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How To Acquire Antiques from Genuine Sources – Top Three Tips

The real joy of acquiring an antique lies in identifying an antique at its original source, persuading the owner to partake it and adding it to your collection. In this process, you get to know the source of the item, the genuineness of the item, the owner of the item, the history of the item, and the purpose for which the antique has been used. When we acquire an item from a known source, we can narrate a story around the item. Any antique will acquire its intrinsic value by its history and the story around it. The more  mysterious the story is and the more intricate the history was, the value of the item will be greater. Antiques that do not have a story around them are mere objects and do not have the glamour and emotional bondage that are an essential part  of an antique.

As they say, the journey is more interesting than the destination. Similarly, the drama that takes place in hunting for the antique is more thrilling than the mere acquisition of a piece. Buying an antique from an antique shop with the help of a catalogue and price list is like buying any other item from a shop or supermarket. Buying an antique from a shop is advised only when that particular item is required and is available in that particular store only and nowhere else.  I prefer and enjoy collecting my antiques directly from the source and I share with you the top three methods I use to acquire them.

Explore and Exchange 

Wherever I  go – like a friend’s place, a relative’s house, or any other place , I explore that place with an eye to detect some old item which I assume that they may not be using or is underutilised. I do not make it look too obvious that I am searching for something, but at the same time keep an eye for anything that catches my attention. In my initial days of antique collection, I used to collect whatever was available to me. Slowly, I started collecting only those antiques that have a bearing on our culture and tradition. Now, I specialize in collecting and exhibiting cultural antiques and I specifically look for such type of items. When I see a real antique I get excited, my heart races, and a pleasant burning sensation engulfs me. If I can make a deal and get the item then it is all good. Otherwise that particular item haunts me in my dreams. The very thought that I liked it so much and still couldn’t get it plays in my mind for a long time. It takes time to erase it from my memory. Most of the antiques are acquired by emotion rather than by reason.

I once went to my brother-in-law’s brother’s house to attend a function at Pittahpuram, once the capital of the kingdom of  Pittahpuram Maha Raja in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, India. My brother-in-law’s name is Shri. Vakkalanka Venkateswara Rao and his brother’s name is Shri. Vakkalanka Madhava Rao. Shri Madhava Rao’s wife’s name is Maniamma garu. His house is more than a hundred years old and many generations lived in that house. These sort of houses are the ideal places for hunting antiques. I started exploring. I went to the kitchen area where Maniamma garu (garu is added to a name in Andhra Pradesh to respect the person of that name) was busy cooking. While I was talking to her, she stretched her hand to pick up some salt from a nearby pot. When I saw the pot my heart raced and started pounding hard and I was excited. It was a China blue and white pottery vase. Immediately something from within me told that my hunt is over and I should work on how to acquire it.

Blue and white porcelain china vase acquired from Maniamma garu.
Blue and white porcelain china vase acquired from Maniamma garu.

I composed myself and asked Maniamma garu casually since when have they been using that Jaadi (jaadi is a local version of porcelain vase) to store salt. She told me that ever since she knew the kitchen, this jar has always been there to store the salt and that it was passed on to her from her mother in-law. Her father-in-law had worked for the Maharaja of Pithapuram many years back. Now my guess was confirmed. The jaadi was very old indeed. I again casually asked her whether she can use a similar new jaadi for storing the salt or is she particular about using only this jaadi. She told me that a jaadi is a jaadi and anything that serves the purpose of storing salt is good enough for her. I immediately came out of the house, went to the nearest market and purchased a porcelain jaadi that is cylindrical in shape having  two colours of brown and white with a shining lid, one size bigger than the Blue pottery one. This new one was similar to the one that the locals use to store Aavakaya, a spicy mango pickle famous in Andhra Pradesh.

I bought the item to Maniamma garu and told her that I bought a new salt jaadi for her and if she doesn’t mind can she give me the old one. She was first surprised and wondered why I took so much trouble in buying a new one for her when the old one was serving the purpose. Then I revealed to her that I like old items and I am collecting such old items from people like her from good families. Then she washed the new jaadi with water mixed with Haldi powder and again rinsed with fresh water and dried the jaadi with a dry cloth. Then she transferred the salt from the old jaadi to the new jaadi and handed over the old jaadi to me. When I reached Chennai, the city I was living in at that time which is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, India, I showed the vase to an expert and he confirmed that it is a genuine antique china pottery vase. 

Let Your Friends and Family Members Know Your Passion for Antiques

When you talk to your friends and relatives, be open and talk with passion about your interest in antiques and about your antique collection. Deep passion is something viral and it catches on. When they want to thank you for whatever you have done for them, or they want to express their love and affection to you, or when they want to gift you something for an occasion, they know that the best way to make you happy is to gift you an antique piece.

When I was in Mumbai, my wife’s friend Annapoorna who is from Hyderabad visited us in the year 1992. She was excited to see her friend after a long time. She saw our antique collection and participated in our passionate talk on antiques. Suddenly, she declared that she has one old Brass gangalam which is now stored in the  attic of her house in Hyderabad and that she would love to gift it to us as a gesture of her encouragement. She further said that the gangalam will look better in our collection rather than lying unnoticed on their loft. She told us that whenever we visit Hyderabad, we should visit her house and collect the Brass  gangalam. We thanked her and the conversation drifted to something else.

After three months from this incident, we happened to go over to Hyderabad and informed her that we were in Hyderabad. She invited us for dinner and after a well spent evening with her, her husband, and children, we got up to leave her house. She asked us to wait for a minute and called her servant and instructed her to go up the attic and bring down the brass gangalam. She further told the servant to clean it up and put it in our car.  We were surprised that she remembered her word given to us at Mumbai and were happy to know that she meant it. As a courtesy, we politely told her that we will take it later. But she insisted that we stay a little longer and take with us her gift.

Annapoorna Brass gangala gifted by Annapoorna.
Annapoorna Brass gangala gifted by Annapoorna.

Of course, we happily stayed for some more time and collected the gift. It is a beautiful Brass gangalam that was mostly keep at the entrance of the house in good old days filled with water so that whoever enters the house will first wash their feet and then only they enter the house. This was a tradition in the good old days. When we first saw the brass gangalam it was almost black in colour due to long storage and oxidation. We wanted to know the age of the gangalam but what Annapoorna told  us is that she got it from her mother and her mother got it from her mother in turn. She said that it is there since 4 generations in their family. We brought it to our Mumbai residence and got it cleaned. It is now a proud possession in our house. We affectionately call it “Annapoorna Gangalam”.

Attend Local Exhibition cum Sales Events

 I closely follow the newspapers and magazines for information on exhibitions cum sales events happening in the city. These advertisements normally fall into the following three categories:

1. Families that want to reduce or dispose part of their collection

2. Families that are shifting to a new location within city or to other cities

3. Families that are leaving the country and settling abroad

Most of the people falling in the above three categories want to sell their valuable collection. I invariably visit these sales since it gives me an opportunity to buy the antiques from a known source and when purchased I can ask them the history and related story about the antiques. I also generally get them at a very reasonable price since the people who leave the country to settle abroad have to clear their items within a set time. Most of these sales will be for one day only. Hence, I make it a point to go with adequate cash to purchase the item on the spot if a deal is struck. If you are interested in having a wide selection, you have to go early and clinch the deal. Of course the first half of the day’s sales will be at a relatively higher price, and as the evening sets in the prices start getting reduced, but you will have the limited choice. I have acquired most of my collection through such “Sales”.

Once I attended a sale in Madras (now renamed as  Chennai ) by a family who were leaving India to settle abroad. I saw a beautiful stone sculptured statue of a lady drummer similar to the sculptures of Konark temple. The sculpture was very captivating with a gracious posture, enchanting hair style, and well-rounded body curves. I asked the house owner as to what is the price for the sculpture. He said it is priceless. Then he added that I can give him whatever I value I feel is right for that piece since he has to close the sale that evening. I could see how much feeling of separation he had felt to part with that piece. I gave him whatever I thought at that time was a reasonable price is and came out with that lovely statue. You can have a look at that wonderful stone statue.

Beatiful stone sculptured statue of a lady drummer purchased in a sale.
Beatiful stone sculptured statue of a lady drummer purchased in a sale.

These are just a few tips and experiences that I have written down. I’m sure you will have your own experiences to share. Feel free to drop in your comments and suggestions. I will be glad to read them and reply. 

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Anthills – One of Nature’s Wonders

Anthills
Anthills are constructed as tall as 8 feet to 12 feet high.

I had visited J. Krishnamurti Foundation India located in a deep forest near Bangalore recently. My friend Mr. Sekhar Rao recommended this place for me to attend their three day course appropriately called “Retreat”. It is a marvellous place full of forest greenery, variety of colourful birds, and wild flowers. In the evening, one has to invariably carry a battery light as it is dark and one has to watch each step. The place is absolutely silent but for the chirping of the birds, wind passing through the well grown trees, and occasional odd jungle sounds.

As part of the Retreat programme, we took a “Nature Walk”, an exercise that takes you on a walk through the forest giving you a chance to appreciate and be part of nature. There are 2 guides who escort the group, one in the front and one in the back, and show us the way through the jungle and protect us from the forest surprises. This was a wonderful experience, particularly for a city dweller like me who is surrounded by concrete jungle all the time.

