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The Antique Brass Fire Walking Pot.

 

 

The antique brass fire walking pot.
The antique brass fire walking pot.

India,the Incredible India, has diverse cultures, mysterious rituals ,age old traditions, rich heritage  and  mythical legends .This is a land where people worship a stone, a tree, a river and a snake and  many more since they see God in all of them. The Hindus in India believe that the entire universe is the manifestation of god Himself in different forms and hence you can see God in every aspect of the universe. There is an underlying sound faith in god behind the multiple rituals and ceremonies they perform. One of such ritual is Fire walking. The fundamental faith is that if you are righteous, god will protect you and you will come out of the fire unscathed. In this article I am going to talk to you about a brass pot, known as kalasam, that is designed and used in the incredible ritual called Fire walking.

The brass pot shown in the pictures is used by the devotees of the goddess MARI AMMAN during the fire walking ceremony. The tradition is they keep the pot filled with the water and decorate it with turmeric paste and marigold flower garlands.  They sanctify the pot by keeping in few mango leaves and neem leaves. Such sanctified and decorated pot is called kalasam. The kalasam is placed on their head and held in position by their both hands and they walk on the fire. The ardent devotees, who had taken a vow to do penance in lieu of cure of a disease or fulfillment of a wish, walk on the fire to fullfil their vow.

The antique fire walking brass pot.
The antique fire walking brass pot.
antique fire walking brass pot with depression for resting on the head.
antique fire walking brass pot with depression for resting on the head.
Two identical brass pots one with depression at the bottom and the other with the rounded bottom shape.
Two identical brass pots one with depression at the bottom and the other with the rounded bottom shape.

The design and shape of the  brass fire waking pot.

This handmade beautiful brass pot has a large belly, narrow neck and wide opening mouth. There is hand etched design around the body of the pot. There is a large dent or depression at the bottom of the pot. The dent is designed to snuggly hold the pot on the head of the devotee so that the pot remains stable and intact on the devotees head while he/she is performing the fire walking ceremony.

The code of conduct and penance for fire walking.

The devotees who have taken a vow to do fire walking wear yellow colored clothes all the time during the month of AADI and abstain from eating non-vegetarian foods, remain celibate, walk bare foot.  They wear a yellow cotton wrist wrap with a turmeric pod tied to it during the moth to remind themselves of their vow and from straying away. During the fire walking ceremony they wear a garland of marigold flowers and hold bunch of neem leaves in one hand.  Once the flag is hoisted in the temple near the place where the person resides, he is forbidden to leave his village or town till the culmination of the Mari Amman festival that is celebrated for 10 day.

Mari Amman of the famous Samayapuram temple.
Mari Amman of the famous Samayapuram temple.

The Godess Mari Amman

The female deity, Mari Amman is very popular in Southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu. She is the mother goddess of mainly rural areas of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra states.  Mari Amman is considered a reincarnation of goddess Parvati, the spouse of Lord Shiva. Mari Amma is the counter part of Shitaldevi of North India and Godess Manasa of eastern India. She is the mother goddess who brings rains to parched lands and thus life and prosperity.  She is also known to cure diseases such as small pox, chicken pox and cholera. There are huge temples for this deity in places like Samayapuram near Trichy, Erode, Madurai, Tirunelveli, Kanya Kumari in India and also abroad in places like Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, US, UK.

During the Tamil month of AADI (roughly between July and August) temples of this Goddess celebrate a festival with great fan-fare, with many customs, rituals, and the most important of all is fire walking and car (big wooden chariots) festival. These rituals last for 10 days to pray and thank goddess Mari Amman for abundant rainfall, good heath and prosperity by the farming community in particular and the public in general.

The Fire walking ritual.

On the last day of the celebrations, after the chariots are pulled and return to their starting points, after sun set, the worshippers perform the fire walking ceremony. They keep the brass pot (kalasam) on their head and walk bare footed over a pit which has burning coal and wood.  This fire walking is for a distance of 20 to 50 feet depending on the tradition of the temple. The dent in the kalasam is purposely made to allow the devotee to place it comfortably on his or her head and ensure that it is stable. Now a days devotees who cannot afford brass pots use steel pots for this purpose. Miraculously they are not harmed at all and they believe that since they have remained pious throughout the month, the mother Goddess has protected them from all dangers and will bestow them with all their hopes and aspirations in the coming days.  People who have not observed the fast or remained pious would not dare to even think of coming near the fire pit.

Picture showing preparation of the fire pit.
Picture showing preparation of the fire pit.
A fire walking procession proceeding to the fire pit holding pot (kalasam) on the head.
A fire walking procession proceeding to the fire pit holding pot (kalasam) on the head.
Devotees doing Fire walking with flower decked kalasam on their head wearing yellow cloths, garland around the neck. with spiritual fervor.
Devotees doing Fire walking with flower decked kalasam on their head wearing yellow cloths, garland around the neck. with spiritual fervor.

Both men and women participate in this ritual and even children are encouraged by their parents to observe the penance.  It is heart wrenching to see kids (boys and girls) to walk over the burning fire without any protection.  But, they smilingly walk over to the other side and are hugged by their parents with joy.

The fire carrying ritual.

Some devotees do another forms of penance. Instead of walking over the burning fire, they carry a pot completely filled with hot burning wood and coal with their both hands, dancing to the music of nadaswaram and melam and reach the temple.  All along, common people pour pitcher full of water over the heads of these devotees to help them keep their bodies from getting exhausted and also to take their blessings

Some devotees also do penance by piercing trident (trishool) or vel to their cheeks, tongue, ears, stomach etc. The guilt feeling among the devotees for any wrong doing knowingly or unknowingly done is also a reason for them to do self-imposed punishment like impalement of skin and tongue, carrying fire pots with bare hands and flagellation. Astonishingly, they hardly feel the pain or experience heavy blood loss during piercing or while removing the objects.

It is a very unique custom to Tamil Nadu and has been in practice since centuries.  Modern views of rational thinkers who dwell in city would be that it is absurd, foolish and a form of superstition or blind faith.  But, the faith, trust and belief of the believers are growing in great numbers day by day. It is a mystery as to what kind of spiritual ecstasy they experience in undergoing such hardship.

The MOLLAPARI ceremony

There are more ceremonies that are associated with Mari Amman festival. One of such ceremony is MOLLAPARI. Women keep soaked pulses in cotton cloth to germinate overnight.  These sprouted pulses known as “MOLLAPARI” are then transferred to a vase containing mud and they daily sprinkle water to keep it moist.  By the 10th day the sprouts could reach up to 5 inches in height.  The sprouts symbolize the mother’s grace on their families and ensure good harvest in the coming days. The Mollapari is brought to the temple tank on the final day and immersed in the water.

