designs and are exhibited prominently in front or sides of their waist. The nobles of Moghal empire even used Katar dagger to hunt tigers to exhibit their velour and courage by killing a tiger at close range using a hand held dagger.


Note : 

“Gold ‘katar’ in the figure above is called circa(1970) belongs to Rajputana, it has a Blade of steel with two single barreled flint lock pistols forming the wrist guards. We can see the beauty of kundan work on its grip. It was the personal weapon of Sawai Pratap Singh(Private collection).”

 

YK’s Collection

I have collected the Katar dagger shown in the picture above(Yk’s collection) from an antique shop in Mumbai, India. The Katar is made out of iron with a single mould casting. The blade is joined to the handle in a “V” shape to have more of jointing area for maximum strength. The handles are curved as against the traditional parallel handles thus giving the Katar a decorative aspect and protective functionality.
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Antique Torch

YK’s collection of torches-  

From YK’s Collection

The torches shown in the picture are made out of carved brass. I have collected them from an antique shop in the city of Karaikudi located in the Chettinadu area of Tamil Nadu, India. Chettinadu is an area which is mostly occupied by Chettiars (trading community) and this is a very prosperous community. They lived in huge houses and they practiced elaborate and rich social and religious rituals. These torches were used by them for their religious rituals. As a tradition these torches are also used when the temple deity is taken on procession around the city on important days.

 

 

Oil can for torches- Oil is required to fuel the flame of the torch. The torch head contains a cotton tape wrapped around and is made into a ball like shape and this cotton ball is dipped in oil and lit.

The oil can be castor oil, gingili oil or peanut oil and any kind of locally available oil that promotes flame. When the oil in the flames is consumed it has to be re-filled to provide continuous supply of flame. For this purpose an oil can has to be kept ready near the torches.

The oil can shown in this article is procured from the city of Ahmadabad in Gujarat state, India. The four supports attached to the base of oil can are the round antique coins of that period. I have to get the expertise to seek of which dynasty these coins belong so that we can determine the age of the oil can. Before paper currency was introduced in India, the coins were mostly made of brass, copper, silver and gold. For these coins the intrinsic value and the exchange value are the same. For example paper currency has only exchange value but no intrinsic value whereas brass coin has both exchange value and the same intrinsic value. Hence the coins are used for purposes other than exchange value,i.e. buying and selling. They were melted and articles were made out of the metals or used for commercial or ornamental purposes.


The craftsman who made this oil can chose to use the coins for base since if he has to buy brass and make them into round shape suitable for the base, it will cost him the same. The coins can be seen in the photograph provided in this article.

 

 

From YK’s Collection – Torch

About the torch- A traditional torch will have fire or flame at one end of a rod that can be of wood or metal with rag immersed in inflammable material like oils or pitch is tied at the end and lit.

Torches used as light source-In the castles, forts or in mansions ,torches are mounted on the walls with the help of brackets. These are lit whenever light is required. They illuminate the corridors, halls and the living rooms .Torches also provide warmth apart from light.

 

 

Olympic torch- To light the Olympic flame which is kept burning throughout the duration of the Olympic Games, the cross country runners will carry the torch in relay and light the Olympic Flame. This tradition is to reenact the ancient Olympic that took place in Olympia where the sacred flame burns inside of the temple of Hira.

 

 

 

 

YK’s Collection

Water proof torch- If the mixture of sulfur and lime is used as a fuel for the torch, the flame will not get extinguished even when it is immersed in water. The ancient Romans used to make such torches to protect the flame from contact of water or moisture. 

 

 

 

 

Procession torches-Procession torches are the ones used to carry the torch along with a procession, parade or as a source of light at night celebrations. These torches are made by immersing coarse hessian material in wax, rolling them into the shape of a cylinder and tying them at the end of a torch rod normally made out of wood. There will be a protective color made out of paper inserted in between the light and the handle so that the melting wax do not fall on the torch bearers hand and hurt him.

