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An Antique Bonding – My Association With YK Antiques

I am Bala Gopal, a UI designer by profession and an artist by passion. It’s no wonder that I am a big fan of the place and the person who is moulding and resurrecting the antique world – YK sir, as I fondly call him. I am not fluent and knowledgeable about the antique world, but I am a big fan of art and design. So, this blog post isn’t about the technicalities of antiques but my connection and feel with the place I so cherish. Read on…

From left to right: Ganga, Yamuna, YK sir, Bala

A House Full of Surprises – First Impressions!!

A chance meeting with my friend Vinay landed me at the gates of YK Antiques. The moment I entered the place I knew things were waiting to meet me – so many antiques at one place!! It looked like a one-stop place for antique hunters and lovers. I formally met the place and my dearest YK sir. At our first meeting, the beauty of the place overtook the pleasantries we both exchanged. I could hardly keep up with formalities. My eyes were racing through each object that was displayed. I was already mentally creating background colors for the walls on which they were displayed.

As if YK sir was telepathizing with me, he asked my two cents on the colour palette to make the place a little sunny-side-up. Incidentally, the place was going through renovation. I jump-started and put forward all my cents (as if I was waiting for YK sir to ask me) on what colours to use to make the place look contemporary yet preserving the antiqueness. I suggested deep yellow as the background color and white for the shelves. I was able to convince them.

YK sir toured us around the house. Every antique has a story woven around it. More than YK sir’s collection, it’s his stories of each antique that made them more interesting. It’s a collection of a man dedicated to collecting antiques that reflect our culture and tradition over the period of 30+ years for future generations. The uniqueness of the place is the freedom to interact with each antique. There’s no ‘Do Not Touch’ board and there are no do’s and don’ts. You can simply go around the house and feel the ancient beat in each antique.

While we were simply absorbing the quaint beauty of the place, the great finds of YK sir, his stories, YK sir offered us steaming filter coffee in a brass filter. To our astonishment, the dining table on which we were served coffee happens to be a huge gangalam with a glass top. It really is the place that deserves all eyes because it’s not everyday that you come across such home-antiques to share with future generations that reaffirms and strengthens that the future of our ancient culture is indeed in safe hands. This visit had a profound impact on me and took me down the memory lane when I used to play with wooden toys and brass vessels. 

Second Visit and My Maiden Project with YK Antiques

Antique collection can take many forms and they speak volumes about the collector if displayed properly. I am grateful to YK sir that he incorporated my suggestion on the wall and shelf colours. On our second visit, the place only looked more beautiful, brighter, and warmer. 

Besides being aesthetically stunning, the place needed some rearrangement of big plates on the walls, which were otherwise lying scattered on the floor. We took it as our first project. I did a couple of sketches on how we can hang those plates on the walls and showed it to YK sir. He liked the idea and we started working on it. I used curtain rods and knob edges to rest the plates on either side. With all the tools handy, ideas brimming, freedom to try out what I want to, and YK sir’s exuberant smile, my first project with YK Antiques was very successful. Here’s a look at our work:

Rearranged Plates Mounted on the Wall
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Our Consequent Visits and The Wall Art

Our regular visits to YK Antiques created a deep sense of attachment with the place and YK sir. We were so grateful that YK sir let us be ourselves and literally made us feel at home. One day, I took Ganga and Yamuna to have a first-hand experience with the place and they too were thrilled to see the place. Ganga is my wife and Yamuna is Ganga’s twin sister. Sir toured us around the house, and we all shared stories on antiques with each other. At the end of the visit, all three of us were left inspired and attached to the place wanting to contribute to the place. By the way, while Ganga is an artist, Yamuna is a writer. With this combination of art, design, and writing, we satisfied our creative sides through YK Antiques.  

The Wall Art

YK sir suggested we paint the wall in the lawn area. We were so excited and started off with brainstorming, followed by sketches and exploration of color palette. The sheer beauty of our brush strokes and the subtle emotions in our color choices were at full display. We wanted the wall to breathe Indian-ness, so we chose to paint the kathakali face with elephant and peacock as accompaniments. It added a dash of warmth, subtlety, and exclusivity to an otherwise plain wall. This project is close to our hearts for many reasons. Here are some pics:

Wall Art
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To read more about our Wall Art Project, click here.

Memories of Moments at YK Antiques

All our work at YK Antiques is a natural extension of the spirit of family we began to feel for YK sir. We didn’t count on time spent or the heat of travelling very often. Personally, I have been enriched with experiences, stories, and expertise of YK sir. One such experience was redoing the lawn area with stones and grass. We were very new to the kind of hard work that goes into the picture-perfect green lawns we sometimes see in pictures. My great experience was spending time with YK sir, driving through the lanes of old Alwal on a two-wheeler to buy stuff required for the green lawn, listening to the stories of old buildings from YK sir and the list goes on.