During one such walk, I saw beautiful red coloured tall and well-built anthills in the campus and they immediately caught my attention. This was a surprise for me! I have never seen such a natural wonder from such close proximity. I touched and felt the anthill. It is very hard and rough. It is a structural marvel built with a fort like design and can be as tall as 10 feet high. This generated a lot of curiosity and I felt like exploring more anthills. I snatched few hours in the morning and started hunting for more anthills in the wild jungle. I saw a variety of anthills and I luckily carried my camera with me so that I could take pictures of these magnificent mud castles built by tiny creatures that we call “ants”. While taking the pictures, I was a bit apprehensive about going too near to the anthill as I heard that snakes generally occupy them and make it their residence once it is deserted by ants. Of course, any snake wouldn’t dare enter an anthill when the colony of ants is in possession of the anthill. I am excited to share the pictures I clicked in this article.

Anthills are the natural wonders created by ants.
Anthills are the natural wonders created by ants.
Ants are great architects and builders that nature has ever created.
Ants are great architects and builders that nature has ever created.
It is a structural marvel built with a fort like design with protective ramparts.
It is a structural marvel built with a fort like design with protective ramparts.

Ants are great architects and builders that nature has ever created. The anthills I saw were built like towering forts ranging from as tall as 8 feet to 12 feet with protective ramparts. There is a central single hole leading to a pipe like passage to the bottom of the pit. The pipe like structure is surrounded by heaps of mud protected by rib like structures on its sides to reinforce the strength to the main structure and to ensure that it does not collapse under adverse conditions. Though there are some other holes on the anthills, I was told that they are designed and built by the ants as false entry holes to mislead and confuse the enemy about the entry point.

pipe like passage leading to the ant colony.
There is a central single hole leading to a pipe like passage leading to the ant colony.
Ant hills have false entry holes to mislead the enemy.
Ant hills have false entry holes to mislead the enemy.

Ants build their habitat with supreme vision, great planning, seamless effort, and hard labour. Ants keep on excavating the earth until they find the water bed. Like a royal castle, they have separate sections within the anthill like chambers to eat, sleep, breed, and secure the larvae that is the next generation of ants. By instinct, the anthills are built in un-trodden and secluded areas. The primary purpose for this could be to avoid contact with the human being who is the most destructive creation of nature on the earth.

rib like structures
Heaps of mud protected by rib like structures on its sides to reinforce the strength of the main structure.
By instinct, the anthills are built in un-trodden and secluded areas.
By instinct, the anthills are built in un-trodden and secluded areas.
anthill materials
Basically an anthill is a pile of clay, sand, or earth, or a combination of these materials.
The colony is built and maintained by an army of worker ants.
The colony is built and maintained by an army of worker ants.

The basic family unit of ants is called a “colony”. The ants build their life cycle around their colony. A typical ant colony is centred on the egg laying ant or ants with “worker” ants that are sterile female ants. The colony also consists of sexual winged female and male ants whose job is to produce the next generation of ants. Seasonally, the male and female winged sexual ants go out of the nest in swarms for romantic nuptial flights. The males die after the mating along with majority of females and few lucky females which survive come back to the colony to initiate new nests and give birth to the next generation of the ants by laying the larvae.

Details of construction on the wall of the anthill.
Details of construction on the wall of the anthill.

Basically, an anthill is a pile of clay, sand, or earth, or a combination of these materials that are excavated by the ants in the process of digging. The colony is built and maintained by an army of worker ants. These worker ants carry minute bits of earth and deposit them outside of the exit hole so that the particles do not slide back into the nest. Some variety of ants actually design and architect the anthill to specific shapes to create chambers for their various functions and purpose within the anthill. These robust structures have survived heavy rains, cyclones, sun and other adversities of nature since decades and stand tall and brave for our admiration.

anthill  structure
These robust structures survived heavy rains, cyclones, sun, and other adversities of nature for decades.
anthill on rock
Anthill constructed by taking the support of a huge rock on one side. Admire how clever the ants are!!

Ants are capable of creating vast empires for themselves. They create super colonies under the ground across countries and continents with underground tunnels. It is quoted that a great super colony was found in the Ishikari coast of Japan consisting of 306 million worker ants and one million queen ants living in 45,000 nests interconnected by underground passages over an area of 2.7 km2 (670 acres). Such super colonies are found in many parts of the globe and these are considered by researchers as parts of a single global mega colony.

Anthill covered by the dense forest, creepers, and trees.
Anthill covered by the dense forest, creepers, and trees.
Anthill hosting plants in its fertile soil.
Anthill hosting plants in its fertile soil.

In certain countries like Zambia, giant abandoned anthills are located and the natives use the mud to make bricks.

I’m unsure about the binding element that ants use to build such strong hills with tiny particles of earth. I assume that they use their own saliva as a cementing liquid. I touched the forest anthills and they feel so hard. Though this article steers away from talking about antiques, the beauty of these mud castles created by miniscule insects like ants inspired me to write this article and share it with you.

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Copper and silver Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet

In Hindu and Buddhist religions it is a common practice to offer sound to god along with other offerings like flowers, fruits, water, incense and fire by way of lamp. Hindus offer sound by blowing conch or ring a bell. Buddhist, particularly Tibetan Buddhists offer sound by blowing a trumpet. This trumpet is called Tibetan Dungchen and also Rag-dung. This trumpet is a prayer trumpet or a prayer horn. This musical instrument is   used by Buddhist monks as a “sound offering”. This trumpet is also called Lava in Tibetan and Kaa in Nepali. The Dung-chen trumpet is also to be found in Bhutan and the northern mountainous tip of India, Laddakh and it is known as Thunchen in these parts.

Dungchen trumpet with copper telescopic hallow wind pipe and silver trims
Dungchen trumpet with copper telescopic hallow wind pipe and silver trims
Copper and silver Tibetan Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet shown in collapsed condition.
Copper and silver Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet shown in collapsed condition.


Copper and silver Tibetan Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet shown in three removable sections.
Copper and silver Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet shown in three removable sections.
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet-Air blowing cup with screw system shown separately
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet-Air blowing cup with screw system shown separately
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet -Blow hole in the air blowing cup
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -Blow hole in the air blowing cup


Tibetan Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet -Air blowing cup shown separately from the trumpet
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -Air blowing cup shown separately from the trumpet
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet -Fully assembled trumpet on the ground
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -Fully assembled trumpet on the ground

The design of the Trumpet

The length of the trumpet when stretched fully is 36 inches long and when collapsed it is 15 inches. This is telescoping in construction consisting of 3 sections. All the sections are collapsible and in collapsed position the top two sections will rest in the bottom large section. The narrow mouth end section is made up of partly copper and partly silver. The trumpet starts with a small size mouthpiece and arches out and ends with wide opening. The mouth end piece has a hole of o.5 inches diameter and into this hole a separate cup like mouth piece that has a small hole of 0.2 inches  diameter is screwed tightly. The cup size is 2 inches diameter. It is through this cup like mouth piece that air is blown for producing the sound. The wide end opening is 7 inches diameter.

Copper and silver Tibetan Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet-silver sheet with intricate design riveted to the body.
Copper and silver Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Trumpet-silver sheet with intricate design riveted to the body.
Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet-3 trims decorated with silver sheet.
Buddhist Prayer Trumpet-3 trims decorated with silver sheet.


Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet -intricate design on the silver trims
Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -intricate design on the silver trims
Buddhist Prayer  Trumpet -Close up view of the intricate design work on silver.
Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -Close up view of the intricate design work on silver.

There are large ring like trims on the outer side of the trumpet while inside is smooth telescopic hallow wind pipe made of copper. The trims are riveted with beautiful silver sheet that has intricate design. The trumpet gives a very beautiful look with copper shining with pink colour and silver with white colour.

How the trumpet is played

Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -Traditional way of blowing the trumpet
Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -Traditional way of blowing the trumpet

The trumpet is always kept on the horizontal position  at the time of blowing. The trumpet is played by blowing air into the cup at the narrow end .The other end of the trumpet is always kept on an elevated position above the ground may be on a wooden stool or a plank.

Buddhist Prayer Trumpet in a standing position
Buddhist Prayer Trumpet in a standing position


Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -view of intersection between two sections of the trumpet.
Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -view of intersection between two sections of the trumpet.

 

The Tradition of Trumpet blowing

Traditionally the Dungchen trumpet is used in Tibetan monasteries at the time of Praying, ceremonies, rituals and offerings .For The Tibetan Buddhist monks, the divine sound produced by the Dungchen trumpet is associated with the pooja and rituals of Buddhist practices. In Buddhism pooja is a ritual of meditation on one of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas and prayers are offered for invoking the blessings from them. Traditionally the Thunchen trumpet is normally used in pairs. Thunchen trumpeters, called as Thunchen pa, proclaim the beginning of the ceremonies from the temple known as Gamba and these trumpets also escort ritual dances .The thunchen trumpets vary in length from 3 feet to 15 feet .They are exceedingly unwieldy and hence the flared end of the trumpet is kept on a special stand or on the shoulders of the other monks. Traditionally Thunchen trumpets are played in pairs most of the time. The sound of the trumpet is considered as the singing of the elephants.

Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -top view .
Buddhist Prayer Trumpet -top view .

