Categories
Most Viewed

Back to Basics-Antique Stone Cooking and Storage Pots

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Granite storage pot- top view
Granite storage pot

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Categories
Most Viewed

Antique Hand-held Brass Fan

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

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

 

The Design Of The Brass Hand-held Fan

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

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

The History And Evolution Of The Fan

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

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

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

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

Hand Held Fans – My Childhood Memories

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

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

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

Truly Multi-Purpose!

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

Hand-held Fans In Religious Ceremonies

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

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

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

(or)

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

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

.

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

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

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

Pankha – A Hand Operated Hanging Fan

 

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

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

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

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

Certain Interesting FactsAbout Hand-held Fans

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

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

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

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

Categories
Most Viewed

My Experience With Using Antique Vessels For Cooking And Drinking Water

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

 

A Bit About Myself

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

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

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

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

A Snippet From The Past

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

 

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

 

My Take On Non-Stick Cookware

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

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

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

 

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

 

The vessels which are good for cooking are:

Earthen bowls: 100% proteinis retained

Brass vessels: 97% protein is retained

Bronze vessels: 93% protein is retained

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

 

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

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

 

Storing Drinking Water

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

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

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

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

Himalayan energy crystal
Himalayan energy crystal

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Sushma
Sushma

 

 

 

Categories
Most Viewed

Mystical Copper vessel

Mystical copper vessel with 3 white metal strips, dragon embellishments and the lid with the knob
Mystical copper vessel with 3 white metal strips, dragon embellishments and the lid with the knob

Copper has played an important role in human civilization. It is one such element that has been extensively used in shaping up the history and culture of Asian countries and the world at large.Copper holds the significance of being an essential mineral required by our body to finding a place in the temples and monasteries as a vessel of prime importance on which food is offered to the Gods.

As the saying goes “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”, people who value aesthetic taste and sense will any day opt for items that look unique and rare and that are made up of copper or brass. A midst all antique and vintage items, one such rare collectible is the “Mystical Copper Vessel”.

What makes this container unique and valuable is the embellishment it has on its body. This container is primarily made up of copper with white metal embossment. A closer look at the container reveals carved white metal dragons and a mythical face making it obvious that this container originated in Tibet and became popular amongst the Buddhist monks or people of some prominence.The mythical face later discovered as Kirthimukha after a detailed research.

Mystical copper vessel with 3 white metal strips, dragon embellishments and the lid with the knob –an angle view
Mystical copper vessel with 3 white metal strips, dragon embellishments and the lid with the knob –an angle view

About the mystical copper vessel:

This vessel is hand made of pure copper in a cylindrical shape with a decorative lid. There are three white metal strips embedded around the vessel,one at the bottom,one at the top and one at the middle.The gap in these strips are filled with white metal carved embellishments of single dragons surrounded by intricate design forming a round shape,pair of dragons intertwined forming a rectangular design and a Kirtimukha

Talking about the physical appearance of this mystical vessel, it looks like a cylinder and features all the properties of a cylinder; it has a flat base that can stand or slide and a curved body that can roll. This container comes with the lid that is detachable and has a handy knob on the top and three dragon motifs in white metal surrounding the knob.The white metal knob has a shape of two cones tapering smoothly to opposite sides from a central round base.One tip of the cone is embedded into the center of the lid surrounded by intricate circular white metal design. There are three white metal dragon around the circular design.

Once the lid is placed over the container, it gets securely sealed making the lid look like an extended version of the vessel. It also has white metal holders attached on the sides; the holders are round in shape and resemble rings that are capable of moving around. The purpose of the holder is to make it easy in lifting the vessel and maneuvering it around. The other advantage of having those holders is to have a tight grip on the vessel and stop it from slipping from your hands while lifting or moving. The exact use of the vessel is unknown. However, we assume that it must have been used to store some items related to Buddhist religious ritual.

The embellishment of single dragon surrounded by intricate design forming a round shape
The embellishment of single dragon surrounded by intricate design forming a round shape
The embellishment twin dragons intertwined forming a rectangular design
The embellishment twin dragons intertwined forming a rectangular design

The dragon in Buddhist Mythology.

According to the Buddhist mythology, dragon is depicted as a creature withcreative power and positive energy; it is also associated with change and wealth.They also depict courage, strength, passion, creativity and mastery. Dragons are also considered ashaving magical and balancing powers. They make us to get into our deep psyche and visualize the world through wonder and mystery.The dragon is the supreme being of the basic elements of wind,water,earth and fire.Dragons are considered as controlling guide and guardians.

Representation of twin dragons.