Lady devotee wearing yellow sari, holding the pot (kalasam) on head and wearing a garland of marigold flowers being escorted by volunteers after completing fire walking ceremony.
Lady devotee wearing yellow sari, holding the pot (kalasam) on head and wearing a garland of marigold flowers being escorted by volunteers after completing fire walking ceremony.

The story of British General’s encounter with the power of Amman

There is a legendary story about the Goddess Mari Amman.  There was a old small temple of Mari Amman in a village near Madurai which was frequented by many people from surrounding places and everyone had absolute faith in the powers of the mother Goddess.  It was a period when India was under the rule of the British.  One of the British Generals wanted to build a road after demolishing the existing temple for smooth and faster movement of British troops, which had to otherwise take a longer route to reach the cantonment.

The people vehemently opposed the idea and pleaded with the General to drop the project as it concerned their faith and belief. They warned the General about the powers of the Goddess and to not try her patience.  The General rubbished their warnings as irrational and proclaimed that he was not afraid of any stone figure at all.  The night before the temple was to be demolished; the General was inflicted with severe bout of small pox and high fever.  In the morning, when he looked at the mirror he was astonished to see his condition. He immediately summoned the battalion doctor.  The doctor came and tried every possible medication, but to no avail.  The condition of the General was getting worse and his fever was not subsiding.  He could not eat or speak. His energy was completely drained away.  He was sure that he would not survive for the next day.

One of his trusted Indian soldiers told him that this was the curse of the Goddess and that if he sincerely dropped the plan to demolish the temple and pray for forgiveness, the mother would not only save his life but also cure his disease completely.  The General agreed to the suggestion.  He was carried in a palanquin to the temple.  The priest of the temple immediately took him in front of the deity.  The General asked for forgiveness and promised not to touch even a single stone of the temple. The priest received divine instructions and accordingly the whole body of the General was wrapped in yellow colored clothes, covered with neem leaves for 3 days and on the 4th day he was given a bath.  After the bath, the small pox was completely cured and he was in his old health and personality. The General thanked the Goddess and promised to renovate the old temple and perform Kumbhabhishekam.  Accordingly, the temple was renovated and built in a grand manner and Kumbhahishekam was performed.  Even today the temple exists and the statue of the British General is kept at the entrance of the temple.

The picture showing the design on the antique fire walking brass pot.
The picture showing the design on the antique fire walking brass pot.

The significance of hanging neem leaves above the entrance of the house

It is a custom to keep neem leaves above the entrance of the homes of children or adults afflicted with small pox and even over their bodies. No allopathic medicines are given to such people and proper hygiene is maintained as people consider Mari Amman to have come to their house in the form of small pox for some reason.  The Tamil name for small pox is “Amman” (mother).  Relatives coming to see the patient also have to observe many restrictions such as taking daily bath, refraining from eating non-vegetarian food, alcohol, sex till the time the person is cured and Amman leaves the house.

Fir walking-The ultimate experience

Fire walking is generally considered as a trial of one’s will power and courage. It is a matter of mind over body. These weird rituals serve the purpose of  social unity and team spirit among the community members. Social scientists believe that the religious rituals that test extreme level of physical strength and mental stamina  serve as a bonding factor of the participants by aligning their emotional condition. The strong bondage developed by these intense sharing of weird experiences, prompted the corporate world to prompt their employees to undergo such experiences as fire walking for team building exercise.

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Iyengar Chombu – An Integral Part Of Vaishnavite Rituals

Collection of Iyengar Chombus in brass and copper.
Collection of Iyengar Chombus in brass and copper.

It is fascinating to know that the strong and prominent Brahmin Vaishnavite community of South India called Iyengars have their own exclusive religious mark, their own rituals and a chombu designed and created to carry on their rituals. This beautifully designed chombu shown in the picture is known as Iyengar Chombu in general. Another name for it is Mannargudi Chombu. The name derives from a very famous place of pilgrimage called Mannargudi near Kumbakonam, where there is a very ancient temple dedicated to Lord Rajagopalaswamy. Lord Krishna, in this temple, is in the form of a cowherd with attire, head gear, ear rings and a stick. A beautiful cow and a calf accompany him in the sanctum sanctorum. 

It is said by great saints that we should try and emulate the  innocence of cow and the calf of the temple, who appear as if looking at the Lord to protect them from all harm and provide them with all necessities of life in this world which is full of doubts and treachery. The cow and the calf symbolize faith and trust in the Lord who is omnipresent to take care, protect, guide us all and keep us free of all worries.

 Copper Iyengar Chombu.
Copper Iyengar Chombu.
Brass Iyengar Chombu
Brass Iyengar Chombu

The Origin Of The Iyengar Chombu

This chombu most probably originated in Mannargudi, because in ancient times, the whole area surrounding the temple was full of Sri Vaishnavites (Iyengars).  The daily life of the people involved many rituals which they strictly followed and these chombus were an integral part of their lives. They were used to perform Sandhya Vandhanam poojas.  These poojas were conducted by every Brahmin thrice each day:

  • Firstly, in the morning as soon as the sun rises
  • Secondly in the mid-afternoon
  • Thirdly in the evening at the time of sunset

Also, the chombus were used in marriage ceremonies, in any pooja like Seemantham (function for pregnant ladies to beget healthy and virtuous children), house warming, Upanayanam (thread wearing ceremony), Shraddha (funeral rites) etc. These chombus  were an indispensable part of the community.

In all poojas except the funeral rites, these chombus were kept in the centre on top of two layers of banana leaves. On the bottom banana leaf, rice with husk (nel in Tamil, dhanyam in Telugu) was kept.  On the top banana leaf, raw rice without the husk (arisi in Tamil and biyyam in Telugu) was kept. On top of this, the chombu was kept with about 5 to 6 or a bunch of Mango leaves with an unbroken coconut with sandalwood paste and vermilion applied to it and garlanded. The chombu used for this ritual with the decoration is known as kalasam.

In the funeral rites, the chombu is used to collect water and make a water ring around the departed soul. It is also used to carry milk which is used to pour on the ashes of the deceased person on the day after he/she is cremated, because it is considered impure and a sin to touch a bone directly. Milk protects the karta i.e. the ritual performer from any dosha (bad effect) before the ashes are immersed in any holy water.

Even during Shraddha ceremony, it is considered one of the important daan (charity) to be given to the Brahmin.

How I Collected These Iyengar Chmobus

I have collected these chombu from Sri Rajappan Gopalan who himself is a devout Iyengar and lives in Srivilliputtur where the famous temple for Andal is located. Andal is the only lady from Alwars who dedicated her life to the enrichment of Vaishnava Bhakti movement. These chombus were actually used for the religious ceremonies in their family. Sri Rajappan tells me the ancestors of their family were the archakas in the famous temple of Sri Venkateswara of Tirupathi.