The story about this trumpet

I have acquired this magnificent trumpet in the year 1968 from the Maha Raja of Vijayanagaram at their Chennai residence. There was a clearance sale of so many items in their house. It is evident from their looks that they are not used from so many years. I have purchased this trumpet along with a copper hanging candle light holder with delicate filigree work. I will introduce the candle holder at a later stage in this website. The trumpet I purchased may not be in use since decades. The whole item was tarnished and almost black in colour.  At the time of picking the item I could not make out with what metal is the trumpet is made .It is only by instinct that I have purchased this item with the guess that the Maha Raja should be having something special only in his Palace. Later when I went home and cleaned the item, I could realise with astonishment that it is made out of silver and copper metals. This is a rare antique piece and a pride possession in my collection. They make an excellent decorative item when hanged on a wall or made to stand next to an antique chair. This trumpet is in perfect condition.

The sound of the Buddhist prayer  trumpet is considered as the singing of the elephants.
The sound of the Buddhist prayer trumpet is considered as the singing of the elephants.


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Antique Copper And Brass Indian Ethnic Narsingha Trumpet

Man blowing antique copper brass Indian ethnic Narsingha trumpet
Man blowing antique copper brass Indian ethnic Narsingha trumpet

The trumpet shown in the picture is known as Narsingha or Ransingha trumpet and is mostly used in Nepal, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Kullu Manali in the Himalayan ranges. This curved “S” shaped trumpet is hand made out of copper and brass combination. The main trumpet is made with copper and the trims and embellishments are of Brass. It is used like a bugle.

Trumpet in two sections
Trumpet in two sections

Thinner section is inserted into wider section
Thinner section is inserted into wider section

Description of the Trumpet
The Indian Ransingha trumpet is a royal and vintage instrument. The curved trumpet is made in two sections. The wider section is called Dhaturo and the thinner section is called Dhopbana. When joined together, they form a majestic “S” shaped trumpet. There are hooks on the wider section at both the ends and when tied with a rope, it forms a bow shape. When the trumpet is not in use, the thinner section is inserted into the wider section and is hung on the nail with the rope. When it is being carried, the rope is hung on the shoulder and the arched section is rested on the back of the shoulder for comfort and convenience. At the time of blowing, these two sections are joined together.

The “S” shaped trumpet
The “S” shaped trumpet

The stretched out length of the “S” shaped trumpet is 60 inches and its height is 42 inches. The shape of the trumpet and the wind pipe is telescopic. It starts with a small size mouthpiece with 1 inch diameter and arches out and ends with wide opening of 5.3 inches diameter. The actual diameter of the blow hole is 0.2 inches.

Close-up view of the brass trims
Close-up view of the brass trims and the design on the trims

Design details on the top trim
Design details on the top trim

There are 5 brass trims in the shape of rings on the trumpet body and these trims are hollow inside and are filled with mini metal balls that produce musical sound when the trumpet is jingled or position is changed. There is a beautiful design on all the five trims and the design is very elaborate on the 5th and the biggest trim at the end.

The blow hole and orifice view
The blow hole and orifice view

 The top end opening view and details
The top end opening view and details

Top view of the trumpet
Top view of the trumpet
View of 3 trims with design and 2 hooks to tie the rope
View of 3 trims with design and 2 hooks to tie the rope

Close-up of details of the hook
Close-up of details of the hook

The History of Trumpet
In ancient times, buffalo horn was used as a trumpet. The Indian horn is made from the horn of buffalo and is called as Shinga or Srnga in Sanskrit. Later, the term Shringa was used to denote any horn or trumpet. In the southern part of India, the horn is called Kombu. The horn has evolved into the present day’s version Narsingha over a period of time which is called Turya in Sanskrit. Subsequently, this came to be known as Turahi and also Narsingha. The name Narsingha literally means “Buffalo horn”. The buffalo horn is long and conical in shape. The primitive artisans drilled a conical bore through the horn and used to blow it as a natural trumpet. Subsequently, the artisans like Tinsmiths, coppersmiths, and blacksmiths imitated the natural horn trumpet and created trumpets with copper and brass metals. They made trumpets in “C” shape and “S” shape also. The shape of the trumpet will not drastically affect the tonal quality of the sound.

Trumpet blown in front of a God
Trumpet blown in front of a God

Tradition of Trumpet Usage
Narsingha is played in auspicious occasions like marriages. It is the leading instrument when the marriage procession is marching towards the bride’s house. On the way, if they cross holy places, temples, rivulets and rivers, the Narsingha is played. The efficient Narasingha player can produce sounds of calling names, scolding, and alerting another marriage party to give them the right of passage in the narrow road crossings. It is also used in ceremonial religious processions of village deities. The belief is that the loud harsh sound that emerges from the trumpet will chase away evil spirits and thus give way to holy events. While waging war or after a victory, Narsingha was blown to scare the enemies.

Trumpet is carried in a collapsible condition with a bow string
Trumpet is carried in a collapsible condition with a bow string

Trumpet with rope across the top section with decorative hangings
Trumpet with rope across the top section with decorative hangings

In Naumati Baaja (nine instruments orchestra), a traditional Nepali band procession, the Narsinghas are always the leading trumpets. In a traditional procession, there will be two Narsinghas playing alternatively. The prestige of the procession host depends on the number of Narsinghas he has deployed.
The sound produced by a well-made Narsingha trumpet can be heard up to 15 kilometres. There is tradition that the gun is fired after the trumpet is blown. This custom reveals the relationship that the Narasingha trumpet has with wars.
In Rajasthan, the Ransingha trumpet is used to welcome the guests and dignitaries into the palaces and Havelis and it is also the leading traditional instrument for Baraat or the marriage procession.

The Technique of Trumpet Playing
Those who play the trumpet use circular breathing technique as the Shahanai player does, and different notes are achieved by rapid tongue movements. Also, flutter tonguing is articulated to modulate the sound. It is the technique that matters to produce the required sound and not the power of the blow.

My First Experience with a Horn Trumpet
My maternal grandfather’s village Korumilly in Andhra Pradesh, India is surrounded by river Godavari and the canals of Godavari waters. My grandfather’s name is Shri. Salapaka Linga Murthy. There were no motor-able roads to reach the village back then. When I was a young boy, we used to go on a canal boat. Even the merchandise for sale in the village came by boats. Whenever the villagers heard a trumpet sound from a horn, they used to rush to the canal. This was the sound blown by the merchants to announce that the boat had come and was parked in the canal to sell its merchandise. This was my first introduction to a trumpet horn sound.

Trumpet ready to go on a procession
Trumpet ready to go on a procession

I purchased this beautiful “S” shaped Ransingha trumpet from an antique dealer in Delhi. He told me that he acquired this gem from Kullu Manali valley of Himalayas range.

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Antique Brass And Copper Kamandalam

Kamandalam is a water pot with a handle used by Hindu religious sadhus, sanyasis, munis, yogis, ascetics, Buddhist monks and Hindu mendicants to carry water. Kamandalam represents a self-contained and simple life. Kamandalam is also called as Kamandal or Kamandalu. It is traditionally made out of ripe bottle gourd, or pumpkin, or coconut shell, or from wood of the Kamandalataru tree. It is said that the water in a traditional pumpkin Kamandalam is equivalent to Amrutam, the elixir of life; hence it represents life, continuity, fertility, and prosperity. It is depicted that Hindu Gods and sanyasis carry the traditional Kamandalam in their hands. Nowadays, Kamandalam is made out of Brass, Copper, or Silver and also with Clay. I have collected a unique and beautiful Kamandalam made out of the combination of brass and copper.

My Early Experience with Kamandalam

I have childhood memories of Kamandalam being used profusely in our village Someswaram in the Godavari delta in Andhra Pradesh, India. Hindu religious sanyasis used to come to our village and they used to visit few houses and collect rice in their shining brass Kamandalam till it is full. Once it is full, they used to go under the Pipal tree near the tank of the village and cook the rice for their mid-day meal. I used to admire the shining Kamandalam vessel in their hands.

Performing Abhishekam to Shiva lingam with the waters from Kamandalam
Performing Abhishekam to Shiva lingam with the waters from Kamandalam
Close up view of Abhishekam
Close up view of Abhishekam with Kamandalam water.

The Brahmins in our village used to carry Kamandalam with the water to the temple to do Abhishekam to the Sivalingam in our Someswara Swami temple. Abhishekam is a form of pooja ritual to the God in which he is drenched with water by slowly pouring water on the entire body of the God starting from the head till the toe. Lord Shiva is known as Abhisheka priya (lover of abhishekam) and hence most of the people do Abhishekam to Lord Shiva in his Lingam form with devotion and tender care from the snout of the Kamandalam.

The History of the Kamandalam

Side view of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.
Side view of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.

The Kamandalam shown in the picture belongs to my paternal grandfather and he used it for doing Abhishekam in our village Shiva temple. I was told by my mother that my grandfather Shri. Yenugu Krishna Murthy has purchased this Kamandalam at Kasi, presently known as Varanasi, during his pilgrimage to various holy places In India in the year 1927. So we can say that this Kamandalam is 85 years old. After my grandfather’s death, this has come to my possession as a part of my antique collection. Since it is just decorating my shelf, my father- in- law Shri. Machraju Bhaskar Rao, started using the Kamandalam to do Abhishekam on every Masa Sivarathri day to Lord Shiva in the city of Vijayawada.  The short form of his name “M.B.R.” is also engraved on the Kamandalam so that it can be easily identified among the several Kamandalams that come to the temple for Abhishekam.