The depiction of twine dragons represents that whatever the power the single dragon possesses are doubled in the depiction of twin dragons.Buddhists believe seeing the images of twin dragons in any form ,even in dream,indicate the good luck and fructification of their wish in double force.

Though dragons are imaginary creatures but you will find some signs depicting their existence in most Buddhist monasteries and Gumpas making it real. Dragons are also worshipped as the protectors of Buddhism. Like in Hinduism,‘snake’ is regarded as holy and worshipped in different forms, dragons are considered sacred in countries like Bhutan, Japan, China, Nepal and Tibet where the major religion is Buddhism.

Kirtimukha in Buddhist mythology.

Kirtimukha is also known as Zibaor, Zeeba, Zipak

In Sanskrit, the word mukha means the “face”and kīrti means “glory “. Thus Kirtimukha means the face of glory. The origin of “Kirtimukha” goes back to a legend from the SkandaPurana which says that an all-devouring monster created from Shiva’s third eye willingly ate his body starting by its tail till only his face is left with as per Lord Shiva’s order.Lord Shiva, pleased with the act of the monster gave the face the name of Kirtimukha, face of glory. Lord Shiva also blessed him that Kirtimukha will remain always at the entrance of the temples. Buddhists have adopted some of the mythological motifs of Hinduism into the construction of Buddhistcaitya, stupa and viharas and Kirtimukha became one of the prominent Buddhist motifs on the gateways of these Buddhist religious places.

Kirtimukha with demonic mask of great ferocity, protruding eye balls, stout horns and tongue protruding out clutching the wheel of samsara
Kirtimukha with demonic mask of great ferocity, protruding eye balls, stout horns and tongue protruding out clutching the wheel of Samsara

The main features of the Kirtimukha are depicted as having a demonic mask of great ferocity with protruding eyeballs, stout horns, and a gaping maw with prominent fangs or canine teeth and the tongue protruding out.  Kirtimukha is depicted as issuing garlands or festoons from the mouth. Festoon is a decorative chain of flowers, ribbons, etc, suspended in loops as in garland.  In Buddhist mythology the mouth of Keertimukha is depicted as clutching the wheel of samsara-depicting the impermanence of the life.

Kirtimukhas often appear above archways, dormer windows and gates, of the religious places. Kirtimukha is also the main feature in the cloth door hanging in the Buddhist temples called as a toran. The Tibitan Buddhist traditional banners and hangings that adore temples and shrine rooms are intricately embroidered with Kirtimukha. Most of the Buddhists regards Kirtimukha as a magical power that wards off evil spirits and hence an auspicious motif.

The story of Kitimukha

Jalandara was a powerful Asura king and he conquered all the three worlds. Lord Shiva’s marriage with Parvathi was to take place at that time. The proud Jalandara sends a word with his messenger Rahu,that Shiva should leave Parvathi alone since he plans to marry Parvathi as he is the right person for her hand. Lord Shiva becomes so angry that a dreadful being shoots out from his third eye.The dreadful being rushed ahead to eat away Rahu.Rahu pleads mercy with Lord Shiva and then Lord Shiva commands the dreadful being to leave alone Rahu.But the Dreadful being was so hungry and asks Shiva to give it food to eat.Shiva commands the being to eat its own body flesh and satiate its hunger.The being eats its own body starting from the tail leaving its own face.Pleased with the behavior of the dreadful being since it saved his honor by not eating Rahu for whom he has given protection,he blesses the face that hence forth it will be known as Kirtimukha and will decorate the gate ways of the temples.

Copper vessel-top view- showing 3 dragon motifs on the lid
Copper vessel-top view- showing 3 dragon motifs on the lid
Mystical copper vessel with 3 white metal strips, dragon embellishments and the lid with the knob
Mystical copper vessel with 3 white metal strips, dragon embellishments and the lid with the knob

The story behind why it is called Mystical vessel.

I have enquired with Mr. Y. Krishnamurthy, known as YK, as to how he collected this wonderful piece. He said when he was in Madras (now Chennai) in the year 1983,he saw an advertisement in Hindu newspaper that a family was shifting to USA and their household items were for sale. Immediately after he saw the ad, Mr. YK rushed to the address given and he surveyed all the items they have for sale. This copper vessel immediately attracted his attention and he fell in love at the first sight. He said, he does not know what for it is used and he does not know the meaning and the significance of the mythological embellishments on the copper vessel. The beautifully shaped copper vessel with the unknown magical motifs had casted a spell on him and the mystical charm of the vessel pulled him to buy the vessel. From then on words the vessel is referred to as mystical vessel.