The Significance Of The Design And Shape Of The Iyengar Chombu

Iyengar chombu has a curved bottom and when placed on the floor it rests only on the lower tip of the bottom. Most probably it is designed to have minimum area of contact with the floor to keep it pure. It has a large belly tapers up to form a narrow neck .The opening of the neck is wider thus allowing the water inside to flow out with ease. These chombus are hand-made with the joints skillfully hammered to form the shape. The outer edges of the opening of the mouth are folded back to form a nice metal ring which makes the chombu strong and sturdy. The shape of the neck is conveniently designed to have tight grip when held with hand to pour water or to hold it with five fingers when carried.

Brass Iyengar Chombu
Brass Iyengar Chombu
Picture showing Iyengar Chombu resting on the table top with its lower tip of the bottom.
Picture showing Iyengar Chombu resting on the table top with its lower tip of the bottom.
Picture showing the outer edge of the mouth is folded back to form a ring.
Picture showing the outer edge of the mouth is folded back to form a ring.
Picture showing the joints skillfully hammered to form the shape of the hand made Iyengar Chombu.
Picture showing the joints skillfully hammered to form the shape of the hand made Iyengar Chombu.

The shape is very important. Only these shapes are strictly allowed and permitted to be used in the temples for poojas etc. Shapes with round bottom or square ones are prohibited.  This is to segregate and let the common people know that it is only this shape which is valid for performing rituals.  Also, in those days, even families used brass and copper in their daily lives and round-bottomed or other shaped once were already being used for various other purposes.

People were using round and square-shaped brass chombus even for answering nature’s call in the open, hence the distinction was imperative.

The chombus made of only brass and copper were considered as “madi” i.e. pure and they could be taken right into the temple’s Garbha Grah. They also had anti-bacterial properties and so water for drinking purposes could be stored for long duration. After gold and silver, priority and importance were given to copper and brass.  Stainless steel was not heard of in those days and also aluminum was considered inferior and not “madi”. Copper chombus were used by people with good financial standing the society, as it was and still is expensive than brass. People who had the resources would buy copper ones to display their status, similar to gold, silver and diamonds.

Iyengar Chombu Particularly Suitable For Vishnu Abhishekam

Abhishekam is a ritual bath given to God. The nature and method of abhishekam varies as per the god.  In abhishekam to Lord Shiva, which is mostly done to the Shiva Lingam, the water is poured on the Shiva Lingam drop by drop by a special vessel devised for this purpose and hung above the Shiva Lingam. When devotees perform abhishekam, water is slowly poured on the Lingam through the snout of the kamandalam or simply by a copper or a brass chombu.To know more about usage of  kamandalam in Abhishekam for Lord Shiva   follow the link http://ykantiques.com/2013/08/antique-brass-and-copper-kamandalam.html

an Iyengar priest performing Abhishekam to to idol of Vishnu with Iyengar Chombu
an Iyengar priest performing Abhishekam to to idol of Vishnu with Iyengar Chombu.

Lord Vishnu likes the water to be poured on him in abundance. For abhishekam to Lord Vishnu, a large chombu is used and the entire water in the chombu is poured on the idol and the same process is repeated several times. The design of the Iyengar chombu is such that it allows the entire water to be poured out from its large belly through its wide month.

A Bit About The Iyengar Community

It is interesting to know about the community which created and used this wonderfully designed chombu, and their rituals, religious practices, customs and their philosophy. There are basically two subsects of Tamil Brahmin cast of South India. One sect is called Iyengar and the other sect is called Iyer. Iyengar sect worship Lord Vishnu and hence they are called Vaishnavites. Iyengars follow the Visishtadwaita (meaning Advaita with uniqueness) philosophy promulgated by Ramanuja who belongs to the period 1017-1137 and prominently display on their foreheads the Vaishnavaite cast mark known as Srivaishnava Urdhva Pundra generally known as namam.

Iyer sect follows Shiva and adopts advaita philosophy promulgated by Adi Shankara.

Over a period of time, Iyengar community divided into two sub-sects namely Vadakalai and Thenkalai. Vadakalai sect followed Sanskrit vedas and they adopted Northern cult.Vadakalai sect paint their namam in “U” shape. The Thenkalai sect followed the teachings of Tamil Prabhandams consisting of 4,000 verses written by Alwars and compiled by the first Vaishnava Acharya, Nathamuni. Thenkalai sect paint their namam in “Y” shape.The Alwars are the South Indian saints passionately devoted to Vishnu. While both the sects have common understanding on most of the principles of Vaishnavism, there are certain differences as mentioned below.

Showing the “U” shaped Namam of Vadakalai sect and “Y” shaped namam of Thenkali sect of Vaishnavites.
Showing the “U” shaped Namam of Vadakalai sect and “Y” shaped namam of Thenkali sect of Vaishnavites.

The Major Differences Between Vadakalai and Thenkalai Sects Of Iyengars

1. The basic difference between the Vadakalai and Thenkalai sects is on the interpretation of ‘Prapatti,” the self-surrender to God. According to Vedic philosophy, the ultimate goal of human life – Purushardha – is to transcend the cycle of birth-death-rebirth or reincarnation and attain Moksha i.e. merger with the Brahman, the supreme soul.

According to Thenkalai, this is achieved by complete surrender to the grace of God by utter devotion by man and no human contribution is required for attainment of solvation and this principle is known as Marjala Nyaya (The cat principle).The mother cat takes care of the kittens completely and the kitten are to faithfully surrender to mother cat which is what is required for the kitten. According to Vadakalai, utter surrender to God is not enough. Man has to gain the grace of God by his service and actions and this theory is known as Markata Nyaya (the monkey principle).The baby monkey has to act and cling to the mother monkey and who in turn takes care of the baby monkey for protection.

2. Thenkalai Iyengar system is more liberal and accommodates all castes into the Vaishnavite faith whereas Vadakalai sect is conservative and rejects other castes from joining their fold.

3. Vedakalai give prominence to the terse style of Sanskrit traditions and the center for this faith is Kanchipuram. Thenkalai sect opts for the lyrical Tamil Prabhandams and the center for this faith is Srirangam.

4. One of the visual differences in the both sects is the Vaishnavite religious mark on their forehead called namam. Vedakalai wear their namam in “U” shape whereas Thenkalai wear their namam in “Y” shape. In both shapes of namam, the vertical open ends in white colour are upward directing to Vaikuntam, the abode of Lord Vishnu. The central line in red colour represents Goddess Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. The entire namam symbol represents Vishnu padam (The lotus feet of Lord Vishnu)

Thiruman (namam) painted by Vaishnavites on their forehead represents Vishnu padam (The lotus feet of Lord Vishnu)
Thiruman (namam) painted by Vaishnavites on their forehead represents Vishnu padam (The lotus feet of Lord Vishnu)
an Iyengar priest with Thenkalai namam.
an Iyengar priest with Thenkalai namam.
A Vaishnavite devotee with Vadakalai namam.
A Vaishnavite devotee with Vadakalai namam.