My grandfather Shri.Yenugu Krishna Murthy who purchased the Kamandalam in 1927.
My father- in-law Shri Machiraju Bhaskar Rao who used this kamandalam for long time.
The name M.B.R. is engraved on the Kamandalam.
The name M.B.R. is engraved on the Kamandalam.

The poojari (temple priest) collects all the Kamandalams with water; he does the abhishekam and then returns the Kamandalams to the respective persons. After my father-in-laws demise, the Kamandalam has again come back to my collection. I really don’t know how many times this Kamandalam served Lord Shiva by being an instrument in doing abhishekam to Shiva from its beautiful snout.

The Design of the Kamandalam

Here are the measurement of the Kamandalam: Height from base to mouth: 5 inches, from base to the handle: 8 inches, diameter of the base: 2.8 inches, diameter of the belly 4.5 inches, diameter of the mouth: 3.4 inches.

Over view of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.
Over view of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.
Top view of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.
Top view of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.
Bottom view of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.
Bottom view of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.
Ganga Jamuna Kamandalam
This Kamandalam is called Ganga Jamuna Kamandalam since it is made out of the combination of brass and copper.

This Kamandalam is hand made with brass and copper and this is a beautiful combination, aesthetically speaking. This Kamandalam is called Ganga Jamuna Kamandalam since the brass in it represents Ganga river and the copper represents Jamuna river (also know about Ganga Jamuna pot in the article “Ganga Water Lota” written by me). The Kamandalam has a three stepped base, a round shaped pot and a wide open neck. All the three elements of the pot are exquisitely blended to form a lovely curvaceous pot. There is a graceful snout resembling the neck of a peacock attached to the belly of the Kamandalam through which water can be poured in a controlled way. There is a beautiful semi-circular handle attached to the mouth of the Kamandalam to facilitate excellent grip when carried and to monitor the flow of the water from the snout in a measured way.

snout of the Kamandalam resembling a peacock’s neck.
Graceful snout of the Kamandalam resembling a peacock’s neck.
Kamandalam having a base with 3 steps
Kamandalam having a base with 3 steps.
Copper rivets joining the handle with the mouth of the Kamandalam.
Copper rivets joining the handle with the mouth of the Kamandalam.
Hole of the snout of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.
Hole of the snout of Antique Brass and Copper Kamandalam.

 Traditional Kamandalam

Traditional Kamandalam is made out of bottle gourd or pumpkin or coconut. The ripe pumpkin is removed from the creeper and is sun dried. After the skin becomes dry, the inside flesh along with the seeds is scooped out keeping the skin intact. The skin is cleaned thoroughly from inside.  Subsequently, the skin is cut into the shape of Kamandalam with a handle.

The Spiritual Significance of making Pumpkin Kamandalam

The pumpkin creeper plant is compared to the material world and the pumpkin to the individual. The seeds and the flesh of the pumpkin are symbolised as ego. The individual has to cut himself off from the material world like the pumpkin is plucked out from the plant. One has to scoop out his ego and carnal desires to clean his inner self to attain moksha, the celestial bliss, just as the way the flesh is removed from the pumpkin and the skin is cleaned. As the dried pumpkin is fit to hold the water which is equivalent to Amrutam, so is the mind which is fit to enjoy celestial bliss. The desires can be removed from the mind by Yogic practices similar to the cleaning and drying the skin of the pumpkin. Thus, the mind is filled with celestial joy as the Kamandalam is filled with nectar.

Stories about Kamandalam

In Hindu puranas and epics, there are stories signifying the importance of Kamandalam. It is interesting to know some of these stories.

The Story of Agastya muni and Cauvery River

For the marriage of Lord Shiva with Parvathi all the Gods, Devatas, Rishis, and Munis  were present to witness the wedding. Due to the weight of such large gathering, the north part of India got tilted down. In order to balance the earth, Lord Shiva asks Agastya Maha Muni to go to the Podhigai mountain ranges in the south of India. Rishi Agastya, though being short statured had immense spiritual strength and was the only person who could maintain the balance. Agastya muni was unhappy that he could not witness the divine marriage. So Lord Shiva granted him the divine vision to witness the marriage from wherever he is. Lord Shiva also took a hair from his thick locks and converted it into a river called Kaveri and commanded her to be in the Kamandalam of Agastya rishi and that she should flow out when directed by Agastya.

Indra, the king of Devas, afraid of the demon Surapadman left his abode and reached Sirgazhi, located in the southern part of India to hide himself and to pray to Lord Shiva. He created a beautiful garden and was performing pooja to Lord Shiva from the flowers of the garden. Varuna, the God of rain, afraid of Surapadman, stopped giving rain water to Indra’s garden and hence Indra could not do his pooja with the flowers. Indra approached Lord Ganesha and requested his help. Ganesha disguised as a boy came to Podhigai ranges where Agastya rishi was living and sat on his Kamandalam and tilted it so that water could flow out. When Rishi Agastya lifted his hand to shoo off the crow, Kaveri  river took it as a signal for her to flow and it flowed in the direction where Indra’s garden is located and watered his garden. Agasthya Maha Muni started chasing the boy and Lord Ganesha gave his darshan as Ganesh. Agastya was very repentant that he tried to punish Lord Ganesha and as repentance started hitting his forehead with his knuckles. Lord Ganesha blessed Agastya rishi and gave a boon to him stating that whoever worships him by beating his forehead with knuckles will attain wisdom and victory in their life. Thus, the Kamandalam is instrumental in carrying river Kaveri to south of India.  

The Story of Vamana and Bali          

Mahabali was a great Asura king and he conquered both earth and heavens and had driven Indra from his Kingdom of Heavens. Bali was the son of Prahlada and Prahlada’s father was Hiranyakasapu. Indra, being helpless prayed to Lord Vishnu to restore his kingdom of heavens. Lord Vishnu took incarnation as Vamana Avatara to dethrone King Bali and restore heavens to Indra. Lord Vishnu was born to Rishi Kasyapa and his wife Aditi as Vamana. He grew as a dwarf Brahmin. One day, the dwarf Vamana goes to King Bali with a grass umbrella and a Kamandalam in his hands and asks a boon from him to grant three feet of land. Sukracharya who is the guru of Bali and all Asuras sensed that Lord Vishnu has come in disguise as Vamana and was apprehensive of some foul game. Sukracharya requested Bali not to grant any boon as Lord Vishnu had come in the avatar of Vamana. But Bali insisted on giving the boon since he had already committed. Vamana asks Bali to sanctify the boon by pouring water into his hands from his Kamandalam. Bali takes the Kamandalam into his hands from Vamana to pour water.  

To prevent the boon being sanctified, Sukracharya enters into the spout of the Kamandalam in the form of a bee and prevents the flow of water from it. Vamana guessed the play of Sukracharya and cleared the way of the snout by piercing a Dharba grass which blinds the eye of Sukracharya. Vamana then takes the form of Trivikrama and enlarges his form into gigantic proportions in such a way that one leg is kept on the earth and another on the heaven and then he asks Bali where he should keep his third foot. Bali offers his head and Vamana puts his foot on the head of Bali and pushes him to Pathala Loka, the netherworld. He then grants a boon to Bali that he can come to earth and visit his kingdom once in a year and that day will be celebrated as Onam festival.  The people of Kerala welcome Bali every year by celebrating Onam festival with floral decorations in front of each house, song and dance, boat races, and of course the most important feast with 21 course meal. Thus, Vamana’s Kamandalam plays an important role in sanctifying the boon granted by King Bali and blinding the eye of Sukracharya.

The Story of Satyavrata and Matsyavatara

It is said in Bhagavata Purana that King Satyavrata saved a fish from the big fish by keeping it in his Kamandalam. This fish was Lord Vishnu in his Matsyavatara form. The same Matsya takes a gigantic form and saves Satyavrata from a great deluge. The fish tells Satyavrata to build a boat, and sit in it along with Sapta Rishis. At the time of deluge, the great Matsya pulls the boat to safety and saves Satyavrata from the great deluge of Kalpantara and he lives in the next kalpa or the post deluge era. For full story of how Satyavrata is saved by Lord Vishnu in his Matsyavatara, please read the article    “Antique Brass Tiruchoornam Bharani (container)” written by me.

The Story of Ksheera Sagara Madhanam (Churning of milky ocean ) by Devatas and Asuras    

It is written in the Mahabharata that Devatas and Asuras churned the milky ocean to obtain Amrutham, the elixir of life.  Dhanvantari comes out of the ocean with a Kamandalam in his hand full of Amrutham. Both Devatas and Asuras fight for Amrutham. Lord Vishnu appears in the guise of a beautiful and enchanting woman called Mohini, tricks Asuras and distributes the Amrutham to Devas only from the Kamandalam. For the full story on churning of the milky ocean (Pala Samudra Madhanam) and how Mohini tricks Asuras and favours Devas, please visit the article “Maha Kumbh Mela” written by me.           