The vessel is there with Mr. YK since last 33 years, but he does not know since how long the previous owners had it with them. He was told that the mystical copper vessel is from Tibet.

The cylindrical shaped Mystical copper vessel and the lid shown separately
The cylindrical shaped Mystical copper vessel and the lid shown separately
The intricate design work on the knob and the base of the knob
The intricate design work on the knob and the base of the knob

Antiquity and Mystical copper vessel

This particular item may not have been a household item as it looks grand, mystic and holds some kind of religious significance. It is definitely an antique masterpiece handed down over the years that has been successfully screaming the Buddhist culture.This mystical vessel is placed prominently in the hall of Mr. YK’s house and is a head turner.

It is not surprising to find statues and idols made of copper being worshiped by the Hindus and Buddhists all over the world. We have seen different types of idols, tools and utensils made of copper used as household items or items holding religious significance throughout the history. Copper utensils and vessels were widely used in the past, however, the trend is in a declining mode as people have changed with changing times and are getting used to using stuff made up of cheap plastic. Copper utensils and vessels are regarded as one of the finest items showcasing the culture and heritage of a particular era or a country.

The best thing about antiques is it always comes with a story that enlightens us with history, value, morals and culture. So this vessel is one of them. If you have any insights about this vessel, feel free to share the same with us. We would be glad to hear more about this vessel.

Mystical copper vessel with 3 white metal strips, dragon embellishments and the lid with the knob –an angle view
Mystical copper vessel with 3 white metal strips, dragon embellishments and the lid with the knob –an angle view

 

Wonderful Article by

Srizna Nasme
Srizna Nasme
Categories
Most Viewed

Antiques – A Class Apart!

Antiques are rare collectible items that have survived the test of time and lived a lineage. It is a matter of pride to own such mystic pieces of art belonging to an era where we didn’t even live. A piece of antique takes us back in time giving an insight into the culture, values and beliefs of people who lived in that particular time period. An antique item could be anything belonging to an era; it could be anything ranging from utensils to weapons to drawings to coins. The best part about any piece of antique in present day is that it holds a lot more value and small things like a copper coin from your great great grandfather could make you a millionaire.

Antique Brass Massage Oil Cups
Antique Brass Massage Oil Cups

Antiques in modern day have been associated with the rich and famous; the ones that are available in the market cost a fortune and rest are in the museums are government property. More often than not, antiques have been smuggled and traded far and wide. Having said that, it is not so difficult to own a piece of art either. There are people who become art and antique dealers as they genuinely are mesmerized by the beauty of it and there are others who collect these rare collectibles and sell them for money. No matter which category you fall into, you have to have a flair to find a jewel in a heap of rubble. People sell replicas in the name of antiques and you have to be watchful about that. Trust a person who has in-depth understanding of antiques, before laying your hands on that item which you want to purchase or acquire.

Articles that are termed antiques are very special. Every item has a story attached to it and it portrays the efficiency and craftsmanship of the person who made it. Some artifacts have inscriptions on them and it gives us an idea about the culture of a bygone era. If you are lucky, there might be a piece of art that holds a hidden message to be deciphered. In olden days, people used to encrypt messages on various objects, as there was no way to protect it with a password. Artifacts with inscription make these objects all the more valuable. By looking at the inscriptions, you can tell which era the object belonged to and how old could that particular object be. Some objects do not even have to be so old; even things that were used a couple of decades ago can be termed antique now. And the things that we use today might be rare and valuable a couple of generations after.

However, there are a certain things that have gone missing from the face of the earth as they are replaced by a more advanced version or due to the advancement in techn aboutology. For example, when I was a kid, I had seen brass oil lamps that my grandmother use to light before it got dark. These lamps needed kerosene and a wick to do the job; there was no electricity in the villages those days. That particular lamp has become a thing of the past now; you can’t even find them in normal shops. People who have been born and brought up in cities can’t even imagine how it would look like. I would love to own one of those lamps as a showpiece for the wall in my sitting room and narrate the story behind it as to how my grandparents used it as a means of light when their village had known nothing electricity.