The Vadakalai and Thenkalai sects often take extreme stands in protecting and practicing their respective rituals. In a particular case, the two sects have taken a stand on the issue of painting the namam on the temple elephant belonging to the renowned temple of Sri Devarajaswamy of Kancheepuram in Tamil Nadu state. The case is known as R Thathadesika Thathachariar Appellant versus  K V Alagai Manavala respondents. The appellant and respondent representing Vadakalai and Thenkalai sects of Vaishnavism insisted that the temple elephant should be marked with their respective namam symbol.

The group belonging to Vadakalai insisted that the forehead of the temple elephant should me painted with their symbol “U” namam and the Thenkalai group wanted the namam should be of Thenkalai mark of “Y” shape. The dispute that started with the lower courts has reached to high court Of Tamil Nadu and further went up to Supreme Court of India. In this case referred as LAWS(SC)-1992-2-61, the Supreme Court gave a judgement on February 04,1992 that the temple should use two elephants on all important rituals and processions each bearing the namam of Vadakalai and Thenkalai mark respectively. This is the level to which these two sub sects of Vaishnavism have gone to ascertain and defend their faith.

             

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7 Must –Follow tips for caring your Antique books

With computers and e-readers, you would think that no one really cares for books. But antique books are just as significant now as they were twenty years ago. It’s one thing that the first editions of newer books are sold for very high prices, antique books are far more rare and precious and storing them in good conditions only increases their value manifold.

Antique book collection
Antique book collection

Books from the late 20th century onwards, being relatively new, are easier to maintain. But the old ones, especially from the 19th and the early 20th century are more prone to deterioration and degradation because of light, air and water. It is really important to keep a few things in mind when preserving old books, most important of which is the environment. Keep them at a stable environment with temperatures that are neither too cold nor too hot. While the ideal suggestion is to keep them at about 20 degrees Celsius, make sure you contact a book binder to check your book and the material before setting a temperature of storage.

A lot of readers have told us that they have old books and manuscripts and they have no idea how to care for them. So, we have done our research and here are some expert tips on what you can do to ensure your books stay the way they are meant to.

Clerning old rare antique books
Cleaning old rare antique books

1. Make sure that your book is stored away from the direct sunlight and heat. This is because there is a chance that the light will bleach the paper and ruin it. Make sure that they are kept away from ultra violet rays as well; this will keep the print on the books vibrant.

2. Try to not fix old books by yourself at home if you don’t know for certain how to fix them. The most common household fixes for tears and rips include using clear tape and glue. This can damage your antique because the chemicals in these may lead to discolouring and deterioration of the paper of the book. Do not tape or glue the page yourself, instead, talk to a local book binder so they can identify the material and provide the best solution to your problem.

3. storing them in the proper manner is the first step in ensuring that your antique book is as safe as possible. Like any other book lover, if your antique books and tomes are stacked in a library fashion upright and tightly packed, you are probably doing it wrong. If it is fifteen inches or higher, you want to lay them flat and store them that way. This will ensure that the spines don’t crack under the pressure of the book kept upright. Also, if your library like storage of your antiques has shelves made of wood, make sure that the finishing is good so that the acids from the wood do no damage to the paper.

 

Light reflecting on old antique books
Light reflecting on old antique books

4. Ensure that the room in which the books are housed is clean, dust and insects free. The best way to ensure that there is no dust is to vacuum the books as well with a mini vacuum cleaner along the joints/gutters of the books. Keeping away insects is a slightly harder challenge to deal with. Make sure that you deal with any suspected infestation as quickly as possible so there is minimum damage to the books themselves. While in most cases, small amounts of boric acid is the way to go, make sure that the material used to make your antique book does not get affected by it.

5. Checking your books and the book shelves for moulds and mildew is very important. If books are stored at normal room temperatures, they are very susceptible to them both. Cleaning your antiquated book can be quite a task, here are the basic steps you can follow to clean your book: start with holding the book closed and cleaning it away from the shelves it sits in. If there is detailing on the cover or the binding of the book, you can remove the dirt trapped in it by using a paint brush. If there is dirt trapped in the gutters of the book, a small vacuum cleaner is a good idea so long as it is set at a low speed setting.

 

Antique old library books
Antique old library books

7. It is also important to stack books of relatively the same size together so that the binding and the outer cover of the larger books are not warped to the smaller ones’ size. Make sure that the books shelf is aired out, with enough gaps for the books to breathe. It can be hard trying to figure out the best kind of book shelf to buy for your collection. Talking to an expert in preserving books, or even a visit to the local book store might give you some ideas about the best way of doing this.

This is just step one in understanding how to care for your old books. Take some time out next Sunday, rummage through your attic and make sure that encyclopaedia your grandfather picked up when he was your age isn’t a feast for mould. Clean it out and put it up in the library, trust me, it’ll be great! 

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Vineetha Rao Suravajjala
Vineetha Rao Suravajjala
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Theki – Indigenous Device From Nepal For Churning Butter

I stepped out to get clothes off the line and I almost fainted, OMG! The heat is outrageous. The minute I dumped the clothes on the bed, I thought I should have a glass of lassi or buttermilk. Well, thanks to technology, I just grabbed some yoghurt from the refrigerator, put it in the juicer, added a few ice cubes, sugar, and a few cashews and blended it. My glass of lassi was ready which I greedily gulped and cooled myself down.


Isn’t this the simplest way to make lassi that we all are familiar with? But have you ever wondered how it was done in the past, when there were no food processors, blenders or juicers?  In Nepal, people used a special device called theki to churn curd to get butter and buttermilk.


Theki plays a very important role in Nepalese history and culture. It has been in use for a very long time. Though most of the youngsters today consider it as an antique, some households still own one and use it too, just like mine. My mom and dad use it to extract butter and buttermilk. This simple appliance follows the rule of centrifugation.

http://walkwithron.blogspot.in/2013/08/baglung-baglung-district-dhaulagiri-zone.html
A-woman-trying-her-hands-on-making-mohi ( Photo courtesy http://goo.gl/8kFO5o)

Traditionally, thekis are made of wood. In fact, you would be surprised to know that a theki is carved out from a single piece of log and given a container-like look. It has a cylindrical body with a narrow neck that features a wooden lid.  Apart from the jar and the lid, it had a long wooden churner also called the saro that has four wooden blades attached to the end of it. These blade-like structures are called pora. The churner also has rope wound around it with small wooden knobs at the end to hold. This rope is called the neti and the wooden knobs at the free end of the rope are called koila.

http://nepalitreasure.blogspot.in/2011/12/theki-and-madani.html
Theki and Madani ( Photo courtesy http://goo.gl/mz2LPI )


Using The Theki To Churn Buttermilk

The process begins by storing boiled milk in the theki. It is important to boil the milk for a good twenty minutes in a heavy-bottomed pan so that the milk doesn’t stick to the wall or the base of the pan.

