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Antiques & Technology – Doing Things The Video Way!

 

The very idea behind starting this blog was to share my collection of antiques with antique lovers all over the world and to somehow re-ignite the spark for preserving and cherishing antiques that were once part of our daily lives. We came up with articles and all of you encouraged the initiative by subscribing to the blog, liking the YK Antiques page on Facebook, and by sharing the links with your friends and family. We received a lot of encouraging messages, queries, words of appreciation and phone calls too.

Written material or text is best complemented by video. Though both mediums are powerful in their own ways, a combination of both can actually work wonders. Keeping that in mind, we wanted to experiment with blog posts + videos. This video that you see is a result of that. This is an attempt to write, talk,, and video document the story behind each antique that I have acquired over the years.

Do take a look at the video and let us know where we can improve and what we can do differently.

Keep the comments and words of encouragement coming in.

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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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Back to Basics-Antique Stone Cooking and Storage Pots

Human civilization has passed through different eras and epochs resulting in the inventions that shaped our history and culture. Amongst the many ages that we have evolved through Stone Age is definitely one of them. Stone Age was the time when our entire race depended on stones. They used tools and weapons made out of stone. Everything from household items to kitchen utensils were made out of stones. Stone was the most abundantly found natural resource at that point in time. People use to break big boulders, give it a shape and make it look like an object or carve small stones to turn it into something handy.

beautifully shaped antique Granit storage pots
beautifully shaped antique Granit storage pots

After inventing fire, the next breakthrough that our race experienced was stone utensils. When people realized that food tasted good when it was cooked they also felt the need to make utensils that could hold, cook and serve their food. This process gave birth to stone pots which were extensively used by every nomadic group. However with advancement in technology and state of the art inventions these stone pots are being over shadowed and they are on the verge of extinction. These pots now have become artifacts that can be traced mostly in museums or in an antique collector’s house.
 

 

Handmade stone pot created with simple tools of a chisel and hammer
Handmade stone pot created with simple tools of a chisel and hammer

I wasn’t surprised when I went to YK sir’s (his full name is Y. Krishna Murthy) and he is popularly known as YK) house and saw some wonderfully crafted stone cookware and storage pots amongst all the other items that he has collected over the years. He has aesthetically placed stone cookware in his house making sure each of them embraces history and culture. These pots also scream out simplicity and effervescence. The most intriguing thing about this stone cookware is- it is still in use in some districts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. I was under the impression that the only stone appliance that people use today are those grinding stones which have been made popular by celebrity chefs, thanks to them, they have managed to keep some bit of culture alive. YK sir told that these cooking and storage pots are called Kalchetti (kal-stone, chatti- pot) in Tamil and Ratichippa(rati-stone, chippa- pot) in Telugu. He further explained that some of the traditional families in Tamil Nadu,Kerala and Andhra Pradesh still cook their traditional food items in stone pots. Tamarind juice and cooking in stone pot is a winning combination as you don’t have to worry about the acid in tamarind reacting with stone. Additionally it also helps in retaining the original taste of all the spices used in your cooking.

 

Granite storage pot- top view
Granite storage pot

I personally feel cooking and storing food in stone pots is a healthy choice as it is chemical free. Stone pots take time to get heated and once heated the heat is distributed evenly which makes your food tastier. When food is cooked in the stone pots, the natural minerals that are inherent in the stone are passed on to the food by making the food nutritious and healthy. They take time to cool hence keeps the cooked food warm and tasty for a longer period of time. People who have realized the importance of cooking in stone pots now have an option to buy stone cookware. To know more about stone cooking pots, you will find an article on “Antiques Stone Cooking Pots” in this website. Here is the link.http://ykantiques.com/2012/05/antique-stone-cooking-pots.html

YK sir went on to explain that since time immemorial these pots have been used to store items like tamarind, dry chilies, dry spices, chilli powder, salt, turmeric powder and pickles. Other benefits about these containers are it is environment friendly, doesn’t create any hazard when disposed out in the open. There is no fear of eroding of the layers or corrosion which is quite common in present day non-stick cookware that are Teflon coated or anodized. Apart from cooking vessels the stone storage vessels were extensively used to store food items. It is a known fact that there were no plastic and stainless steel containers hundred years before and those days most of the items are stored in earthen pots, stone pots ,brass and copper containers. Certain items like pickles, salt and tamarind cannot be stored in brass or copper vessels and the choice left was clay pots or stone pots.
Talking about how these pots were made he said those pots were made with two different categories of stones. These pots were always differentiated into cooking pots and storage pots. Cooking pots were made of soft stone which was lighter and small in size making these pots mobile, meaning it could be moved and carried around easily. On the other hand the storage pots were made of granite stone, making them comparatively large and heavy. The stone pots are handmade. The stone is chiseled into a shape of a pot and then storage space is carved out forming a vacant space inside the pot. It is a very skilled job.The artisans who have created these beautiful stone pots have now left their profession since there are no more buyers for their products. Slowly we lost this fine art of carving storage pots out of a single piece of stone with a bare minimum tools like a hammer and a chisel.