A sanyasi using Kamandalam
A sanyasi using Kamandalam in the shape of a bucket in Mahakumbha Mela 2013, Triveni, Allahabad.
Two naked Naga sect Sadhus doing prayers with Kamandalam in front of them.
Two naked Naga sect Sadhus doing prayers with Kamandalam in front of them.

Gods and Goddesses who hold Kamandalam in their Hands

Goddess Durga – Goddess Durga is worshipped in nine forms as Navadurga in the Navaratri pooja festival. Out of the nine forms, one form is known as Brahmacharini. In this form, Goddess Durga is depicted as the one who practices austerity, bestows happiness, prosperity, peace and grace. She holds Kamandalam in one hand and a rosary in another hand.

Lord Shiva – In front of Shiva (in the centre), a Kamandalam made from the pumpkin is always shown on the ground. The pumpkin Kamandalam contains nectar and is a symbol of spiritual attainment. Kamandalam also signifies the simple and detached life of Lord Shiva.

Dattatreya – Lord Dattatreya was born to Rishi Athri and his wife Anasuya. He has six hands and in one of the hands he holds Kamandalam. The water in Dattateya’s kamandalam is of highest purity and can cure mental and physical ailments.

Lord Brahma – Lord Brahma is depicted as having four arms. In the top left hand, he carries Vedas, in the top right hand he holds a rosary which he uses to count time, in the lower right hand he gives Abhayamudra that is protection for his all devotees and also bestows divine grace on his entire  creations, in the lower left hand he holds a Kamandalam and the it represents cosmic energy out of which the universe is created.

More about Gods and Kamandalam

  • Gods associated with water like Varuna, Goddess river Ganga and Goddess river Saraswathi carry Kamandalam in their hands.
  • Brihaspathi, the guru of Gods, and Agni, the God of fire, are also depicted as carrying Kamandalam in their hands.
  • The Goddess Karamgamaladharini wears a garland made out of several Kamandalams around her neck.
  • The Kamandalam water is also used by Gods to curse the wrong doers and bless their devotees by sprinkling water on them. Goddess Brahmini killed demons with the holy water from her Kamandalam by sprinkling it on the demons. This is mentioned in the pious book Devi Mahatyam. This shows how powerful the water in a Kamandalam is.
  • In an excavated coin belonging to the period 183 to 165 BC, there is a stamping showing Lord Krishna carrying a Kamandalam.
  • The birth of holy river Ganga is attributed to the Kamandalam of Lord Brahama. The story goes that Lord Brahma washed the toe of Lord Vishnu and collected the holy water in his Kamandalam. This holy water has come out of Brahma’s Kamandalam and flows as Ganga river. The birth of mythical river Saraswathi is also attributed to Brahma’s Kamandalam.
  • The origin of river Narmada is from Amarkantak in the mountains of Madhya Pradesh. An ancient Kamandalam is always kept full of water at Amarkantak and is called Brighu Kamandalam, meaning the Kamandalam belonging to the Rishi Brighu.
  • The story of the origin of Silambu river says when Brahma washed the feet of Vamana from the water of his Kamandalam, a drop fell from Vamana’s foot on the ground and the same drop of water converted into river Silambu.
  • Garuda Purana states that any one gifting a Kamandalam to a Brahmin during the Shraddha, a kind of the ritual done for the dead person during the funeral ceremony, ensures that the dead person has plenty of drinking water in his journey after life.
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Sambrani Incense Brass Pot

Sambrani smoke from charcoal fire in brass pot.
Sambrani smoke from charcoal fire in brass pot.

Do you know how ladies used to dry their hair after a head bath in those good old days when electric hair driers were not available?  Yes! They had a traditional style of drying the hair with perfumed hot air. Sounds romantic and feels cosy doesn’t it? In the old days, when modern gadgets had not yet invaded the lives of humans, drying wet hair after the bath was a cosmetic ritual. Ladies used Sambrani dhoop, the incense smoke that is generated by burning sambrani powder on the charcoal fire for the purpose. The sambrani powder has an inherent sweet aroma and the smoke that comes out of burning charcoal is warm. Thus, the hair is pampered with hot and sweet scented smoke. The perfumed warm smoke can penetrate into the deep spaces inside tresses from the roots to the ends. For this purpose, the craftsmen of those days designed brass pots that are used to hold burning charcoal with necessary ventilation for oxygen supply required for the burning process. Here is one such antique beautifully designed sambrani burning incense pot made out of brass.

Drying hair with perfumed warm smoke of sambrani
Drying hair with perfumed warm smoke of sambrani.
Smoke of sambrani enters the thick hair.
Smoke of sambrani enters the thick hair.
Sides of the hair being dried.
Sides of the hair being dried.
Smoke from sambrani drying the frontal portion of hair.
Smoke from sambrani drying the frontal portion of hair.
Drying up the sides of the hair with perfumed sambrani smoke.
Drying up the sides of the hair with perfumed sambrani smoke.

Design of the Sambrani Incense Pot

Sambrani pot – Front view
Sambrani pot – Front view. Diameter of the top opening – 4.4 inches. Diameter of the bottom base – 3.3 inches. Height – 4.0 inches.

The pot is made up of two parts joined together. There is a cup to hold the charcoal fire and below the cup is the hollow base that serves as an air gap to supply the oxygen that fuels the fire. The height of the air gap base is 1.5 inches and the height of the charcoal cup is 2.5 inches. The bottom of the charcoal cup has three holes that supply air to the burning charcoal and also serve as drain holes to discharge the charcoal ash. This pot is meant to be kept on a plate for practical reasons. It is not possible to hold the hot brass pot with bare hands and hence it is carried by keeping it on a plate.

Sambrani pot with ventilating holes.
Sambrani pot with ventilating holes.
Upside down view of sambrani brass pot.
Upside down view of sambrani brass pot.
See-through view of the drainage/ventilating holes of the pot.
See-through view of the drainage/ventilating holes of the pot.

Traditionally, sambrani pots are kept on a round plate with a rim around it along with the sambrani powder next to the pot for convenience. Sambrani powder, when it touches the fire, gives a spurt of instant thick smoke and subsides very soon. So, one has to sprinkle another dose of the powder into the charcoal to get the next billow of incense smoke. Hence, it is essential that the charcoal pot and the sambrani powder are together at the same place always and the plate serves as the common ground. The plate is also required to hold the ash coming out from the drain holes. There are intricate designs on the surface of the charcoal pot. There are circular lines designed on the base of the pot. The residue of the burnt sambrani settles on the surface of the charcoal fire which hampers the burning of the charcoal. Hence, it is necessary to fan the fire periodically or reshuffle the charcoal pieces to keep the charcoal fire live.

Brass pot is always carried on the plate for practical reasons.
Brass pot is always carried on the plate for practical reasons.

What is Sambrani?

Sambrani is a term used by traditional medical science Ayurveda for the yellow resin, a gum like substance that comes from perfumed sap of Sal tree. The sap is extracted from the tree by making an incision in the bark of the tree. This herbal resin is then collected and processed in the form of minute granules that are pressed hard to form crystals or bars of sambrani. It is also called as Jhuna.

Sambrani crystals.
Sambrani crystals.

The botanical name for sambrani is Benzoin resin. It is produced out of the bark of tree species like Genus Styrax. The main component in the resin is Benzoic acid, generally called Benzoin resin.

Benzoin resin is mainly produced by the countries Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Sumatra since Styrax species of trees are grown in these countries. Benzoin gum is also used in the orthodox churches of Russia as church incense. In Arab countries of Middle East and in India, Benzoin is burnt over charcoal fire as incense. It is also used in Japan and China in the manufacture of incense sticks.

How is Sambrani Used?

Sambrani is used for multiple purposes like drying the hair of ladies and children, in the temple poojas as incense, as a germicide, as a mosquito repellent, as a sweet fragrance, to create divine atmosphere etc. It is also used as a perfume in the perfume industry, to manufacture incense sticks and cones, as a flavouring substance, and in medicines like Tincture of Benzoin.

Sambrani dhoop offering to the God.
Sambrani dhoop offering to the God.

Traditionally, sambrani is used to dry the hair by holding hair over the sambrani pot and letting the smoke in. If the hair is really long and thick, another person or a family member could assist by holding the hair over the smoke for effective drying. In instances where there is no one to assist, the ladies devised a method to effectively spread the smoke in the hair and evenly dry it out. This was done by placing a straw basket over the sambrani pot and then holding the hair over the straw basket. This served two purposes. One, it evenly distributed the smoke from the gaps in the straw basket. Two, it reduced dependency and risk of hair burning due to contact with the charcoal.

Sambrani brass pot with charcoal fire.
Sambrani brass pot with charcoal fire.

Since thousands of years, Indian temples have been using incense. It also used in Buddhist and Hindu temple for religious ceremonies as a purifier of atmosphere near the temple areas. It is also used in the pooja rooms in private houses and in domestic shrines during pooja to bring in a meditative ambiance to the religious ceremony. It is also believed that the smoke generated by sambrani wards off evil spirits and cleanses the air. That is one of the reasons why it is mainly used in temples, churches, and in religious ceremonies.

The Medicinal Benefits of Sambrani

The smoky aroma that is generated by roasting the sambrani powder on burning charcoal is therapeutic, antibacterial, and curative. It helps in enhancing sensorial perception and mental clarity. According to Ayurveda and spiritual concepts, it induces serenity, calms the nervous system, revokes negative thoughts, and fosters a quiet mental state. It helps in spiritual practices by enhancing the consciousness and inner awareness.