From buying shabad stones and garden soil to buying lawn grass, each moment was a treasure. As we were all new to this and the gardener we hired refused to lay the grass on the lawn, we decided to dirty our hands. While Vinay and I cut the grass to the size we need, sir helped us do it. The lawn was ready – beautiful and green. We thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. Some pictures of our work:

The Lawn
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Hum-Sab-ki-Wali – Diwali 

We celebrated some special moments at YK Antiques. We celebrated Diwali with bright diyas, colourful Rangoli by Ganga and Yamuna, flower decorations, lights, and the beautiful antiques cheering up the spirit of festivity and our happiness. Some pictures for you:

Diwali
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The Go-to Place on Weekends

Be it for work, listening to the stories of antiques, staying overnight, or just to meet and have conversations, YK sir and this place were always welcoming. It soon became our go-to place on weekends. Some of our work on display at YK Antiques and work in progress pictures:

Work Snaps
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YK Logo Design and Some Design Surprises

YK sir once mentioned  that he would like to have a logo designed for YK Antiques that reflects his passion for antiques. We took this as an opportunity to give back to the place that has been a second home for us. Ganga and I designed a logo with intricate patterns which is now used for YKA’s online and print presence. Here’s the logo we designed:

Logo Sketch – YK Antiques
Lined Logo – YK Antiques

We also made tiny foldable visiting cards for YK sir as he travels a lot and these cards would be handy to introduce YK Antiques as the go-to place for antique lovers. Here’s how they look:

Visiting Card – YK Antiques

Now, bookmarks & pocket calendar! As a return gift for people who visit YK Antiques, we created some bookmarks with notes penned by Yamuna and a calendar behind. This has been a popular pick and we always go out of stock. Have a look:

Bookmarks & Calendar 2020 for YK Antiques

The Name Plate – Indeed a Surprise for YK Sir

We decided to surprise YK sir by making a nameplate for YK Antiques. As we have been branding the place as a home museum, we needed to have a nameplate. We pooled in all the contacts, got it carved with the logo we made, painted suitable colors to reflect antiques and home museum. We fixed brass knobs on either sides and that’s how things created out of pure love look like:

The Name Plate
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Most of our work at YK Antiques was never planned. We always jumped into doing something and then fine-tuned our ideas. YK sir has always been generous and encouraged us.

A Day to Remember

We were thrilled when YK sir asked us to assist and host a group of visitors from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS Mumbai), organized by Hyderabad Urban Lab (HUL). We were nervous but at the same time full of energy and enthu to go for it.

We spent days and nights making posters on YK Antiques – its past and present. While Yamuna handled researching and writing about YK Antiques, I was handling creating layouts, printing and framing. On the big day, we arrived early and looked after arrangements for poster display, snacks and chai, and a surprise calendar as a takeaway for the visitors. When the students arrived, we welcomed them and introduced ourselves. The awe of the students was evident as soon as they entered through the main door. If you have ever been to YK Antiques, you would by now realise that the main entrance door is an antique in itself.

YK sir walked them through each of his collectables so gently preserved over the years, narrated beautiful stories about them and left everyone spellbound. Though we heard the stories a lot of times by then, we were as amazed as we had been in our first meeting with YK Antiques. That’s the beauty of the place. The students were delighted that they could touch those antiques. 

Overall, it was a great experience for us. The student-visitors liked the place very much. As a token of appreciation, TISS wrote a cheque for YK Antiques. It was the first-ever honor for YK Antiques and YK sir still treasures it as the most memorable visit.

A Day to Remember
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The Dream Team

Now about the team that loves YK Antiques as much as they love their own homes.

The Captain of the ship, YK sir: A man in his 80s with a spirit of 20s. I bet you wouldn’t know he is an 80-year young guy if you are a first timer to YK Antiques. That’s how well he keeps his spirits high and shows us that age is just a number. He has a genuine affection and respect for everyone. More than anything, he is a fantastic listener.

Me: You have had enough introduction by now and you will get to know me better at the end of my blog.

Vinay: A great friend with an impeccable sense of humor. He is the one who introduced us to YK sir. He has been a key role player in shaping YK’s online presence and making it a home museum.

Satya: The Video Man! He is the one responsible for all the videos of YK Antiques. A guy with infinite patience.

Karthik: The go-to person for all things tech. He’s extremely resourceful with his knowledge on blog-posting, hosting of the website and all other tech aspects. He also happens to be our common friend.

Ganga and Yamuna: The ‘twin’ artists. While Ganga is a practising artist, Yamuna is a passionate writer and photographer. The wall art by Ganga and team continues to draw appreciation from every visitor even now. Yamuna has taken some of the best photographs that are displayed in social media posts on YK Antiques. She continues to contribute to YK Antiques.