Once the milk is boiled, let it cool down until a nice layer of cream is formed on top. Next, slowly scoop out the cream and put it in the theki and cover it with the lid. Repeat this process for the next few days until the theki is half full. By the third day, you will notice all the milk and the cream collected in the theki would have turned into curd.

Next, you put the theki on the ground or on the floor, take off the lid and insert the churner or saro. After that, you will have to sit back and stretch your leg in front and hold the theki with your feet to secure it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dXezbtmWas
Ms-Lalmati-Budha-is-extracting-butter-from-cow-curd (Photo courtesy https://goo.gl/TpxMEd )

Now hold the knobs (one in each hand) and start pulling it. When your right hand goes front, your left hand will come back. Every time it whirls, the curd starts breaking down into butter milk. Keep up the to and fro motion, and in the process add cold water until butter starts forming. You will see butter floating on top of the butter milk. And when you feel enough amount of butter is formed, you can take the churner out and keep it aside.

Next, scoop out the butter using your hand. Once you have extracted all the butter, you will be left with butter milk that can be used for multiple purposes including making lassi. At this stage, it is very easy to make lassi. All you have to do is add sugar and ice into it or drink it plain without adding anything. It still tastes amazing.

Theki in Nepal is considered sacred, it is not washed with other utensils and people generally do not touch a theki while they are eating or with the same hand with which you have had non- vegetarian food. The reason for that is once the butter is extracted, it is offered to God over a burning heap of coal, which releases a nice buttery aroma purifying the whole house.

 

Theki
Theki

Theki now is turning out to be an antique household item; very few houses in the villages have it. I don’t think people living in the cities own it any more. In cities, we hardly get pure milk leave alone curdling it and making butter out of it.

If you already own one, you most probably have experienced what I have described above. If you are planning to acquire one then I strongly recommend you to do so. It is a good feeling to experience the joy of making buttermilk using a traditional device just like our elders used to.

If you don’t intend to use it at all or would want to use it occasionally, it will make for a good antique showpiece in your living room or any other part of your house. Guests who don’t know about it will surely be curious and ask questions. You can then have a mini history/culture/tradition class and inspire your guests to go back to the roots.

http://www.touchtalent.com/photography/art/theki-kathuwa--50198
Theki-Kathuwa-in-nepal-Street-Market. ( Photo courtesy http://goo.gl/qTTgl1 )

Thekis are available in different sizes varying on the capacity. If you have any queries regarding the same, do let me know. I would be glad to answer.

Lovely Article by,

Srizna Nasme
Srizna Nasme
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Bedroom Décor With Antiques-Few Incredible Ideas

With antiques in the house becoming the trend- when decorating the house, it is a great idea to carry the antiques into the bedroom as well. There are several ways you can do this, from something as bold as changing your bed to an old fashioned four poster bed to adding cozy reading corners to focus on particular objects. Here are few incredible ideas for creating stunning bedrooms by blending antiques into bed room décor.

If you go for particular bedroom idea, more often than not, it gets restricted to one kind of style, but if you are trying to introduce antiques into your bedroom, you don’t have to stick to anything, change it up as you want to. By making it an eclectic mix of things, you can create stunning bedrooms that not just add style but also have an element of coziness to them. Fusing the vintage with the modern is pretty easy because it allows you to make the bedroom rather luxurious too.

 

Four poster antique cot with mirror at the headboard and canopy on the 4 posts
Four poster antique cot with mirror at the headboard and canopy on the 4 posts

An instant addition to your bedroom to give it that olden charm is that set of mirrors that have been lying in the attic for the last fifty years. Mirrors that are set in heavy wrought iron with patterns and designs are exceptionally beautiful when you put them on the walls next to the headboard of the bed. A great way of introducing them into your room could be to put them behind the lamps on your side tables. They will reflect light and give your bedroom a very inviting warmth and makes it cozy in the night.

 

A great idea to use up all of those mirrors of different sizes and shapes is to cluster them all together, on a wall that does not have windows will reflect sunlight into the room in various angles brightening up the room quite a bit. Clustering things can also work with other nick-knacks as well, making them an instant collection. Dotting them with photo frames also add a personal touch to the whole display, drawing attention to them.

 

 

An intricately carved headboard with a mirror and antique designer embossed porcelain tiles on an antique four post cot with canopy
An intricately carved headboard with a mirror and antique designer embossed porcelain tiles on an antique four post cot with canopy

 

If you are creating a quiet corner to read in your bedroom, you can create the right ambience by displaying books and maps. Old school, dark wood tables with an antique table lamp or a globe that you may have can be a starting point, pair it off with a modern reading chair to finish it off. This is also a great way of using books for decorative purposes.

 

Just because it is the bedroom, a lot of antique enthusiasts don’t stick to brand new furniture or expensive décor. The edge of the room can be softened by mixing up and matching furniture from flea markets and antiques that could be re-purposed. A lot of times, antiques from different eras can pair up surprisingly well together as well. A very young reader of this blog, by way of holding on to her connection with her grandparents has paired a newly varnished light wood table with a chest re-purposed into a window seat, making a wonderful study table and reading corner.

 

The advantages of having a big bedroom cannot be ignored. Not only does it allow for more than just the bed to go into it, a lot more can be done to it decor-wise to give it a fancy olden style look. The easiest thing do, especially in a big room is to get a four poster bed. If the room is big enough to be able to hold it without seeming like it is the only thing in the room, there is a lot to work with. A four poster bed, with solid wooden beams is something that most of us have seen at our grandparents’ at some point or the other. The furniture in the rest of the room though will have to go with the bed, while that remains the focus of the room.

 

A highly carved rose wood antique cot with four posts and canopy
A highly carved rose wood antique cot with four posts and canopy

 

One of the most fun ways of decorating a bedroom is with a clever mix of the old and the new. And one of the best ways if doing this is to set off the different distinctive materials against each other. If you have one of those fancy old-fashioned antique beds with a very attractive head board, set it off with mirrors and glass in the right places, creating an illusion of light and air, drawing attention to the headboard itself.

 

Mix of antique four post canopy cot with new wardrobe with mirrors
Mix of antique four post canopy cot with new wardrobe with mirrors

 

Introducing a color scheme is very important is you are making a fusion of the trendy with the antique. It is important though, that the furniture is not the only the thing that has to match the objects in the room. The color of the surrounding walls, not necessarily all of one kind also have a grave impact on the manner in which it is painted. It all comes down here too to the warmth of the room, based on walls and the lights in it. The most popular colors remain browns and beige and off whites which make the object places draw attention to it, especially for bedrooms that have a fusion of old and new objects.