The amazing uplifting aroma of sambrani is conducive to create soothing ambiance and calm serenity.

Sambrani Oil

Sambrani oil is extracted from exotic resins and several other elements obtained from tropical forests like wood, roots, bark of Genus Styrax species of trees. The oil is extracted by the traditional distillation process using earthen pots. In India, sambrani oil is prepared in the state of Madhya Pradesh. This oil is used in perfumery industry, manufacture of incense, and for medical purpose.

I had sourced this sambrani incense brass pot approximately 35 years ago from an antique dealer in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. We have actively been using the same in our house ever since for pooja, religious ceremonies, and of course drying the hair. If you haven’t experienced using sambrani first-hand, I encourage you to do so. It is soothing, has a great fragrance, and is beneficial. If you are unable to source a brass pot for the purpose, you could go for a much more economical and convenient earthen pot with a similar design and ventilation outlets which are widely available across the country.

 

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Vintage Bronze Drinking Water Glass

One of the wonders of creation is water. 90% of the human body is water. Without water, there is no life on earth. The entire species on earth have learnt to drink water in their own way. The primitive man started drinking water from his cupped hands and with progress in civilisation the man started using a variety of glasses made of different materials. Till the invention of stainless steel, aluminium, and plastic, common man was using brass, bronze, and copper glasses for drinking water.

Now those wonderful metal glasses are not to be seen anywhere. Once they were a part of daily life and quenched the thirst of millions of people, particularly from India, who believed since ancient times that drinking water from copper, brass, and bronze glasses is good for health. Hindus considered brass, copper, and bronze metals as Lakshmi pradham meaning equivalent to Goddess Lakshmi. I am fortunate to have managed to collect some of these magnificent art works with functional value. In this article, I am presenting an antique bronze water drinking glass that has excellent craftsmanship and looks so gorgeous! 

 

Vintage Bronze Drinking Water Glass

Vintage Bronze water drinking glass.
Vintage Bronze water drinking glass.

Dimensions – Height 4.7”, Top mouth opening diameter 3.8”, Bottom base diameter 2.5”, Thickness 0.25”

 

Composition of Bronze Metal

This glass is made out of bronze metal. Bronze metal is an alloy of Copper, Tin, Iron, Zinc, and Mercury. Bronze is also known as bell metal. It is called Kansa (kahn-sah) in Hindi and Kanchu in Telugu language. The bronze glasses are made by first heating the metal to a high degree of temperature till it becomes malleable and then this vulnerable compound is beaten with hand using a hammer by the artisan to achieve the shape of a drinking glass. The glasses are also shaped by moulding or casting method. The metal is heated in a crucible till it becomes a liquid and then poured into a mould meant for making glasses and then given a finishing.

Glass made out of brass casting technique.
Glass made out of brass casting technique.

The bronze glass retains the inherent medicinal elements of the metals that the bronze is composed of. When water is stored or drank from the bronze glass, all the properties of bronze are absorbed by the body through the water.

 

The Design of the Bronze Metal Glass

This enchanting antique bronze glass is made by casting technique. It has a solid round base to hold the weight of the body of the glass that is on the top. There is a nice half inch groove between the base of the ring and the body of the glass.

½ inch groove between the base and bottom of the glass.
½ inch groove between the base and bottom of the glass.

The body of the glass is decorated with an embossed ring half an inch below the top rim and one more ring half an inch above the bottom of the glass body. There are exquisitely crafted ribs joining the lower ring with the top ring. The design of the ribs gives immense beauty to the glass.

Two embossed rings joining the ribs.
Two embossed rings joining the ribs.
Rib design on the body of the glass.
Rib design on the body of the glass.

The ribs also provide grip for holding the glass as against smooth finish of the glass. The ribs on the glass have now got smoothened because of the constant usage and antiquity. The body of the glass delicately curves itself to form a cute rim at the top which is used to glide water for drinking. There are two fine decorative grooves on the top rim at the opening of the mouth.

Two fine grooves on the top of the rim.
Two fine grooves on the top of the rim.

There are patina marks on the body of the glass which are visible in the picture. I tried hard to remove them by cleaning the surface of the glass but they are so deep into the metal due to antiquity that I could not remove them entirely. They are still visible as patches on the glass. Patina mark is tarnish on the metals like bronze and copper.

Patina marks on the glass.
Patina marks on the glass.

Patina mark is a stain formed due to coating of chemicals like oxides, sulphides, and carbonates on the metal surface due to contact with atmospheric elements like rain, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and sulphur compounds. Some antique lovers retain the patina mark which is green in colour on the artefact to showcase the antiquity of the object.

 

History of the Glass

My grandfather Shri. Yenugu Krishnamurthy, born in the year 1882, was using this glass for drinking water. This glass used to be placed next to his silver plate in which he used to eat his food regularly.

My grandfather Shri. Yenugu Krishnamurthy who used this glass in his entire life.
My grandfather Shri. Yenugu Krishnamurthy who used this glass in his entire life.

This glass was presented to him by his mother-in-law Shrimathi. Sampara Kavamma who was born in the year 1865. She had presented this glass to my father-in-law as a wedding gift in the year 1900. Thus, this glass is as old as 113 years. There is an inscription on the back of the glass in Telugu language reading as “Sa Ka” meaning the abbreviation of her name Sampara Kavamma. The actual inscription is a combination of words and design in the form of two vertical lines like – II Sa II Ka II.

Casting of the name with design “II Sa II Ka II” on the back side of the glass.
Casting of the name with design “II Sa II Ka II” on the back side of the glass.

The wonder of the inscription of her name is that it is not carved after the casting of the glass is done as it is normally done in general practice.  But here it was done during the casting of the glass itself which makes it unique. This shows the advanced technical skill of the artisan. It reveals one more pleasant secret that this glass was not purchased by Sampara Kavamma in the market but it was commissioned by her and the artisan had exclusively made it for her order. 

This antique bronze drinking water glass reveals to us the culture and the way of life of people from the bygone era. This glass is a mute testimony of the glorious life our ancestors lived decades ago by blending art with utility and living in harmony with the nature.

The vintage bronze water drinking glass shown upside down, a classic example of art and utility blended in beauty.
The vintage bronze water drinking glass shown upside down, a classic example of art and utility blended in beauty.

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Antique Copper Water Storage Pot – Pani Ka Ghada

The dimensions of the pot: 15” diameter at the belly,  4” diameter at the mouth, Height – 12”

This antique copper water storage pot is from the state of Rajasthan, India. Most part of Rajasthan is a desert or arid land and water is a scarce commodity. It is a common sight in rural Rajasthan that women carry up to 3 pots full of water at a time on their head from a long distance.  The water acquired with such a trouble is very precious and has to be protected by all means. Keeping the environmental conditions in view, the artisan has designed the pot in such a way that maximum amount of water can be carried at a time and stored with minimum chance of spillage. This is evident from the thoughtful design of the pot with big belly of 15” diameter and a small opening at the mouth with 4”diameter. The big belly helps in carrying the large amount of water and a narrow mouth helps preventing spillage. The big belly also helps in keeping the balance of the pot on the head of the women carrying it. This antique copper water storage pot is known as Pani ka Ghada in Hindi, Neella Bindi in Telugu and Tavalai in Tamil languages respectively.

Design of the Copper Water Storage Pot

Antique copper water storage pot made out of 4 sections.
Antique copper water storage pot made out of 4 sections. Notice the 4 joints.

Antique copper water storage pot is a masterpiece of design. The spherical pot is made out of 4 sections.

Section 1: A convex bowl at the bottom.

Section 2: Concave upper part of the pot like an inverted bowl with a hole for the neck.

Section 3: Two inch ring for joining the upper part and bottom part of the pot and also to provide height to the pot.

Section-4: The neck with narrow opening with a solid brass rim. All the parts are assembled separately and welded jointly to give a perfect shape to the pot.

Antique copper water storage pot
Antique copper water storage pot – Decorative ridge at 2 places – neck joint and belly joint.

There are two decorative ridges provided to camouflage the welding joints. One ridge is provided at the joining of neck with the top of the belly and the second ridge is provided at the joint of upper part of the pot with the lower part.

Top view
Top view with embossed lotus flower with 10 petals design and 3 mini knobs in triangular position.

There is a beautiful lotus flower design embossed on the upper part of the belly of the pot. The lotus flower has 10 petals and at the end of each petal there are 3 decorative mini knobs in triangular position. The rim of the mouth is made with solid brass although the entire body is with copper. This may be because brass is stronger than copper and a strong rim is required to hold and lift the pot with water inside. There are two beautiful grooves on the brass rim. These grooves are deliberately designed to give better grip to handle the rim.

 Brass ring on the opening of the neck
Antique copper water storage pot – Brass ring on the opening of the neck with two grooves.

The inside of the pot is coated with tin metal and this process is called Kalai in Hindi and Tagaram poota in Telugu. By providing this coating, the artisan declares that this pot can be safely used for other liquids also that may react with copper. The second purpose for tin coating is that the additional metal coating adds to the strength of the pot and gives a rock like firmness to the otherwise soft copper pot.