There are many more friends like us who contributed to YK Antiques for what it is today.

From left to right: Yamuna, Ganga, YK sir, Vinay, Bala, Satya

My Ranting Never Ends about YK

When I started writing this blog, I was overwhelmed by too many stories I have in my memory on YK Antiques. I couldn’t pick up one and leave out others. But I shared the most important ones in this blog to let you feel the beauty of the place. 

While I continue to keep in touch with YK sir and YK Antiques, I always reflect on how wonderfully the place has transformed me into the person I am. I met some great people, had great conversations on art and design, and contributed to the place in my capacity as an artist and a designer. It made me realise that I can do things beyond my capabilities. This is my ongoing story with YK Antiques, and I am sure whoever has visited YK Antiques will have a story to share. If you are willing to share, I would love to read them.

I also feel we have the responsibility to access and make places like these accessible to everyone. I encourage you to visit this place to explore our rich culture and heritage reflected in the craft and use of each antique. I strongly feel this place should be made as one of the must-visit places in Hyderabad for the kind of cultural renaissance it’s bringing about. Let’s all make it a cultural hub!

Look at what I do in my daily life… 

I love the world of art and design, it allows me to learn, solve, share and appreciate every day. I engage with people/activities that allow me to explore possibilities, provide solutions to keep the design geek in me alive. I enjoy trying my hands at crafting things in everyday life. 

Behance: https://www.behance.net/balagopal

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/balagopal_bg/

Thank you Sandhya for patiently editing my article and helping me put this together.

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Go Vintage With Your House This Winter!!!

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

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

Rooh Gulab attar is made with RosesIMG_2384

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

IMG_2399 IMG_2392

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

IMG_2397

 

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

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

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

 

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Kidaram – Large Brass Water Storage Pot

Kidaram, the huge brass water storage pot on pedestal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This large brass storage pot is known as Kidaram in Tamil language. Kidaram is used for storage of water in the area known as Chettinadu in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Chettinadu is a dry area and in the olden days where corporation water supply was not available through the running pipelines, people used to depend on rain water for drinking purpose. Rain water used to be collected in a large vessel with wide open mouth placed directly under the sky to capture as much water as possible and then the collected water would be transferred to kidaram for storage.

Usage Of Kidaram For Fetching And Storage Of Water

There is another method for collection of rain water for drinking purpose. Chettinadu houses are designed to have large courtyards open to sky within their huge houses. The openings have a sloping roof from all four sides and rain water would pour down into the floor of the courtyards. By this design of the house, the Chettinadu people used to have rain water pouring down into their own houses. The flowing water from the roof used to be collected into the kidaram directly after filtering the water through clean white veshti (dhoti or pancha) or white saree traditionally worn by elderly widows. The old photo albums of Chettiyar’s marriage functions reveal the use of these large kidarams mounted on the traditional bullock carts to bring water from the local temple tank called ‘Oorani for cooking feast for the guests.

The circumference of the huge brass pot is 8 feet 4 inches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Design Of Kidaram

The storage pot has a huge belly to enable preserving large quantity of water with a narrow neck to prevent spillage or evaporation of the water. This pot shown in the picture has belly circumference (perimeter) of 8.4 feet and looks really huge. The height is 3 feet 10 inches with pedestal and 3 feet 4 inches without pedestal. The bottom circumference is 6 feet 7 inches. The base of the neck is 11 inches in diameter and the opening of the neck is 1 feet 2 inches in diameter. The rings of both sides of the neck are 5 and ½ inches each. The height of the lid is 6 inches. The huge pot weighs 40 kilos without the pedestal. It has to be carried by two people at least and is normally transported by inserting a long bamboo pole through the two rings and each person shouldering the each end of the pole.

The height of the huge water pot is 3 feet 10 inches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The kidaram is the largest of all variety of vessels used in Chettinadu homes. This huge vessel matches with the gigantic scale of the architecture of the houses. Kidaram is used as a water harvesting device along with the sloping roof and open courtyards which facilitate the rain water to flow into the house. An excellent and ingenious design invented by Nagarathar to harvest water in the drought prone Chettinadu. These beautiful kidarams would normally decorate the four corners of the ‘Mutram,’ another name for open courtyard. If not four, at least one kidaram will be in one corner containing drinking water. The height of the kidarams varies between 3 to 7 feet. The kidarams are made out of either copper or brass. Though copper kidarams are costly, they preserve the purity of water for more than 6 months. That is the magic of the copper. It is interesting to note that the lid to this giant vessel comes in the shape of a roof of a hut.