 

Storage pot carved out of single piece of granite stone
Storage pot carved out of single piece of granite stone

By nature, stone and clay storage pots do not allow bacteria, fungus and worms to form and survive in the items stored in them. Items like ghee, tamarind, pickles, pulses and other household edible items can be stored even for an year without getting spoiled. Normally these stone containers do not have lids on the top to cover the pot. Stone covers may not seal the top and there is a chance of moist air entering the empty space in the pot. Most of the items get spoiled because of the air which may contain air born bacteria. To prevent moist air entering the stone pot, the opening of the pot is tied with dry clean cotton cloth and tied around with a string. The cloth will absorb any moister contained in the air and also filter any bacteria entering into the pot. As an extra precaution the cotton cloth is dipped into water mixed with turmeric powder and dried in the sun before covering the pot opening.
Turmeric is antioxidant meaning that it has a substance that inhibits oxidation and counteract the deterioration of stored food products. Turmeric is also antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, properties. Turmeric is a great pesticide. If water containing turmeric powder is sprinkled near and around the stone pots, it wards of insects, ants, and termites.

YK sir also tells me that the huge stone storage pots called golem are used for storage of water and as cattle feed vessels in the olden days. These stone pots are placed near the wells to store water drawn from the well. This serves the purpose of a mini water tank from which the daily usage of water is drawn out.

 

Exquisitely carved storage pot used for storage of pickles and other food items
Exquisitely carved storage pot used for storage of pickles and other food items

 

His maternal grandfather was a land lord and he was cultivating his own lands. The golem is kept in the entrance to his massive house and those that enter the house would wash their feet and hands from the water stored in the golem using a brass chombu or lota. This is a hygienic practice followed by most of the households in the olden days. His grandfather had a good number of cattle like cows, calves and oxen and they are sheltered in a cattle shed located within the compound wall of the house. Similar large stone pots are also kept in the cattle shed so that cattle can drink water from these golems. The advantage of keeping these strong and heavy stone pots in the cattle shed is that cattle cannot push or break these pots and provide a lifelong service.

Before the invention of present day ready-mix cattle feed, in the olden days cattle feed consisted of green grass and hey and these are kept as small heaps in front of the cattle. They used to eat the two types of grass as and when they fell like having. Apart from this, the cattle are also fed with a liquid food called Kudithi containing ingredients like rice bran, rice husk, boiled cereal and pulses of two or three varieties like horse gram, all mixed in water. This Kudithi used to be prepared in the stone pots and served to the cattle.

Stone is an integral part of our lives since time immemorial and even now. I am sure you must have had some experience with stone cooking or storage pots used in your mother’s house or grandmother’s house. We love it, if you can share such experiences.

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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.

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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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Antique Hand-held Brass Fan

Antique hand-held brass fan with peacock neck handle
Antique hand-held brass fan with peacock neck handle

I am going to present to you an antique hand-held brass fan which I have collected recently that was used by a rich landlord during the Zamindari system in pre-independence India. This beautiful brass fan is acquired from a gentleman by name Adinarayanan whose great grandfather was working as a chief accountant for a wealthy landlord in present Tamil Nadu state,India somewhere in the pre-independence era or the early 19s.  It was given as a gift by the landlord to his Chief accountant for the services rendered to him. In the days of Rajas and Zamindars, it is a common practice to bestow gifts to the devoted persons as a mark of appreciation and honor. As it was heavy, the owner would have his servant to do the fanning during important social and cultural functions as it was considered a mark of status. It has been in Shri Adinarayana’s family for more than 3 generations.

 

The Design Of The Brass Hand-held Fan

This hand-held brass fan is designed to give appearance as a fan made out of Palmyra palmtree leaves which is used very common in those days and even now in rural areas of India as it is very handy, light and inexpensive. The fan is round in shape and the handle is designed to look like a peacock neck with the beak clutching the fan. There is a stitching design joining the leaves of the fan.There is a border design all around the periphery of the fan resembling the stitching the borders with a design to prevent the leaves from damage during handling.The whole fan is so ingeniously designed to combine esthetics with functionality.