Sambrani Incense Brass Pot
Sambrani Incense Brass Pot

Buying and selling of antiques these days is on a rising spree. People are realising the value and importance of an old artefact. An ancient piece of artefact can be a perfect decor item; it can up lift the interior of your house to another level altogether. You can be perceived as a historian or an art lover and you never know your house can soon turn into a gallery. A copper lamp belonging to the 1920s or a brass plate from the 1800s can be a perfect decorative item for your sitting room. Most of us might even own these things at home in our store rooms, something that we inherited or something that has been passed down the family lineage. It is time you showered some love and affection on those items, dust them and give them some shine or polish. Wide range of products are available in the market that can heighten the glam quotient of a brass or copper object. You will be surprised when you place these items on the shelves of your living room; it will redefine your living space and it would catch the attention of every guest who visits your house.
Buying antiques is a onetime investment; you can flaunt your taste in antiquity to your circle of friends and family members. You will have an option to pass it down your family tree or you can even sell it at a better price if you get bored with it. Antiques are like wine, they get better with age. I have decided that the next time I visit a new place I am going to pick up a rare item as a souvenir and start my own antique art gallery at home, and who knows it might even bring me a fortune someday.

Antique Copper Water Storage Pot
Antique Copper Water Storage Pot
Categories
Most Viewed

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
Categories
Most Viewed

Thondi – The Copper Pot For Water

 

Thondi is a copper or brass pot that is used for drawing water from the well. The Thondi shown in the picture is hand made out of copper. Few decades ago when the expanding cities and towns did not have running water through pipe lines and there were no overhead water tanks to collect water by opening few valves., the main source for collecting water are wells.To collect and store water,people were using various vesselsmade out of mostly clay, brass and copper. They used to have different sizes and shapes for various utility functions of fetching and storing water. In order to stand the rugged usage of drawing water from the well, Thondi is invariably made out of copper or brass. The Thondi is used only by the orthodox Brahmins in south India who would use it from the dedicated wells meant to be used only by orthodox Brahmins.

In order to draw water from the well, one end of the rope is tied to the narrow neck of the Thondi, and lowered into the water and with dexterous movements of the rope with the hand the Thondi is coaxed to get immersed in the water. The water filled Thondi is pulled out using the other end of the rope. The water filled Thondi is then carried home by women by tucking one side of the Thondi between the hip and waist and the other side by the firm grip of the arm around the body. There is to be separate timings for men and women to draw water. The men chant their prayers while drawing the water and other holy chanting like Mantrapushpam. The men used to carry the Thondi on their head held in position by the hands or on shoulder with one arm gripping the Thondi. Thondi is a Tamil word and in Telugu it is known as Koojabindi. “Todi” in Tamil means drawing water. The vessel used for Todi is called Thondi.

 

Copper Thondi – with large belly, narrow neck and tapering mouth

 

Copper Thondi shown in inclined position

 

Copper Thondi top view

 

This particular copper Thondi shown in the picture has a story.That was the year 1948.The backdrop is Kotthurpuram suburb near Adyar in Madras,the present day Chennai. My father- in-law Machiraju Bhaskar Rao garu got a job as Sub-Divisional officer in PWD (Public Works Department) of Madras State, which included the present day state of Andhra Pradesh also. My father-law- is a core Andhra Brahmin from konaseema area of Andhra Pradesh. With the appointment orders in hand ,he shifted to Madras, with his wife, 3 kids and his orthodox mother, Pallammagaru, and taken a rented house in Kotthurpuram. The Kotthurpuram those days is a typical Brahmin Agraharam where most of the staunch Tamil Brahmins live. Kotthurpuram did not have Madras corporation supply of piped water and the locals depend on the wells for water. Kotthurpuram used to have common wells one for each group of 5 or 6 houses. The families draw the water from the wells and carry them to store in their home in large brass vessels. There used to be dedicated wells for Brahmin community where the water is allowed to draw by using Thondi only. The buckets are considered unhygienic and were not allowed to use for drawing water. Washing and cleaning the vessels are not allowed at these wells. The other wells dedicated to other communities water can be drawn bysteel buckets or by using other devices. Washing cloths and cleaning vessels are also allowed at these wells.The orthodox Brahmin families patronise a particular well and will not allow other communities to draw water for the same well. There is also the dictum that the people should use only Thondi for drawing water and other devices like buckets are not allowed.

 

A priest drawing water from the temple well with Thondi for abhishekam

 

A priest drawing water from the temple well with rope and pulley arrangement.