 

An intricately carved four post antique cot with canopy can be re-purposed as a divan with arrangement of bolsters and pillows
An intricately carved four post antique cot with canopy can be re-purposed as a divan with arrangement of bolsters and pillows

 

As parting words, before you decide what you want to do in a bedroom with the look of the antique, play around with ideas before you decide what exactly you want. If you keep it light and casual, it can be changed around often enough, adding to the variety of it. The best way to make things work is re-purposing what you already have for a brand new look. The conversion of ottomans that are not very comfortable into side stools and boxes into center tables is gaining popularity. These “extra” bits of furnishings can also be used to place other antiques as well, serving a dual purpose.

 

Balancing the comfort of the bedroom with the uniqueness of antiques is art, much like antiques themselves. There is no way of saying which the perfect percentage of antiques vs. other furnishings in a room is. Play along with what you want to do and have fun!

Note: The pictures shown in this articles are taken from the antiques collections of Y. KrishnaMurthy .

 

Article by

Vineetha Rao Suravajjala

Vineetha Rao Suravajjala

 

 

 

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Decorating old-world in a modern home

Ever walk past those big old houses with the old furniture and the old glassware that sits prettily in the shelves? Their garage sales must be something, right? To have a similarish feel in your own house, you don’t really have to look too far, go look into your attic you might find something super cool as well!

One of the reasons antiques have become particularly popular is that people are looking at the past when things were made with the intention of making them last and the idea of use-and-throw wasn’t very fetching. They are a great way of preserving culture of the yester years and ensuring that it gets carried on as well.

Decorating the house is no longer just about getting brand new chrome edged tables and counter tops(not that there’s something wrong with that), but it’s about filling it up with the newly cleaned out antiques of the years past. I have had the chance to talk to a few interior decorators who have seen a surge in the antique trend in the last few years.

A reconditioned antique Portuguese protocol sofa matched with two old brass vessels repurposed as peg tables with glass top
A reconditioned antique Portuguese protocol sofa matched with two old brass vessels re-purposed as peg tables with glass top

Here are tips from some of them about how to brighten your house while giving it that old world charm:

  • If you are reusing old furniture, the first thing you do is to ensure that the stuff is usable and free of pests and vermin. Once you have established that it is salvageable and can be used, make a list of all the things that need to be fixed. For example, if you were considering a sofa set, make sure all the legs are attached securely and check for any other damage that the carpenter can fix. Then take a look at the original upholstery on it. If you have decided to replace it, look for material that is as similar as possible to the original. This is for aesthetic purposes only, you wouldn’t want to set the original delicate work against modern garish prints and patterns. For this one sofa set that he replaced, an expert tells me he looked for the upholstery for a good week and a half before finalizing on the desired product.
  • Should you decide to re-purpose furniture and don’t want to stick to one kind of wood, style or era, mixing them up to create a kind of ‘put together’ look is also something that is gaining popularity. The dining table and the chairs are all from different sets an eras and look like they have been added over time, while giving it a ‘finished/complete’ set like appearance. Pairing up some of your older furniture that you pick up while antiquing with your existing furniture is also a way to add design changes and a variety to your room.
  • When reusing wood, make sure that it won’t break and is durable for when you start using it. Here is how you begin: dust the furniture properly so that no dust gets left behind and your polish and varnish are smooth and even. Use good wood cleaning liquid so you get the desired result. Make sure you get the right kind of finish too, one that suits your wood. Every carpenter and wood worker I have spoken to says that doing a patch test on a small spot is a good idea before you go all gung-ho on this.
  • It’s all about getting the balance right. Make sure that the antiques that you decide to spruce up your house with matches the rest of the furniture in the room. So, essentially ensure that there the antiques do not take away from what the room is meant to be like. And conversely, make sure that you don’t put so little as to let them disappear among the rest of the décor.
  • There are no rules about how you should set things up. Should you decide to mix up eras and time periods, it’s actually a good idea because mixing things up will not just add to the colours and contrast of the room, it also adds to the variety of the room. Mix up colours and themes and make it a cozy home by doing so. Especially with Furniture, toss up the floral and the stripes, the antique woods with the steel, making it as practical as possible. The variety might create a surprisingly stylish look.
  • As you root through stuff, don’t look for specific things. What was once used for something in the days of yore, can be re-purposed to something very new and exciting that will make any room you decide you put it in much prettier than what you started with. For example, all of the fancy old door knobs and parts of doors like hooks can double as somewhere to hang stuff of you put them on the bare sides of cabinets that look like they could us some bling.
  • To make stuff pop when you put them on the room, set them up against plain solid backgrounds. Light and airy backgrounds can be paired best with upholstery of any sort. What you want to keep in mind though, is that it is not just about pairing up your furniture with your walls, it is also about pairing your antiques with the walls. An aesthetic combination of the old and the new will only make it a cozy comfortable room.
Two old Portuguese chairs restored .One old brass vessel with glass top positioned as tea table, Two huge brass Gangalams serve as curtain holders
Two old Portuguese chairs restored .One old brass vessel with glass top positioned as tea table, Two huge brass Gangalams serve as curtain holders

 

It’s not really a hard, say many designers, to mix it up with antiques, in a room. All you really need to do is understand the space of the room and have a vague idea of where you want to go with it, before you start decorating it. Even if you are fascinated with something seemingly ‘un-decoratable’ as rusty toys that belonged to a child from the years gone by, setting it up in a spot with the right kind of feel and background with a collage-like look will do the trick. A thoughtful display, focusing on the simple stuff is the key.

Do you have any ideas for your living room yet? Share with the class!

Article by-

Vineetha Rao Suravajjala
Vineetha Rao Suravajjala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The Antiques in the picture are from the collection of Y.Krishnamurthy (YK)

 

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Go Vintage With Your House This Winter!!!

How many times have you visited a place and got blown away by the ambiance and decor? Recently I visited a hotel in Udaipur and I was mesmerized with the way the hotel’s decor was done. There wasn’t a single item that belonged to today’s world, from the flower pot to the statutes, it all appeared classic and vintage. Every artifact looked like an antique in itself. Everything that was displayed in the hotel lobby, courtyard of the rooms screamed out culture and heritage. Most of the displayed items belonged to the seventeenth century and it was used by the royal family. As a guest I felt that kind of an ambiance can be recreated at home. I realized with a little bit of patience and a few old & vintage looking items we can rekindle the same magic that we normally see in pictures and magazines.After all home is where the heart is so turn your house into a home  by making a few changes. Here are some tips to revamp your house.

You can never go wrong with a vase, flowers or candles any day. But if you want to give a rustic look to your house replace the vase with some old and antique looking brass or copper pots. This look in your living room can be achieved by placing a large brass or copper pot on the center table. Fill the pot with water and drop some fresh rose or marigold petals. Once all the petals are buoyant you can make it look special by leaving a lighted floating candle.  Another option to instantly light up your house is to arrange fresh flowers in brass baskets. These baskets with handles used to be carried when people went to pluck flowers in the olden days. This would be a perfect blend of antiquity and contemporary decor. Simple yet elegant display of the pot with petals will surely give your living space a royal feel.