Antique hand-held fan showing a peacock holding the fan with its beak
Antique hand-held fan showing a peacock holding the fan with its beak
Antique hand-held fan showing a peacock holding the fan with its beak
Antique hand-held fan showing a peacock holding the fan with its beak

The History And Evolution Of The Fan

Man is always in constant search of comfort and happiness. He has devised tools and implements that give him the desired level of comfort and a sense of feeling good. Man has developed ingenious methods to counter the vagaries of nature that make him uncomfortable and developed ways and means to be cozy and comfy.

He invented the primitive umbrella to protect himself from rain and covered himself with animal skin and cloth made out of plant material. To ward off oppressive heat and sultry weather, the primitive man made hand-held fans with dried leaves to create air movement around him to get relief from his discomfort. The very origin of primitive fans most likely was to hasten up the burning of fire and also to chase away the insects that disturbed the man and eventually acquired a prestigious place. For ages, long handled hefty fans were ritualistic symbols of supremacy, the privilege of Kings, Pharaohs and Priests. Even in present times, fans of this magnitude are ceremonially carried in formal religious processions.

The humble primitive fans have taken a different avatars as man improvised different verities with different materials as civilization progressed. He started making fans with feathers, ostrich plumes, ,bamboo, cane, palm leaves, roots, silk and cotton cloth, ivory, wood , fine metals and with as fragile as a butterfly`s wings. To enhance his comfort level, he developed larger fans that can be held and swung by other individuals like his servants and slaves. He also developed remote fanning device like Pankha that can be fixed above him and can be pulled by a rope held by a person sitting in a remote place. With the invention of electricity, man used this wonder power to create the present electric fan that provides him air by pressing a button. The simple fan has taken a very colorful journey through out the growth of civilization by serving the need of a common man to, nobles, kings, queens and gods as well. It became part of religious rituals and a mark of social status symbol.

A hand-held fan made out of fragrant roots called VattiVeru resembling the design of the antique brass hand-held fan
A hand-held fan made out of fragrant roots called VattiVeru resembling the design of the antique brass hand-held fan
Hand –held brass fan showing the design joining the leaves and boarder design around the edge of the fan
Hand –held brass fan showing the design joining the leaves and boarder design around the edge of the fan

Hand Held Fans – My Childhood Memories

 It is considered as a good deed if you gift to someone a fan during the summer seasons of India. In my village Someswaram, Andhra Pradesh, India, Sri Rama Navami, the birth day of Lord Rama is celebrated in great devotion. Normally, this festival falls in the summer months of April or May. As a boy, I used to attend this festival being celebrated in our village temple without fail since I used to get a palm leaf fan and a mango fruit free.

In our area, it is a strong belief that if any one gifts a fan and a mango fruit during the summer season they acquire lot of divine blessings. Imagine someone doing that now in this modern age. Picture yourself walking up to your friend or relative and gifting them a fan and one single mango fruit? How do you think they would react?

Anyways, getting back to the past, sometimes we used to get two or three fans also if there are more than one donor.We never had electricity in our house and the only source of getting some air is by these palm leaf fans.It is a regular even practice in our home that preparation of bed for the night include a leaf fan next to the pillow. We used to do self-fanning with our hands alternately till the fan automatically dropped out once sleep set in.

Truly Multi-Purpose!

This fan has a multi-purpose use. My mother used to use these fans for airing the charcoal stove to get the required flame for cooking food. My grandfather used these fans to chase away the flies during his mid-day mango feasting session.My grandfather was a mango lover and during the season he used to eat 10 to 12 fruits daily during the afternoons after soaking the mangoes in a large brass vessel for an hour to cool them and wash them before eating.

Hand-held Fans In Religious Ceremonies

One of the devotional services rendered during Pooja ceremony to the Gods is Vinjamaramseva. Vinjamaramin Sanskrit means fan. After the Abhishekam (ceremonial bath), Harati (ceremonial camphor flame circled around the god) and Naivedyam(offering of food to the gods), Vinjamaramseva (fanning the god) is done in a traditional pooja.

It is written in Aagamasastra (the scriptures that describe the religious pooja ceremony) how to do a traditional pooja ceremony to different Gods and Goddesses.One of the most important rituals is to wave the fan in front of the God to circulate air around him.This is done in two ways:

the hand-held fans generally made out of wood or bamboo covered with silk cloth with frills around it

(or)

With onemade out of metals like brass,silver and gold or with peacock feathers.