 

 

Juggling torches- Juggling torches are used by professional jugglers to entertain the audience. Juggling is done the same way as they do with knives or clubs. Juggling torches creates a magical impact on the auditions due to formation of patters while juggling and the sound produced due to the speed of the movement of the flame. The danger of playing with the fire creates additional thrill to the audience though a skilled juggler can play it safe.

 

 


Fire breathing torch- Fire breathers use flaming torches to display the splendor of the flame by creating different shapes of the huge fire with their blowing skills.

 

 

 

 

Symbolism of a torch- A torch signifies hope and enlightenment like the torch shown in the statue of liberty in New York City depicting “liberty enlightening the world”.

 

 

 

 

Wedding torches-In ancient Greece fire is regarded as a sacred witness to the marriage. Fire sanctifies the wedding. The use of torches is spiritual and functional. Darkness is associated with evil spirits and torches chase away the darkness and the evil spirits. They also purify the air and the surroundings. It is a tradition in ancient Rome and Greece to take the new bride to the wedding ceremony and subsequently to her new home with torches. White thorns are used as a torch to chase away the evil spirits and influences.

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Antique Ink-pot

The Origin of ink-pot as per Indian Mythology :
From Yk’s Collection
According to Hindu scriptures the souls of all dead beings go to Yamapuri. Here the god of death Yama Dharmaraja punishes or rewards them as per the evil deeds or good deeds they have done in their life. The souls who have done more of evil deeds will go to hell where the soul receives punishment and the souls who have done predominantly good deeds go to heaven where they will be rewarded with good life. It is the duty of Yama Dharmaraja to keep a record of the deeds done by the souls and judge them after their death. 
From Yk’s Collection
According to Yamasamhita, the ninth chapter of the ancient literature dealing with the Hindu Law Ahilya Kamdhenu, Yama Dharmaraja approached Lord Brahma and narrated to him about his difficulty in keeping a record of the deeds of so many souls for judgment and sought his help. Hence, Lord Brahma deeply meditated for a long time and with the power of his meditation, he created a person who appeared with an ink pot and a pen in his hands and had a sword belted to his waist. That is how the first ink pot came into existence. The person was named Chitragupta because he was conceived in Lord Brahma’s mind (Chitra) in secrecy (Gupta).Then Lord Brahma declared that Chitragupta will help Yama Dharmaraja in maintaining the records of evil and good deeds done by the souls.
The Origin of ink-pot as per recorded history
It is generally believed that the art of making ink-pots started in ancient Egypt. From Egypt the art of making ink pots reached orient particularly China

and spread to Japan. With the invention of paper in Europe in around 14th century and use of refined ink material and writing instruments, ink-pots were liberally used and were available in variety.

 

 

Selection of ink pots- 

Ink pots are available in various shapes, sizes, colors , light, heavy, different material of construction ,portable,

stationary, of different times etc. While selecting an antique ink pot one should look at these criteria based on which the value of the ink pot is adjudged. One should see there are no cracks or ledges inside or outside of the ink pot. Aesthetics play an important role in the selection of ink pot since this piece is going to be a proud display at work table or space decoration.

 

Pot and cap Separated
Calligraphy and ink pots –

Chinese mastered the art of calligraphy with their artistic way of writing their characters. They adored the instruments they used for calligraphy and thus they have given a religious status to the ink pots used for calligraphy.
From Yk’s Collection -Top view

Yk’s Collection of ink-pot

From Yk’s Collection – Bottom View

 

The ink pot shown in the picture is made out of brass hand molding in the shape of the orient pagoda. I have seen this art master piece in an antique shop in the city of Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat, India and purchased immediately in the year 1991and ever since it is in my possession. The ink pot is made in two parts i.e. the actual ink pot and the lid for the pot.Both the ink pot and the lid are chained together with brass chain so that they are not separated by chance and the lid is always available nearby when the user wants to close the pot. The craftsman who made this ink pot has also inscribed the name of the master who had ordered him to make it

 

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Samovar – An Unique Antique Piece

Samovar basically is a metal container used to boil water. The heated water is mostly used for making tea and hence Samovar is generally associated as tea maker. Samovar is used in and around Russia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Middle East and in Kashmir. Traditionally charcoal is used to heat the water. Antique samovars are known for their beautiful workmanship. Samovars come in variety of shapes and sizes like cylindrical, spherical, barrel, urn shaped or combination of these shapes.