Kidaram without pedestal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An angled view of kidaram with large belly, narrow neck and a lid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top view of the kidaram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admire the hand made ring of 5.4 inches diameter riveted to the neck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lid of the kidaram in the shape of the roof of a hut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Colour Of The Kidaram

The colour of the vessel looks brownish green because of  formation of patina on the surface of the brass vessel due to age. According to my estimate it should be 150 years to 200 years old  belonging to early 1860s. It is natural that a thin protective layer forms on the surface of aged brass or copper items and this layer is called ‘patina’ which will be brownish green initially and turns into beautiful green colour as per the age of the exposed metal.

The best example of patina is the famous Statue of Liberty, the colossal sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor in New York City, in the United States which is made out of copper. Instead of the original copper colour of pinkish brown, it looks greenish due to formation of patina over the 130 years of exposure to nature. It was commissioned in the year  1886 and is nearly 130 years old.

Statue of Liberty, made with copper metal, appearing in green colour due to formation of patina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is patina?

According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Patina (/ˈpætɨnə/ or /pəˈtiːnə/) is a thin layer that variously forms on the surface of stone; on copper, bronze and similar metals (tarnish produced by oxidation or other chemical processes); on wooden furniture (sheen produced by age, wear, and polishing); or any such acquired change of a surface through age and exposure. Patinas can provide a protective covering to materials that would otherwise be damaged by corrosion or weathering. They may also be aesthetically appealing.”

Antique lovers, particularly from the west, love their antiques with the original patina formation. Patina gives a beautiful brownish green colour to the metallic objects and is aesthetically appealing. Some people prefer their antiques cleaned thoroughly of the patina to reveal the original color of the object when it was made. Archaeologists find out the age of the object by analyzing the patina.

How I Collected This Wonderful Brass Pot

During one of my trips in search of antiques, I happened to see this beauty in an antique shop in Karaikudi town in Chettinadu. It looked stunningly beautiful and my instinct prompted me to possess it. After the initial inquiries with the shop owner, I realized it is beyond my reach to buy the piece. I kept on dreaming about it. In one of my conversations, I mentioned to my friend Mr Jana Balasubramaniam, an investor by profession and Co-founder and Director in a company, whom we affectionately call Jana, about my visit to Karaikudi and my interest in antiques. He told me to inform him if I visit Karaikudi again and that he would make arrangements for my antique hunting. I did so when I planned to have a second visit.

 Jana introduced me to Mr Muralidharan, a native of Karaikudi and a well-known professional. Here I must say that Mr Muralidharan is an excellent host and he personally accompanied me to the antique shops. I confessed to him my desire to own the huge brass water storage pot if I get it within my budget. It was a pleasant surprise to me that the shop owner greeted Mr Muralidharan with respect in the local Tamil language and enquired about the purpose of his visit to his shop. I later realized that being a local professional, most of the shop owners in the locality know him and he was well regarded. Mr Muralidharan managed to finalize the price within my budget including a stone pedestal to mount the huge pot (if the brass pot is not mounted on a stone or a wooden pedestal, there are chances of the base of the pot getting damaged),  packing, forwarding and transporting the vessel by road to reach Hyderabad where I reside. The pot was delivered to me in an excellent condition and now it occupies a prominent place in my house with every visitor admiring its regal elegance.

Mr Muralidharan with tha kidaram in the antique shop at Karaikudi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful to Jana for his wonderful gesture of introducing me to Mr Muralidharan and for making excellent arrangements for my visit to Karaikudi. I am indebted to Mr Muralidharan for taking care of me so well and making it possible for me to own this grand vessel.

The Unique Architecture Of Chettiar Houses

Here I must say something about Chettinadu and Chettiar’s houses. Chettinadu is a hot and semi-arid region. The Chettinadu houses were designed  taking into consideration  the climate of the region. The materials for construction were selected accordingly to insulate and ventilate the houses. The central point of the houses were the courtyards facing east/west and the houses are built around the courtyards that bring in  light, sun, shade, air and rain to the house. Chetti is a short form of Chettiars, also known as Nagarathar, the trading  and finance business community in Tamil Nadu. Chettinadu means the region where Chettiars live. They are also called as ‘Nattu Kotai Chettiars’ meaning the Chettiars who live in the houses resembling mini forts or local forts. This entrepreneurial community developed their own architecture and town planning and their houses are unique in their size and design. The houses are huge mansions normally extending from one road to next parallel road. The front entrance door will start in one road and the backend exit door will be in the next parallel road.