Chamaram- The fan made out of the tail hair of the Yak
Chamaram- The fan made out of the tail hair of the Yak

.

Picture showing chamaram being waved in front of the deity at the ceremonial Pooja time
Picture showing chamaram being waved in front of the deity at the ceremonial Pooja time

There is another type of fan called as chamaram, made out of the hair from the tail of a yak. Chamaram is of a different shape.One end of the Yak hair is inserted into a handle made out of a metal.The other end of the hair is spread out loose.These types of fans are used in the religious Pooja ceremonies of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples as well.

The Yak tail hair is considered as sacred.The Yak is an animal belonging to cattle family with long hair found in the Himalayan region of southern part of the central Asia,Tibet, Mongolia and as north as Russia.

Pankha – A Hand Operated Hanging Fan

 

Pankha is a hanging fan invented by Britishers during their British rule in India to have a constant supply of air to get relief from the oppressive heat in India. Pankha is made in a rectangular shape with a combination of wood and cloth, with or without frills, hung to a ceiling with ropes and pulleys and pulled with a rope to create fanning movement. The pankhas subsequently became a common sight in royal and aristocratic families,in the offices of the Britishers and high ranking officers. The rope is pulled by a rope-puller who sits outside the pankha room and pulls the rope repeatedly in a front and back motion. During the British rule, there was a permanent post called “Pankha Puller”and the person holding that job was a proper government employee in many offices. You must have seen something similar in old Hindi and Telugu movies.

Picture showing the Pankha hanging from the roof of the room with ropes and pulleys in a vintage house
Picture showing the Pankha hanging from the roof of the room with ropes and pulleys in a vintage house

I had this wonderful experience of seeing a Pankha being pulled by a peon in a judicial court. I  completed my class 7(seventh standard, then known as 2nd form) in a town called Peddapuram in Andhra Pradesh in the year 1953 staying in the house of my maternal uncle Shri. Rajapantulu. My uncle used to work for a lawyer and he used to be in the court during the court timings between10.00 AM to 5.00 PM.

If I had to see him for any purpose, I used to go to the court. The court was a huge British type of building with high ceiling and there used to be a Pankha on the ceiling above the place where the judge sits.There used to be apankha puller, an old man with official peon uniform which consisted of a turban, white trouser or dhoti and a white closed neck top, a cotton belt around his waist and a wide cotton belt across his chest resting on his left shoulder and draping on to the right side of the waist holding a brass rectangular plate that is inscribed with the name of his office.

Certain Interesting FactsAbout Hand-held Fans

 – Christopher Columbus brought a feather fan,among other items from newly discovered America and gifted it to Queen Elizabeth.

 – There is a museum dedicated to fans in 12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich,London SE10 8ER..

 -Even in present times,fans of large size are ceremonially carried in Christian papal processions.

So that’s the story of the fan that I acquired. If you have any memories of using one or seeing one used in the days back then, do share your experience or memory of it. Would love to hear from you.

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My Experience With Using Antique Vessels For Cooking And Drinking Water

Here’s a new guest post. Sushma, is an ardent follower of ykantiques.com. After realising the benefits of using traditional cooking vessels, she has discarded the modern kitchenware like pressure cookers and non-stick cookware one fine morning and started using only traditional cookware made of brass, bronze, copper, iron and earthen pots. She proudly says that neither she nor her husband visited a doctor since last 2 years and she attributes this gift of health to her traditional way of cooking. Here is her story in her own words.

 

A Bit About Myself

For those of you who might be wondering who I am, my name is Sushma and I am from Vijayawada. After my marriage I relocated to Hyderabad.  The thing is that, even after my marriage I did not know how to cook. The only thing I could cook was noodles. To add to that, I did not even know how to prepare tea back then. It is my husband who taught me most of the recipes which today I make so wonderfully.

Initially, when I was practicing cooking, it was okay. But with every passing day, somehow I was losing interest. I became an expert in cooking non-veg dishes but I don’t know why I felt that the taste factor in vegetarian dishes is not as dominating as that in non-vegetarian dishes. So I always used to wonder as to how to make vegetarian dishes equally tasty.

Some traditional vessels I use everyday
Some traditional vessels I use everyday

When I become completely vegetarian including even egg, I felt I should do something to bring marvelous taste to veg dishes as well. There is a saying that, “What we eat is what we are,” so I thought to live a better life. I personally feel that vegetarian food is the only food to develop spirituality in human beings.