Rooh Gulab attar is made with RosesIMG_2384

If you are a plant lover and want to flaunt your indoor plants then replace your earthen flower pots with gleaming brass pots that are readily available in the market. You also have an option to mount the earthen flower pots on top of huge brass or copper vessels.A few brass flower pots inside the house will definitely be a head turner, it would not just be a center of attraction but also your house will get a classic and vintage feel.   It would make your visitors believe that you are a sure shot antique lover.

IMG_2399 IMG_2392

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now let’s talk about wall decor, most of the times we end up hanging photo frames or paintings on the wall, but have you ever thought of making your wall look different. How about adding some antique twist to your wall? Many a times you must have come across carved frames but never paid attention and left it untouched at the shop, now remember next time you see one of those antique looking frames just grab it and get it home because there a lot of ways you can play with those frames to give your house an exuberance look. Simple way is to fix those frames on the wall in your bedroom or living room. You can insert your own picture and get it framed or use some classic looking paintings to add a touch of class.

IMG_2397

 

Remember we got to mix our personal taste and style while doing up the house. No matter how modern or sophisticated we are but when it comes to decorating our houses we always prefer having rare and antique looking objects. These rare collectibles add an aura to your house that can’t be neglected, it also emits positives vibes and brings back history and culture.

I prefer collecting antiques and artifacts while travelling and adding them to my personal collection. Each place we visit has its own historical and cultural significance and most of it is portrayed in the artifacts. Also the cost of these items in its native place might be a lot less compared to the same item being sold elsewhere hence it is a good idea to buy it.

Remember not to clutter the house with too many things, it’s better to have one or two rare and big objects in the right place so that it can grab all the attention of your visitors. Displaying too many small items might lose its essence and value and your antiques might get over shadowed.

 

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Bonding Over Antiques – An Interesting Association

Recently, I have added some more antiques to my collection, all thanks to a random visitor to my blog. How I acquired those antiques is a story in itself. Mr. Rajappan happened to stumble upon my blog by chance and shared that he had some antiques with him too. We exchanged messages and a couple of phone calls later; I was on my way to his hometown to take a look at his antique collection. I casually happened to mention to him that he should write about his love for antiques sometime. He actually did so and shared an article with me. I’m very happy to share his article with you. Hope you enjoy reading it.

Me alongside antiques that I passed on to Mr. Krishnamurthy

I have always been different since my childhood with respect to my likes, interests, hobbies etc., unlike the general choice of children to go for toy guns, chocolates etc. I liked to collect stamps, coins, and spent most of my time reading about Indian history and the glorious past of our great country.

My First Tryst With Antiques

 One day, while I was at home (fortunately), a scrap dealer had come for buying old utensils and other things.  My mother accidentally gave him an antique bronze artifact which was with our family since a few generations.  It was extremely beautiful and the workmanship and detail was amazing.  I immediately noticed it and prevented it up from going into the hands of the scrap dealer. To be frank, I wasn’t happy with the fact that my mother was about to give it away to a scrap dealer without realizing that it was an integral piece of our culture. When I asked her about it, she told me that it was due to some distraction in the kitchen that she failed to notice and promised me that she would be more alert while disposing things to the scrap dealer in the future. This seemed to pacify me a bit. Not knowing what happens when old items are discarded as scrap, I prodded a bit more and my mother then explained to me that such articles were generally smashed by the scrap dealer. We both realized that we almost lost a piece of history forever with which the memories of all the family members who might have used such articles were associated.

We got talking and my mother said that she herself liked old things because they were part of the family heritage almost all of the old items we had with us ware given to her by her parents as gifts at the time of wedding. She also said that such articles of bronze and brass were made with true skill and dedication by the artisans in the past. They had ample time to work with earnestness and were proud of their work and things were made to last forever unlike things of today which are mostly ‘use and throw’ type.

My father was listening to our conversation all the while and he told me that the gold, silver, brass, bronze and copper utensils had anti-bacterial properties and therefore our forefathers had true vision and foresight to use these in temples for preparing ‘naivedya’ offering to the deity.  Even the pious idols of the God were made with the alloy of  gold, silver, brass, bronze and copper known as ‘Panchaloha metals’ meaning five noble metals in different proportions.

Old Is Truly Gold

The metals of yesteryear had some medicinal properties as well as they stabilized the deficiencies in the body  as food was always prepared in brass vessels which were coated with tin to prevent the food from getting spoilt. Thus, there were very few health issues and people lived a healthy life till their death. But now there are so many new age materials like aluminum, teflon etc which we use and we don’t realise that we are actually speeding our way towards more and more health issues. Isn’t it an alarming fact that even children are developing diabetes, blood pressure, poor eyesight and lack of immunity nowadays?

My Association With YK Antiques

I was surfing the Internet one night and came across Shri Y. K. Murthy ji’s blog by chance. I was immediately attracted to it as iron would to a magnet.  I read the different articles posted on the website by Murthy ji and others and saw the pictures. I got in touch with him and let him know that I had many things similar to the collection he had. During our conversation, he divulged his idea of setting up a museum of these antique treasures for the sake of our future generations. His idea was that the modern generation shouldn’t forget to appreciate our great civilization and must carry the traditions forward.

The effort and passion of this noble gentleman gave me an idea to handover my long cherished family possessions in the form of  brass, bronze vessels, because I was damn sure that he is the right person to take utmost care of these things. Any other antique collector would have given me a lot of money, but my intention was not to make money, but to see it to it that these things are preserved and shown to as many people as possible who would want to see and know more about them.

I invited Murthy ji to come to my place at Malli, a small village near Srivilliputhur, which was kindly accepted by him and on meeting him at my residence, I came to know the genuine enthusiasm of this senior citizen which was like an innocent child.  He was eager to know more about everything I told him.  I escorted him to the temple and on his request accompanied him on this departure to Madurai as the weight of the things was too much. Even at this prime age, he can put any youth to shame with his energy and spirit.   He is a fitting example to all the youngsters and others who lose hope with life and take to alcohol, drugs, smoking, gambling and other such vices and commit suicide, that life is worth living and to live it to it’s fullest and to be of  a guiding lamp is what personifies him.

Who Am I?

My name is Rajappan and my father’s name is Gopalan. I belong to the Vaishnava Sampradaya, colloquially known as Iyengar community.  We primarily worship only Vishnu and his avataras like Rama, Krishna and others along with Laxmi. Our community is spread all over the world and some of the noted personalities are K. Srikanth (Cricketer), Jayalalitha (C.M. of Tamil Nadu), Kamal Hassan (Actor), Vyjayanthimala (a very famous and popular actress of yesteryear) to name a few.