A Chettinadu house with intricate wooden work on the roof

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The general design is that there will be a central courtyard with a high decorated roof surrounded on four sides by corridors supported by huge wooden pillars. From the corridors will be the entrance to the array of rooms for the family. There will be two or three courtyards in a typical house. The striking part of the houses is the highly carved wooden doors and windows .The houses are generally finished with special plaster made out of lime and the white of the egg, stucco work, terracotta tiled roofs, marble floors and Athangudi tiles that come in a myriad of colors and patterns, and stain glassed windows. The entrances of the houses are adorned with the icons of Gajalakhmi, Parvathi Parameswar and Meenakshi Sundereswar. The belief is that Gajalaksmi brings in wealth and prosperity and Shiva Parvathi couple brings in happy family life to the residents.

Top view of the kidaram without the lid

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Antique Brass Ghee Storage Pots

 

Ghee is known to Indians since 6,500 BC. This was revealed through the traces of ghee found from the excavated pots belonging to that period. Ghee was used by ancient Indians for the ritual fire sacrifices called Homam. Ghee is truly an Indian invention and mainly used in India. It has spread to the neighboring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The origin of the word ghee is from Sanskrit word ghrta. It is called ghee in Hindi, Gujarati and Bengali, ghio in Punjabi, tuppa in Kannada, neyy in Malayalam, ney in Tamil and  neyyi  in Telugu.

Ghee was stored in earthen pots in the early years and its shelf life was up to nine months. Later, with invention of metals like copper and brass, Indians started preserving ghee in copper and brass pots. I have collected two antique brass ghee storage pots with beautiful shape and I’m happy to share pictures of these vintage pots and the story of how I acquired them through this article.

Ghee Pot with Lid in Round Shape

Round shaped brass ghee pot with lid and lifted handle

 

Round shaped brass ghee pot lid and the pot shown separately

 

Round shaped brass ghee pot – Top view

 

Round shaped brass ghee pot and brass plate with hole riveted to the ghee pot

 

Round shaped brass ghee pot showing the tin coating inside the pot

 

This ghee pot has a handsome round shape resembling the famous Indian lota. The pot is handmade with brass with a lid that perfectly fits the pot preventing any leaking. It has a handle made out of thin brass rod. There are two handmade brass plates riveted with copper rivets to the two sides of the ghee pot with a hole to which the handle is hooked. The handle is flexible. It rests on the belly of the pot when not in use and becomes straight when it is lifted with hand or when it is hung from the hook. Brass metal is conducive for some chemical reaction when it interacts with certain materials. To prevent such reactions, the brass containers are coated inside with a thin layer of tin metal, also known as tagarampoota. This brass ghee pot also coated inside with tin metal.

Ghee Pot with Cylindrical Shape

Barrel shaped brass ghee pot with lid and handle

 

Barrel shaped brass ghee pot with lifted handle

 

Barrel shaped brass ghee pot with lid and pot shown separately

 

Barrel shaped brass ghee pot – Top view

 

Heart shaped brass plate riveted to the body of the ghee pot

 

Barrel shaped brass ghee pot with tin coating on the inside

 

This ghee pot has a cylindrical or a barrel shape with a lid on the top. The entire ghee pot is handmade complete with the lid and handle. The cylindrical ghee pot has two heart shaped brass plates that have been riveted to the two sides at the top of the pot. These heart shaped brass plates have holes that are used to hook the brass handle. The handle is made by bending a thin bass rod. The side brass plates serve the purpose of hooking the handle and also for strengthening the body of the ghee pot. The brass ghee pot is lined with tin metal to prevent any possible chemical reaction of ghee with the brass metal.

In our ancestral house at our village Someswaram in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, we used to have a place within the house called “Palagoodu” meaning a dairy cupboard fixed into the wall in which all items related to milk and milk products are stored such as milk, curds, ghee, butter, butter milk, and also oils for cooking. This palagoodu is generally fixed to the wall in such a height that children cannot reach the opening. The cupboard has two doors and when closed they are held tight by a handmade wooden latch. In my childhood days, I used to see these ghee storage pots in palagoodu. These two ghee pots are the storage pots and are specifically used for transferring a small amount of ghee to a small bowl which is then served with a spoon. The lid is always kept very tight to prevent red ants from attacking the ghee.

My mother inherited these pots from her mother-in-law and we do not know the actual person who has purchased these. But they must be more than 100 years old. There are minute dents on the body of the pots due to constant use and antiquity. There are beautiful patina marks on these ghee storage pots.

Ghee and Indian Culture

Indian culture and ghee are intricately woven into the life cycle of Indian Hindu. Here are a few examples:

  • Immediately after the birth of the child, the father puts a drop of ghee  on the lips of the baby with a  golden ring even before cutting the umbilical cord.
  • During cremation of dead bodies, Hindus pour ghee over the dead bodies after placing them on pyre.
  • In traditional Hindu prayer, known as pooja, a lighted lamp or diya with the cotton wick soaked in cow ghee is placed in front of the God.
  • In harati ,the ritual of showing the lighted lamp  to the images of deities in circular motion, cotton wicks soaked in ghee are used  for the lamp.
  • During Diwali, the festival of lights, Goddess Lakshmi is invited into the house with the row of ghee lamps. On the day of Ksheerabdi Dwadasi, also known as Tulasi pooja (the day of celebration of Tulasi marriage with Lord Vishnu), the surroundings of Tulasi plant are decorated with ghee lamps.