A Snippet From The Past

Back then in the day, me and my husband went on a short visit to my husband’s home town Penugonda.  One fine day, my husband’s cousin invited us for lunch.  We both went there and to my utter amusement I saw different kinds of brass items. I was really excited to see those. Till then, the only brass items I knew about were the lota and big size round shape vessel used to store water called Gangalam.

 

After coming back to Hyderabad I was curious and started searching for what exactly these brass items are/were used for. Luckily, I stumbled upon  www.ykantiques.com and I was astonished looking at the items and the descriptions given by Krishna Murthy garu for each item. Then, I asked my mother as to why we are not using these brass vessels anymore. She told me that day by day, as convenient and modern methods came into existence, everybody began to shift from old to new without having prior knowledge.

 

My Take On Non-Stick Cookware

I feel that cooking in non-stick vessels will deteriorate the value of food.  That’s why most people are inclined to non-vegetarian food. Even cooking in a microwave oven has a bad effect on the food and one’s health. Also, after cooking, storing food in plastic boxes is also not good.

Indian cooking methods were very ancient and mainly concerned with seasons and temperature prevalent in our country. There are so many scientific reasons why we used to follow certain rituals and traditions. Today, we are not aware of these scientific reasons and are blindly following the west.

Non-stick cookware is coated with a material called Teflon, which causes cancer. This Teflon coating reacts with the food we cook and it abrades and contaminates our food.

 

Aluminium utensils were not so prominent until Britishers came to India.  They used these aluminium vessels in jails for cooking food so that it acts as a slow poison on freedom fighters.  Aluminium pressure cookers are also not good for health. When anything is cooked under pressure, food loses it protein value. In food cooked in aluminium pressure cookers, the protein percentage is 7 to 13 per cent. By cooking food in these vessels, risk diabetes, early signs of old age, stomach problems etc.

 

The vessels which are good for cooking are:

Earthen bowls: 100% proteinis retained

Brass vessels: 97% protein is retained

Bronze vessels: 93% protein is retained

The vessel I use for cooking rice
The vessel I use for cooking rice

 

The vessel coated inside with tin layer, I use to cook Sambar and Andhra pulusu
The vessel coated inside with tin layer, I use to cook Sambar and Andhra pulusu

Even stainless steel contains nickel which is not good for Indian recipes.  That’s why since 20 years there is a drastic increase in the number of diseases at early stages.

 

Storing Drinking Water

Another major thing is drinking water and also storing in plastic containers.  We are de-energizing water as firstly it travels through metal pipelines over long distances. For purification purpose, we add chemicals like bleaching powder etc. thinking that we will get purified water.  Day by day if we follow these type of techniques, ill effects would be visibly seen.

After knowing all these things, I have made many changes to my lifestyle. I will first start with water. Drinking water should be stored in opaque, porous and earthen medium.

Since 80 per cent of our body is water, our ancestors used to store water in mud pots and they lived in sync with the five elements of nature. In order to get energized and purified, they used mud pots.

Drinking water in glasses and any plastic medium is not good for health. Our traditional method of drinking water is by using lota. Water has a property, it cleanses the internal organs. If you observe a lota, the surface area is less, when surface area is less, surface tension is also less. So drinking water in lota is a good habit. Water should never be drunk by in standing position.  In order to avoid joint pains sit and drink sip by sip. To give more energy to water, I started using Himalayan energy crystal. According to literature by crystal experts, the Himalayan crystal amplifies energy and possesses a high energy vibration.

Himalayan energy crystal
Himalayan energy crystal

Crystals, in particular, were used to increase and harmonise energy levels which in turn helped to equip and strengthen the body.  Now-a-days we buy water which is processed and stored for a long period of time. While travelling, we buy bottles.  In early days, to carry water, people used a container which has round body and a narrow neck. In Telugu, we call it as marachombu. This looks like lota, but it has a lid.

Marachombu with lid that is used to carry water during journey
Marachombu with lid that is used to carry water during journey

 

I personally wanted to stop buying water in plastic containers and start using this marachombu. If in case you happen to buy water, pour the water in marachombu and place a Himalayan crystal in it. Now a days, these  processes may look inferior to chemical based and technology based medicines and antibiotics.

While an increase in diseases and illness in this modern worlds has created a necessity for modern medicine and techniques. We should always remember the healing power of the earth.

I will try and write about other aspects that I have learned about and those which I’m currently practicing in my day to day life. If you have something to share or add to this, I would love to hear from you.

 

Sushma
Sushma

 

 

 

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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!

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Vineetha Rao Suravajjala
Vineetha Rao Suravajjala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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