Our main centers of worship are Sri Rangam in Trichy, Tirupathi, Trivandrum, Guruvayur etc.

Ramanujacharya is our foremost acharya who was a great revolutionary in the field of religion during the 12th century.  He considered everyone irrespective of their caste as equal and also brought many so called untouchables to the Sri Vaishnava fold.  He is also an example of a selfless guide to his disciples.  You can read more about this great soul on the internet.

My Grandmother would often tell us that her forefathers belonged to a group of families who were instrumental in building the famous Venkateshwara temple at Tirupati and many generations served as temple priests there and they were respected and patronized by the King Thirumalai Nayakar and other Kings of that time.

A Little Bit About My Family

My father was a Central Government Employee and I did all my studies in Mumbai.

My mother was a housewife.  She was not much educated, but through her sheer grit and will-power she learnt many things in life and would even surprise highly educated people with her thoughts. Both my parents have passed away. May their souls rest in peace.

Coming to my siblings, we are three brothers. My elder and younger brothers live in Mumbai with their respective families.

From The Maddening Metro To My Roots

 After working for many years in Mumbai, at one point I just got fed up with the daily grind of the city life and realized that money is not the only thing which gives one happiness.  Money is important, but contentment and peace of mind are equally important if not more important.

So, I decided to move to my native village. Being spiritually awakened, I did not find it difficult to settle down and get myself adjusted to this change. I got married after I came to my native village and am blessed with a daughter.  My wife’s name is Priya and my daughter is Srinidhi.

Me and my wife Priya

I stay in an Agraharam (an exclusive Brahmins street in ancient times) village called Malli which is about 8 kilometres from Srivilliputhur, a temple town in Virudhunagar district of Tamil Nadu.  It is famous for the temple of Sri Andal, who is the incarnation of  Lakshmi and one of the 108 divya desams of Vaishnava Sampradaya. She is also the only female Alwar (saint) out of the 13 Alwars in the Vaishnava Sampradaya (Tradition). The Gopuram of this temple is the emblem of the Tamil Nadu Government. The temple is more than 1500 years old and the wooden chariot is the biggest in India.

There is a lot that I would like to share and maybe in the coming days or months I will write about different topics which are important.

If any of you are interested in acquiring genuine brass, bronze, painting artifacts please let me know. You can get my contact details from Shri Y. K. Murthy.

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Antique Brass Hair Untangler

Antique Brass hair untangler
Antique Brass hair untangler

This is picture of an antique brass hair untangler or a comb. I am very careful the usage of the word comb as the artifact does not identify with the characteristics of a comb. It is long and forked. The design is similar to that of two pronged fork. It is made of brass so the forked ends remain sturdy.

Long and forked design of the untangler
Long and forked design of the untangler

 

Two pronged edges and handle
Two pronged edges and handle

 

As the name suggests the Antique Hair untangler or detangler was used to remove knots from hair. The sharp and narrow design of the untangler helps it to easily penetrate the tangled hair and easily remove the knots. South Indian women usually kept hair long. Most of the goddesses like Lakshmi and Saraswathi are shown in pictures as having a long and lustrous hair topped by golden kireetam (crown).It is evident from the ancient scriptures till present day cultures in India, women liked their hair long beyond their waist length.

This beautifully crafted hair detangler is crafted with a long handle to facilitate a good grip so that it is not slipped from the hand when negotiating with a tough tangle of hair.The handle has a corrugated design with parallel ridges and furrows. This corrugation gives the required grip to the handle.For further grip there are grooves in between the ridges that also give excellent design aspect and aesthetic appeal to the handle. Detangler has two fork like teeth that are actually used to detangle the kinky hair.The knotted hair is kept on the palm and the sharp edges of the fork teeth are run dexterously into the knots and worked out to remove the knots. Initially the hair is separated with the four fingers using them like the four teeth of a comb. By running through the fingers, one will get the feel of the hair and the extent of tangling.Then the hair is combed with a wide-toothed comb and in the process if a snag is hit, the detangler is used to loosen the tangled strands of hair.

 

Parallel ridges on the handle bar
Parallel ridges on the handle bar

 

Image showing ridges and grooves for better grip
Image showing ridges and grooves for better grip

 

 Combing the hair after it has dried was not a viable option as the hair dries up in knots and becomes prone to breakage and damage. This untagler easily penetrates through any type of hair and makes it convenient to get rid of the knots and the long narrow design further aids the process.

The Antique brass hair untangler also consists of a rectangular hole on its handle. This hole was made so that the Antique Brass hair untangler can be hanged to a nail by a piece of thread close to the mirror.

Rectangular hole on four sides used for hanging the untangler
Rectangular hole on four sides used for hanging the untangler

 

This beautiful antique brass hair detangler is acquired from an antique dealer in Cochin, Kerala. Most of the ladies in Kerala fancy long hair as a tradition. Since long hair is prone to get tangled if proper care is not taken, Kerala women use the detanglers to keep their hair tangle free. Their hair is long, thick and shining with coconut oil which they apply profusely to their hair. There are various reasons for their long beautiful hair. Because of heavy rains in Kerala and the surrounding back waters, the weather is humid most of the time and this condition helps in moisturizing the hair. Kerala women rarely trim their hair hence allowing the hair to grow to its fullest length. They very rarely use chemical shampoos and rely mostly on traditional herbal ayurvedic lotions and powders. They always leave minimum amount of coconut oil on the head due to which their scalp is never in dry condition. The oil and moister keep the hair follicles and hair shaft healthy resulting in lustrous long and crinkle free hair.

 

A beautiful lady demonstrating the use of untangler
A beautiful lady demonstrating the use of untangler

 

 

A beautiful lady running the untagler through her hair
A beautiful lady running the untangler through her hair

 

Traditionally Kerala women take head bath every day after applying liberal dose of coconut oil in their hair. After the bath they do not dry their hair by rubbing against a towel or by hair dryer. Instead they wrap a thin cotton cloth around the wet hair like a turban which absorbs the excess moisture and retains required moisture for the hair. After that they keep the semi- wet hair loose and long by tying the hair loosely with few strands of hair picked from the sides of the head near the two ears. It is the dry hair that tends to tangle and moist hair is less prone to tangling. Most of the Kerala houses have their own tanks for their daily bath or at least a well. They go to work in the same semi- wet hair decorated with a string of jasmine flowers. These types of detanglers are not found in other parts of India and this is peculiar to Kerala and South Karnataka only.

May be it is the need that makes the artisans design and fabricate utility items such as these unique detanglers that help the ladies from this part of South India keep their beautiful hair tangle free.

 

 

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Antique Home Décor – An External Perspective

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?

Vyshnavi Gopalakrishnan (An utterly amused neighbor)