 

Fire sacrifices called Homam have been performed way back since 5,000 years in which ghee was used. Homam is the vedic ritual of offerings to Gods through the medium of Agni (fire) in which ghee, rice, herbs and other ingredients are offered called poornahuti. In one form of Hindu worship called Pachamrutaabhishekam, the deity is bathed in a sacred mixture called Panchamrutam consisting of ghee, mishri (kalakanda), honey, milk and dahi (curd). Rice balls mixed invariably with ghee and dal (lentils) are offered to the deceased in an annual offering ceremony called shradh .

In the 5,000 year old traditional medical system native to India called Ayurveda, ghee is profusely used. Ayurveda is made up of Sankrit words – Ayus and Veda. Ayus is longevity and veda is science. Hence the word Ayurveda means the science of health and longevity.  Ayurveda considers pure ghee as a supreme food. It is considered as having immense medicinal benefits apart from being a high powered nutrient. Ghee aids in the rejuvenation for both young and old. It provides vitality, enhances fertility, improves mental function, provides good voice and brightens the complexion. Ghee is consumed by mixing it with the food which enhances the taste and flavor of the food. Ghee is so nice it can be eaten as it is.

Ghee as the Life Giver – Mahabharata and Kauravas

The great Indian epic Mahabharata gives credit to ghee for the birth and life of Kauravas. This story tells us that ghee has the power of giving life. Once, the great sage Vyasa Maharshi visited the palace of Gandhari and Drutharashtra. The royal couple welcomed them and Gandhari served him nice food with which Vyasa Maharshi was very pleased. He asked Gandhari to ask a boon and Gandhari wanted 100 sons with King Drutharashtra.Vyasa granted the boon. Soon Gandhari became pregnant but could not deliver even after 2 years. Meanwhile, Kunthi, Pandu’s wife gave birth to the first of Pandavas. Getting impatient and angry with herself, Gandhari struck her womb  which resulted in a miscarriage and a mass of flesh fell out.  Vyasa Maharishi came to know about the miscarriage and ordered Gandhari to cut the lump of flesh into 101 pieces and store each piece in a separate pot filled with ghee and close the pot for 2 years and hide them. Then Vyasa Maharishi went to Himalayas. After two years, 100 boys and one girl  broke open the pots and came out. That is how 100 Kauravas were born. The eldest being Duryodhana followed by Dussasana. The name of girl is Dusalla. Thus, Vyasa Maharishi had mentioned some 5,000 years ago that ghee has the power of giving life.

Ghee and Origin of Life

Ghee is considered as a sacred food because it is provided by cow which is considered as the most sacred animal. The origin of ghee is attributed to the Hindu vedic God Prajapathi, the Lord of creatures. He is said to have created ghee by rubbing his hands or by churning the hands together to produce ghee and pouring the same into the fire to create his descendants and all living creatures. The vedic ritual of pouring ghee into the fire is virtually the re-enactment of creation as done by Prajapathi.  Butter is a symbol of semen, churning with hands represents the sexual act, the ghee represents formation of foetus in the mother’s womb. Thus, ghee is a life giver.

Ghee and Indian Food

My paternal grandfather, Yenugu Krishnamurthy garu, is a great connoisseur of ghee. His lunch consisted of rice, dal, vegetables, pulusu, rasam, two varieties of chutneys, one fresh lime, one pot full of curds and one bowl full of ghee. First, he would start with a small dose of rice drenched with warm ghee thus greasing the passage of the food that follows. Then he would  mix each  item with rice, pour ghee over the mixture and consume. The only exception is  curd rice with which he will mix  lime juice. By the time he would finish his food the bowl full of ghee will be empty. He lived a full life of 90 years and died one day peacefully after having his lunch with his favorite bowl full of ghee. I am inclined to think that the secret of his healthy life with full gusto till 90 years is the pure homemade ghee. He had no fat in his body or any problem of cholesterol.

Now a days we see people talk about avoiding consumption of ghee since they fear putting on fat or higher levels of cholesterol. My grandfather’s example adequately supports the theory that ghee in fact helps reduce the fat and the cholesterol and Ayurveda support this theory.

Ghee Preparation at Home

Ghee is derived from butter. Butter contains fat and milk solids. When butter is melted and simmered at low temperature, the water gets evaporated, milk solidifies and the fat gets separated. When the milk solids are filtered, pure golden colored butter fat is available which we call ghee. Ghee is luscious butter fat and an intense power food with butter flavor. Ghee has a nutty taste, with excellent aroma and marvelous mouth feel.