Description of Samovar-A traditional samovar has a large metallic container in which there is a faucet near the bottom and a metallic pipe which runs vertically through the middle. It has main body of metal container to hold water, a base to stand upon, chimney to hold charcoal fire, a cover with a steam vent, handles to hold and move, faucet for hot water outlet, crown and ring to hold the teapot, chimney extension cap, drip-bowl, and teapot. There will be a tray to keep the samovar, drip-bowl and teapot and if necessary a bowl with charcoal that has become to be appreciated as an art object today.

How Samovar is used-Traditionally samovars are crafted out of bronze, brass or copper. However some samovars are also made with silver, tin, nickel or even with gold. Solid fuel like charcoal fire is used to fill the pipe which heats up the water present in the container. The richness and the aroma of the tea are obtained by preparing a strong concentrate of tea in the teapot over a low temperature. Then as per the personal taste the concentrated tea is diluted with boiled water from the main container before being served.

History of Samovar- In Russia in the mid of 1700’s the first samovar was introduced from Mongolia. When tea was introduced samovars gained popularity as they became accessible source of hot water and for heat from the chilly winters in Russia, Most significantly samovars were the core of cultural Life. In Russia, in the year 1778, the first samovar-making factory was registered by Nazar Lisitsyn. The first documented samovar-makers were the Russians although they were not the inventors of samovar. The various and beautiful samovar designs used by them played a very influential role in the history of samovar-making.

Since the 18th century, the samovars are produced in the city of Tula which has been the main center of production of Russian samovars in Russia. Samovars became the common aspect of the Russian tea culture by the 19th century. There was a large production of Samovars in Russia and they were also exported to different countries. Bullets and arms were made by melting down samovars during periods of war. In times of peace, samovars were made by melting down the swords, bullets, guns and cannons.

Samovar As an art Piece : As each Samovar exhibits the splendid artistic quality of its maker, So does each samovar have a different personality – elegance, cordiality and an inviting friendliness. It can be imagined easily why these attractive Samovars were the prized asserts of so many immigrant families.  A key feature of a Russian household was the samovar. In the present era, the samovar is typically related with Russian exotica. In Iran, the samovar culture is very common and emigrants maintain it everywhere. For at least two centuries, samovars have been used in Iran. Presently you can find oil-burning or natural gas-consuming or electrical samovars being used in all places. The art samovars are considered as a part of Iranian art and they are often shown in museums of Iran and Western countries.

How to brew perfect tea by using Samovar :

  1. Fill the body of the Samovar with water. Make sure to use soft water. Hard water will have mineral particles and they will get deposited in the inner side of the samovar body.
  2. Once the water gets boiled, place the required quantity of tea leaves into the filter of the teapot.
  3. Then the teapot should be placed under the Samovar tap and hot water should be poured into the teapot.
  4. Now the teapot should be placed on top of the Samovar making the pot sit on the ring. Let the tea brew in the simmer of the heat till you get the required concentration.
  5. Take little quantity of the tea, concentrate in a cup and add required quantity of hot water to get the desired strength of the tea.

 

 

YK’s Collection-The Samovar shown in the main picture(At top Left) and bottom right (shown in this paragraph) is from my personal collections. When I was in Iraq in the year 1981, I visited the ancient site of Babylon famous for the hanging gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient civilization. Babylon is on the banks of the river Euphrates about 85 kilometers from Baghdad, the capital of present day Iraq. Near the Babylon site there was a small museum and I found the samovar there -only one piece available. After talking to the museum in charge I managed to procure this Samovar with a brass tray, tea pot, and a drain bowl and all can be conveniently placed in the tray. Subsequently I brought the Samovar set to India and is presently available in my house in Hyderabad. It is evident that this samovar was much used and the inside part of the main body where the water is boiled contains hard coating of water scales deposited by hard water.