Kalai,and Tagaram poota
Antique copper water storage pot – Coated with tin metal also known as Kalai,and Tagaram poota.

My Ownership of the Copper Water Storage Pot – The Story

I have collected this wonderful vintage copper pot from an antique dealer in Delhi. This handmade pot has excellent craftsmanship and lovely shape. It has marks like minor dents which are indicative of years of wear and tear. It has beautiful hammer marks but most of them were smoothened due to constant use and antiquity. When I purchased this wonderful pot some 25 years back, it had a natural copper patina (verdigris), greenish spotty patches on the body indicative of aged copper that was not cleaned for a long time. I cleaned the entire patina several times to bring it to the present colour of shining copper. It is with me since 25 years and I guess its total age could be more than 100 years.

 Side angle view
Antique copper water storage pot – Side angle view.

The Tradition of Copper Pot Making

Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan is a major centre for making vessels with copper and brass.  Jaipur was a new capital established by King Sawai Jai Singh II in the year 1727. He invited craftsmen, artisans, and traders and encouraged them to make the vessels of daily use and instituted trade centres. The utensil makers are called ‘Thatherey’ in Hindi  language. There is one street in Jaipur dedicated to the art of making Brass and Copper vessels called ‘Thatheron ki gali’ and this street exists since as old as the year 1727. The ‘Thatherey’ craftsmen had a booming business of copper vessels for water storage in the growing city and from rural Rajasthan. People preferred copper pots owing to the age old belief that water stored in copper pots known as Tamra Jal gives health benefits. You could read more about the benefits of storing water in copper pots here. Food items (both solid or liquid) stored in these vessels remained fresh for a long time compared to the other metals like aluminium and iron.

Inclined position view
Antique copper water storage pot – Inclined position view.

Making of the Copper Pot

To make the pot, a square or round piece of sheet is cut from the flat metal sheet and constantly beaten till required shape intended for the vessel is attained. The thickness of the sheet (gauge) is selected depending on the proposed vessel to be made. To achieve the controlled bending, the craftsman uses a solid iron metal ring firmly placed in the ground which is called “Bangad” to serve as a seat for the metal piece to work on it. The cut metal piece is placed on Bangad to work on the metal piece to get the shape of either concave or convex curve that is required for making a water pot. The beating is done by  iron hammers or by mallets of various weights and shapes known as ‘Khachara’ in Hindi language. The mallets have wooden handles to facilitate the beating with the right amount of pressure to get the desired shape. The wooden handles also provide better grip and control for making right dents on the sheet.

Left side tilted view
Antique copper water storage pot – Left side tilted view.

The craftsman first fabricates the required sheet metal sections and finally joins all the sections to give a final shape to the pot. The joining is done either by physical joining and beating technique or by welding using the brass welding rods. The welding is normally camouflaged by forming a decorative ridge over the line of welding thereby giving the vessel an aesthetic look and extra strength. After the fabrication, the pot is given an acid wash to give it a shining finish. The pot retains the beautiful hammer stroke marks that shaped the pot. The hammer marks give enormous beauty to the pot and enhance its form and texture. In fact, these miniature dents on the surface of the pot make the sheet metal of the pot stronger and do not give scope for others to manipulate the surface of the pot.

Copper pot or Ghada – As a Folk Musical Instrument

Antique copper pot or Ghada used as a folk musical instrument.
Antique copper pot or Ghada used as a folk musical instrument.

Ghada is also used as a folk musical instrument in certain parts of India like Punjab and Gujarat. Ghada can also be made with brass, silver and earth. The musician keeps the Ghada in his lap or in front of him and uses metal rings worn on fingers to play crisp notes on the sides of the Ghada. The tonal part of the sound is manipulated by closing and opening the mouth of the pot alternately with one hand placed on the rim of the mouth. Musicians in South India use similar pots made with earth known as Ghatam as a musical instrument. In the classical music of South India known as Carnatic music, Ghatam, Violin, Mridangam are standard accompaniments to the singer and the team performance  is called Sangeetha Kacheri.

Neck down and belly top view
Antique copper water storage pot – Neck down and belly top view.


Antique copper water storage pot - Bottom view.
Antique copper water storage pot – Bottom view.

You can read in detail about the benefits of using a copper jug or pot to store drinking water: http://www.kandmool.com/index.php/Healthy-Lifestyle-Tips/copper-jug-for-drinking-water.html

 

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Antique Brass Massage Oil Cups

 

During my younger days, the monthly ritual in our family was that all children were required to take an oil bath. To begin with, my mother used to apply a fistful of coconut oil on the top of my head and keep on patting at the same spot chanting a variety of blessings.  One blessing I still remember is “Nuvvu F.A. inka B.A. pass ayyi Collector avvali” meaning that I should pass F.A. (Fellow of Arts) and B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) and become a Collector. I did pass F.A. and B.A. but did not become a District Collector. Instead, I became an ‘Antique Collector’. Then she used to put a few drops of oil in both the ears and rub vigorously at the openings of the ears. After massaging the head, she then used to work on the body by applying Til oil all over my body with her palm and used to give a nice massage till the entire oil was absorbed by the skin and body.  

Next, she used to apply a paste of what is called Nalugu Pindi (rubbing mixture), a combination of Chana dal powder and rice flour mixed with water. This is a basic version of Nalugu Pindi. Some people add various varieties of herbal powders to Nalugu Pindi for medicinal benefits for the skin and also for an exotic feeling. Then she used to rub this paste on the body with her palm till the semi-dry Nalugu Pindi separated from the body and fell on the ground in droppings of different formations once the skin had absorbed the oils from it. The rubbings used to take away all the dirt from the skin leaving it shiny. Then she used to wash the hair with Kunkudukaya (soap nut) juice and clean the hair with hot water.

Antique Brass Massage Oil Cups Arranged in a Row

This was followed by washing the body with hot water followed by drying the hair and skin by another round of rubbing with the towel. In Ayurveda, they call this method of oil bath Abhyangana Snana. My monthly ritual of oil bath continued till I left my home for further studies. She used a brass cup to keep the massage oil and she used to call this vessel Noone Ginne. I have been nostalgic about my ritual oil bath and my mother’s chanting of blessings and the brass vessel she was using to keep the oil. Driven by my fond memories, I started looking for the brass oil cups for collection and I have managed to collect some of the antique ‘Brass Massage Oil Cups’. I hope you enjoy viewing and reading about these wonderful art works with the same passion as I collected them. The same oil bath ritual was also performed by my mother for all important festivals like Sankranthi, Dusshera, Deepavali, Ugadi etc.

Oil bath is an integral part of the Hindu ritual bath that is a mandatory for most of the festivals and important religious ceremonies. Providing an oil bath to the important guests of the home is also a part of exhibiting hospitality to the guest. My sister and brother-in-law used to come to our house for most of the festivals but invariably for Sankranthi festival. In our village Someswaram, we used to have a barber who is also adept in providing oil bath. We used to book him in advance for giving oil bath to my brother-in-law on the festival day as a starting point for festival celebrations. Ceremonial oil bath is also given to the bride and bridegroom before the pooja for the marriage function. Kerala is famous for Ayurveda treatment using body massage with herbal oils as a medium of treatment. They use beautiful varieties of brass and Panchaloha vessels as containers to hold oil for massage.

 

Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Horizontal Handle

Front View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Horizontal Handle
Front View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Horizontal Handle

The dimensions of this oil cup are: Length – 9.0”, Height – 2.5”, Cup Diameter – 3.3”

This cup has an ingenious design with horizontal handle attached to the side. The handle also is resting on its own base giving more stability to the cup. Since the cup will be filled up with oil, the horizontal handle will help to carry the cup securely to wherever it is required without spilling oil. This is due to the horizontal handle which facilitates holding by the palm and the five fingers with a strong hold. If there were to be a single cup without any handle, the cup could be held only with the tip of the fingers from the rim giving a chance of slippage due to slippery oil.

Top View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Horizontal Handle


Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Horizontal Handle Filled with Oil


Side View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Horizontal Handle


Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Horizontal Handle. The Handle itself is in the Shape of a Cup with Vertical Handle

The single cup has a single base to rest on the ground but this cup with the handle has two bases so that there is a strong footage on the ground. The handle itself is designed in a shape resembling a cup with the vertical handle. This handle with few sharp curves is designed to have a longer surface for stronger grip. A smooth handle may slip due to greasy oil. The designer of this cup has taken all the care to ensure that the oil in the cup is absolutely secure against tilting and slippage due to handling. The cup has a very wide mouth so that the oil can be taken out for use comfortably with the fingers without touching the cup. Thus, this cup’s architecture is designed keeping in view both functionality and beauty.

Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle and Carvings

The dimensions of this beautiful oil cup are: Height – 5.4”, Cup Diameter – 4.2”, Base diameter – 2.5”

Front View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle and Carvings

This cup has an enchanting design with a round base with carvings, long cylindrical and vertical handle with a grip ring in the centre. At the top of the handle is a marvellously shaped cup with a rim. There are intricate carvings on the entire body of the cup. The cup has a wide open mouth to facilitated easy usage of the oil usually taken by fingers. The rim helps for a smooth flow of oil when drained out for usage or transfer of oil to another container. The rim also serves the purpose of grip.