  • Melt the butter in a thick bottomed saucepan on a low heat.
  • Slowly increase the flame so that the butter boils.
  • First you will observe lot of white foam floating around and gives way to bubbles.
  • You will hear the sound of bubbles forming and breaking continuously. This happens due to the evaporation of water from the butter. You will reach this stage around 12 -15 minutes from the start.
  • Then you will see the brown particles start forming and are distinctly seen in the boiling butter. These are the milk solids that got separated from butter.
  • Keep boiling the butter for another 8 minutes.
  • You will see the brown particles become dark brown and settle in the bottom of the pan. At the same time you will see golden color ghee with the beautiful aroma.
  • We normally test the ghee for the right cooking by splashing few drops of water in the boiling ghee from a distance. If you hear a loud splintering sound, the ghee is well cooked. If you here a mild sound, the ghee is not well cooked. But this test has to be done carefully.
  • Your ghee is done. Put off the fire and let the ghee cool down.
  • Strain the ghee to separate the dark brown milk solids.

Your pure homemade golden colored pure ghee is ready. Keep the ghee in dry bottles with tight screw lid. Preserve the ghee in room temperature only. It will form into a nice grainy liquid. It will not get spoiled for at least six months. There is no need to refrigerate the home made ghee.

Difference between Ghee and Clarified Butter

If we have to explain ghee in English, we use the word clarified butter. In fact, there is a slight difference between ghee and clarified butter. By heating the butter, if the water in the butter is evaporated and the milk solids are separated from the butter, it is called clarified butter. In preparing ghee, the clarified butter is further simmered and boiled till the milk solids are caramelized and convert into dark brown. The ghee acquires a deep golden color with a heady taste and beautiful aroma. The clarified butter cannot be stored for long time whereas ghee can be stored up to 9 months without refrigeration.

 

Round shaped brass ghee pot filled with pure homemade ghee

Popular Preparations with Pure Ghee

Indian sweets like Mysore pak from Karnataka, minapa sunni from Andhra Pradesh taste best when prepared with pure ghee. All those mouth-watering sweets from Gujarat and Rajasthan are mostly made with pure ghee. Boorelu, the special traditional sweet dish from Andhra Pradesh is eaten along with ghee by making a hole in the sweet and filling the hole with warm ghee. In Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, chapathi is roasted with pure ghee. If it is not roasted with ghee for any reason, it is smeared with ghee just before serving or eating. The famous Hyderabad biryani is made with pure ghee. In south India, rice mixed with vegetables, dal, or sambar is eaten mixed with ghee. The special variety of idlis known as  Guntur idlis are prepared by applying lot of ghee and are rolled in spicy dal powder.

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Antique Cloth Cradle Separator

 

Antique Cloth cradle separator

 

Ancient Indian civilization has passed on through generations to modern times a simple cradle made out of cloth in which the babies love to sleep. This cloth cradle is basically a cloth hammock created from a cotton cloth, from a simple cotton dhoti or a sari tied to a hook and hung from the ceiling to a provision made for this purpose. The baby relates the swinging movements of the cradle with the gentle swinging movements he experienced while he was in the cosy comfort of the mother’s womb corresponding to the mother’s movements. Any baby will be blissfully happy to sleeping in the cloth cradle.

 

Antique Cloth Cradle Seperator positioned in the cotton cradle

 

The only inconvenience in cotton hanging type cradle is putting the baby inside the cradle and taking the baby out of the cradle. This is because the cradle has no sufficient opening for placing and taking out the baby since both the sides of the cloth cradle hang down without any gap in-between them. The mother has to hold the baby in hands and create an opening using her elbows which is very inconvenient. To surmount this problem, some people use a cradle separator to create a wide gap in between the two sides so that the baby can be put in and put out of the cradle conveniently. I have collected a beautiful cradle separator with excellent design which I love to present it to you.

 

Antique Cloth cradle separator- middle part with knitted design

 

Antique Cloth cradle separator -left side part with a big hole and small hole

 

Antique Cloth cradle separator- right side part with a big hole

 

The design of the Antique Cradle Separator

I can never imagine that a mundane thing like a cradle separator can be so artistic.This only shows that art is an integral part of our daily life some time back and may be it is the reason our ancestors lived a holistic happy life compared to the present generation whose houses and utilities have mere functional value and do not have art or aesthetics value.