Side View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle and Carvings


Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle and Carvings. Details of the Carvings on the Cup and the Base


Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle and Carvings. Details of the Carvings under the Cup


Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle and Carvings Filled with Oil


Bottom View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle and Carvings


Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle and Carvings. Details on the Cup Carvings

The marvellous carvings on the cup serve two purposes. One, this gives an excellent aesthetic look and grace to the cup. Secondly, the uneven surface created by the carvings gives a natural grip against slippery surface by creating mini vacuum centres.

Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle  

The dimensions of this magnificently designed cup are: Height – 4.4”, Cup Diameter – 4.5”, Base Diameter – 3.0”

Front View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle

This well-proportioned cup has a solid base, short curvaceous vertical handle with a slip ring at the centre. On the top of the handle is an elegant cup that has a smooth silky finish, wide open mouth with an inside curved solid rim. The significance of the curved rim is to generate a gap between the body of the cup and the rim to facilitated groovy space for the fingers to get into a strong grip of the oil pot if one chose to hold the cup by the rim. The vertical handle has a slip-proof design with a slip ring for a firm grip. The opening of the cup mouth is larger than the height of the cup for a better stability with gravity advantage.  Wide mouth of the cup is also helpful in taking out the oil with fingers for application.

Top View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle


Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle Filled with Oil


Side View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle


Bottom View of Antique Brass Massage Oil Cup with Vertical Handle

 

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Antique Brass Drinking Pots

Ancient Indian wisdom of storing water in brass vessels for healthy living is now proved to be a scientific fact. Extending the same habit, ancient Indians drank their water from brass pots. This culture was prevalent till the beginning of 20th century and that was when the stainless steel and plastic culture pushed out the use of brass as a medium of storing and drinking water. Modern world, enamoured by the comfort of stainless steel and the economic aspect of the plastic, had started using the vessels made out of both these materials. The wonderful art of making brass vessels in different shapes and sizes has slowly withered away and the beautiful and artistic brass drinking pots have gone out of everyday use and are now mostly available only with the collectors of these ancient treasures. I have managed to collect some of these magnificent antique Brass drinking pots and it gives me great pleasure to share these beauties with you.

Antique Brass Drinking Pots Arranged size-wise in a Row.
Antique Brass Drinking Pots Arranged size-wise in a Row.

I have grown up in the brass culture. In my child hood, everyone in our family including elders and children used to drink water from brass drinking pots or brass drinking lotas and brass tumblers. The elders used to drink from brass pots while the youngsters used to drink from brass tumblers since they are relatively lighter than the heavy brass pots. We also used to eat in bronze dining plates. My grandfather alone used to eat in a silver plate with a small patch of gold at the centre but invariably used to drink his water from a particular brass drinking pot which is exhibited in this article. The metal vessels in which the food is eaten and the water is taken actually form an integral part of the whole experience of serving and eating food. Along with the cooked food, my grandfather’s meal also consisted of microns of silver and gold absorbed by the hot rice served and brass microns from the drinking water. No one else in the family was allowed to use my grandfather’s drinking pot. Our elders used to call the brass drinking pots that of the size and shape shown in the pictures as Aapukara.

Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 6”, Width at Bottom 3.7”, Diameter & Width at the Belly 5.5”, Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.5”.
Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 6”, Width at Bottom 3.7”, Diameter & Width at the Belly 5.5”, Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.5”.


Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 6”, Width at Bottom 3.7” Diameter & Width at the Belly 5.5”, Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.5”.
Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 6”, Width at Bottom 3.7” Diameter & Width at the Belly 5.5”, Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.5”.

This is a magnificent piece of art work. My grandfather used to drink with this pot only. He lived for nearly 90 years and my mother used to tell me that he was using this for more than sixty years. This item is from our family’s collection and should be more than 100 years old.

Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 5”, Width at Bottom 3.2” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.
Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 5”, Width at Bottom 3.2” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.


Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 5”, Width at Bottom 3.2” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.
Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 5”, Width at Bottom 3.2” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.


Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.7”, Width at Bottom 3-2” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.0” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.
Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.7”, Width at Bottom 3-2” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.0” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.


Top-view Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.7”, Width at Bottom 3-2” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.0” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.
Top-view Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.7”, Width at Bottom 3-2” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.0” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.


Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.5”, Width at Bottom 3-3” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.8” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.3” Diameter.
Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.5”, Width at Bottom 3-3” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.8” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.3” Diameter.


Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.5”, Width at Bottom 3-3” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.8” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.3” Diameter.
Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.5”, Width at Bottom 3-3” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.8” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.3” Diameter.


Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.3”, Width at Bottom 3-0” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.2” Diameter.
Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.3”, Width at Bottom 3-0” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.2” Diameter.


Top-view Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.3”, Width at Bottom 3-0” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.2” Diameter.
Top-view Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 4.3”, Width at Bottom 3-0” Diameter, Width at the Belly 4.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.2” Diameter.


Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 3.2”, Width at Bottom 2.5” Diameter, Width at the Belly 3.4” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.
Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 3.2”, Width at Bottom 2.5” Diameter, Width at the Belly 3.4” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.


Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 3.2”, Width at Bottom 2.5” Diameter, Width at the Belly 3.4” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.
Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 3.2”, Width at Bottom 2.5” Diameter, Width at the Belly 3.4” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 3.0” Diameter.

This pot is made out of bronze, otherwise known as gunmetal. This pot stands on 3 supports fixed to the base of the pot unlike the rim on which the pot sits in other varieties of the brass drinking pots. It is also peculiar that the belly is not so prominent when compared to the traditional drinking pots whereas the neck is wide with thin rim like in a tumbler.

Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 2.7”, Width at Bottom 2.0” Diameter, Width at the Belly 3.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 2.2” Diameter.
Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 2.7”, Width at Bottom 2.0” Diameter, Width at the Belly 3.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 2.2” Diameter.


Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 2.7”, Width at Bottom 2.0” Diameter, Width at the Belly 3.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 2.2” Diameter.
Top-view of Antique Brass Drinking Pot. Size: Height 2.7”, Width at Bottom 2.0” Diameter, Width at the Belly 3.5” Diameter and Width at the Mouth 2.2” Diameter.

This is a beautiful and cute drinking pot. The belly is much larger compared to its height. The bottom rim and the rim of the mouth are almost equal. It has a beautiful design engraved on the body but you would now notice that it has faded due to usage through decades and antiquity. This item was gifted to me by my cousin sister Narasu who always supported me in my quest for collecting antiques.

The Design of the Brass Drinking Pots

These drinking pots are made with brass casting technique.

These pots have a perfectly balanced shape and proportion. The diameter of the bottom end and the mouth end is almost same with a bulging belly that beautifully tapers to a neck and finally opens up to a mouth with a rim. The design has soft flowing curves with the fine smooth finish.

The designer has designed the pot so beautifully that its base sits on the ground perfectly, the middle part with big belly shape holds a good amount of water and the smooth tapering neck takes the water gently to the opening (mouth) and the rim of the mouth facilitates ease of flow of water into the mouth of the drinker.

Hindu Priest Using Antique Brass Pot for Drinking Water.
Hindu Priest Using Antique Brass Pot for Drinking Water.

The neck of the pot is designed in such a way that it snugly fits into the grip of the hand when clenched between the palm and fingers.

The entire shape is aesthetically pleasing and functionally convenient.

The Most Popular Design in the 19th Century

This design of the brass drinking pots was very popular in that era. The same design was used not only for brass metal works but also for wood works, buildings, and other decorative aspects. I also have a Victorian style antique cot with canopy in my collection. The legs of the cot have a design exactly similar to that of the antique brass drinking pot.

Long View of Similar Design of Brass Drinking Pot on the Antique Canopy Cot.
Long View of Similar Design of Brass Drinking Pot on the Antique Canopy Cot.


Close-up view of Identical Design on the Wood Cot and the Brass Drinking Pot.
Close-up view of Identical Design on the Wood Cot and the Brass Drinking Pot.

The same design in a larger size was used to make an earthen pot for drinking water purpose called Cooja in India. Any design similar to Cooja is called a “Cooja design” in India.

The parapet walls of the terrace of the vintage buildings were also decorated with the similar design but in a slightly elongated style called Cooja design.

The Health Aspect of Drinking Water from Brass Pots or Brass Lota

On a recent trip to India, Reed, a microbiologist at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, witnessed villagers doing exactly this.

Reed, with his colleagues Puja Tandon and Sanjay Chhibber, carried out two series of experiments. In Britain, the researchers filled brass and earthenware vessels with a diluted culture of Escherichia coli bacteria, which can cause illnesses such as dysentery. They then counted the surviving bacteria after 6, 24, and 48 hours. A similar test was carried out in India using naturally contaminated water.

Antique Brass Drinking Pot Used for Drink Water at the Meal Time Decades Ago.
Antique Brass Drinking Pot Used for Drink Water at the Meal Time Decades Ago.

The amount of live E. coli in the brass vessels dropped dramatically over time, and after 48 hours they fell to undetectable levels, Reed told the Society for General Microbiology’s meeting this week in Edinburgh, UK.

You can read more information about the experiments conducted on the effect of brass on bacteria in the article here.

I have also written an article on “Ganga Water Lota” which provides some more information on Brass and Copper lotas. A lota is similar to a pot but it differs in shape. The article can be read here.