 The cradle separator is made with a single block of wood with beautiful design. Its length is 28 inches, width is 5 inches and depth is ¾ inches. The design of the separator appears to have three parts. The two end parts are circular in shape with triangular projections. These circular end pieces have the holes through which the cloth is passed through for making the cradle. The middle part of the separator has woven design forming 18 holes and the entire design is hand carved. The carvings are done in such a way that it looks as though it is woven with 3 strands of flexible wood. It looks very fluid .There is a small square hole at one end of the plank and this hole is meant for hanging this plank to a nail when not in use. The width of each strand is ¾ inch. This separator also is used to hang some colourful items for the entertainment of the baby using the 18 holes design.

 

Cotton Cradle hanging from the chain hooked to the ceiling

 

My experience with the Cotton Cradle

I was told that my mother kept me in a cotton hanging cradle when I was a baby in my maternal grandmother’s house at Korumilli located on the banks of river Godavari in east Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, where I was born. It is a tradition and a common practice to put the babies in a hanging cradle during my younger days. I, myself have seen the colourful cradles hanging in the halls of our neighbours and relatives houses who had babies. I have grown in a cradle culture. When my mother moved over to my Paternal grandfather’s house at Someswaram some 30 kilometres from Korumilli, my grandfather arranged a wooden cradle hung with 4 iron chains from the wooden beam of our house for my sleeping. I still have those lovely iron chains in my collection though we lost the cradle, I don’t know how. 

 

Baby sleeping in the cloth hanging cradle

 

Later, when I was going to school riding a bicycle I used to see the ladies who were working in the rice fields on either sides of the road used to have a cotton cradle of color full cloth and hang it to the branch of the nearby tree or to the beam of the cattle shed in which their babies are laid to sleep while they work in the rice fields. They would come periodically to the cradle, take out the baby, feed the baby with their breast milk and lay the baby back into the cosy cradle. I have never seen or heard of an accident happening by way of baby falling from a cotton cradle and it is absolutely safe. In fact there are chances of an accident happening when babies are kept on a flat wooden cradle or on a sleeping cot with cushions around falling down by accident. The best way to silence a crying baby is to put him in the cotton cradle and give it few mild rocking movements. I bet the baby will sleep in minutes provided the baby’s belly is full. A month’s old baby needs only two things, milk and the cosy comfort of a cotton hanging cradle.

 The cotton fabric cradle is called Battauyyala in Telugu. This is known as Tuniunjalin Tamil. It is known in the northern part of India as Palna, Dhooli, Jhoola and Dhola in Bengali.

 

Lady rocking the cradle to put baby into sleep

 

What is the secret of the survival of Cloth Cradle through generations?

 The secret is babies love to be rocked to sleep. The rocking movement is the extension of their cosy life they had in the mother’s womb and the cradle movements they enjoyed whenever the  mother walked around. They relate the rocking movements of the cradle with the movements they experienced while in the security and safety of the mother’s womb.  Thus the babies love the rhythm of the gentle movements of the cotton cloth cradle. Further when the baby is placed in the cloth cradle, the wait of the baby pulls the cloth around the baby creating a snug womb like atmosphere around him. Whenever the baby makes a movement, the cradle also swings inducing the baby back to sleep.

 Some people say that sleeping in a cotton cradle will promote the baby’s head to develop into a beautiful, rounded shape as he would not be sleeping on a flat mattress. It is hygienic too. When the baby passes the urine, it falls down from the thin cotton cloth and dries up fast keeping the baby dry. Generations of mothers over centuries felt good about the benefits of cotton hanging cradle and they passed on the simple technique to their next generations. Even now it is the most desirable way of putting the baby to sleep in several houses in towns and villages of India.

 

Lady placing the baby into the cradle- notice the space created by the separator

 

Precautions to be taken for Cotton Cradle 

The cloth cradles are very convenient to the mother, comfortable to the baby, easy to maintain, space saving and are economical provided some precautions are taken while using the same. The baby has to be positioned in the cradle with his back resting on the cradle. The baby should not be kept with the face down. Keep the bottom side of the cradle as low as possible towards the ground. Take enough precaution to ensure the baby does not turn to the sides or to the stomach. Watch the weight of the baby and ensure the quality of the cloth to be used taking into consideration the growing weight of the baby. Ensure that the cloth cradle is properly hooked so that there is no chance of it falling down.

 

Cradle separator separating the sides of the cloth hanging cradle

 

How I got this Antique Cradle Separator

I got this wonderful Antique Cradle Separator from an antique dealer in Chettinadu, a region in Tamil Nadu where the prosperous Chettiar community live. Basically they are business people particularly in banking and education sectors. They are called natukotaichettiars since they have houses as big as a fortress. They live a very traditional life with the art surrounding their magnificent houses including artistic household items like this beautifully carved cradle separator. I have purchased this in the year 1972 from Karaikudi city of Chettinadu. It is with me since 40 years. I wonder for how many cradles it was used as a separator and who are the babies that slept in those cotton hanging cradles and how many eminent personalities this cradle has rocked when they were babies.