 

Thondi with water-drawing out of a house well with a rope

 

On the day of arrival to Kotthurpuram, Pallammagaru went to the community well meant for orthodox Brahmins equipped with a bucket and a rope made out of dry coconut husk. She was a widow and as per the custom in those days she had a shaven head and used to wear a plain white cotton sari covering her shaved head and tucked in the two earlobes. The Brahmin community welcomed the orthodox looking new lady in to their community but refused to allow her to draw water with the bucket. Pallammagaru returned home and insisted that my father-in-law to get her a copper Thondi immediately. My father-in-law applied for a half a day leave and rushed to the market and returned with this beautifully looking copper Thondi. This Thondi is used there after by pallammagaru to fetch MadiNeellu(the water fetched after observing thorough hygiene like taking head bath and wearing clothes that are washed and untouched by others). MadiNeellu are used for pooja purpose and for cooking.I was told that Pallammagaru once corrected the Mantrapushpam recital of a Tamil Brahmine and the well community were surprised at the knowledge of the Telugu widow and there after her image and prestige in the community got elevated. For the general purpose water, Pallammagaru used to draw the water from the well and Satyavathigaru used to carry the water to the house. The Thondi is 66 years old. After Pallammagaru demise, the Thondi has come into the custody of my mother-in-law, Machiraju Satyavathi garu and after her passing away in the year 1993,this lovely Thondi was inherited by my wife, Ramana and is there in our house ever since.Now it is a proud piece of antique in my collection.

 

Copper Thondi- jointing done by hand in a beautiful design around the belly

 

Copper Thondi- bottom plate joint hand made with artistic circular design

 

The design of the Thondi is unique. It has a large belly to hold the water and a narrow neck to regulate out flow of water. The neck flares up to a wide mouth with a rim around the mouth. The narrow neck is also useful to tie the rope around the neck and the slippage is prevented by the belly at one side and the wide mouth opening on the other side. The rounded belly shape snuggly fits into the curve of the female waist. The whole Thondi is handmade and the joints are made so beautiful to look like a design. It has a curvy bottom so that it can be smoothly tilted to pour water into a tumbler for drinking purpose. The entire Thondi is conveniently designed to draw water, carry water and to store water. A real multipurpose grand vessel.

The dug well: The hand dug wells are known to have existed since ancient times.Wells are the basic source of water in most of the towns and villages. Most of the wealthy families have their own private wells and the others use the community wells. Most of these wells are hand dug wells.to dig a well, soil is excavated in round shape like a tunnel into the earth till the water source is found and further 6to 7 feet deep down from the water table.The entire surface of the tunnel will be lined with stones or bricks so that the soil around the tunnel do not slip into the water. After invention of cement,it became a practice to line the tunnel with pre-casted well rings made out of cement which are lowered into the well one over the other. The lining will be extended above the surface up to 3o 4 feet to form a wall around the well to prevent animals and humans from falling into the well by accident.This will also prevents from surrounding  water entering the well from the land around. Some of the hand dug wells have a pulley system to draw water with comfort.

 

Step well- admire the intricate pattern of the steps leading to water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The step wells: Step wells are large intricately designed structures with convenient steps from the upper level of the ground sloping down till the level of the water body. These are architectural marvels.People with water pots can step down till the water source and climb back with the water.The step wells are more prevalent in the western part of Indian states like Gujarat and Rajastan. I have also seen a beautiful step well in Mathura, the birth place of Lord Krishna and also in the heritage site of Hampi, the once upon capital of the great Vijayanagara empire. In summer hot days, people go and sit near the water body on the steps for cool ambience. Step wells are centres for social gathering where people meet in the evenings and exchange local news and gossip. The step wells were known to have existed since Neolithic period. There are step wells discovered in Cyprus belonging to 7,500 BC andin Israel belonging to 6,500 BC.

For further reading on copper pots for water please click on the below link:

http://ykantiques.com/2013/06/antique-copper-water-storage-pot-pani-ka-ghada.html

Categories
Most Viewed

Antique Brass Kindi: Lota With A Spout

 

 

 

 

Kindi is a type of Indian lota or chambu with a spout mostly used in kerala state, India, as a multipurpose vessel.It is used as a water dispenser for various pooja rituals and daily ablutions. Kindi like vessel with spout is also used in Andhra Pradesh and is called KommuChambu. Similar kindis are used in north India with a handle and is called kamandalam. The kindi is said to have existed since the dawn of the civilisation to store and carry water from place to place. The primitive kindi is made with clay and as the civilisation progressed, kindis are made with metals like brass, bronze, copper, silver and even gold and in various sizes. The smallest size one normally made either with silver or gold is used for ritual pooja and the larger ones generally made out of brass or bronze are used for daily ablutions.

I have collected 2 beautiful kindis as shown in the picture. The large kindi is made with brass and the small one with copper.

Brass kindi showing base, big belly, curved neck, wide mouth and a spout

 

 

The antique brass Kindi: This kindi has a wonderful shape with a bottom rim for support, a large bellyto hold water, a smoothly curved neck and a wide mouth on the top of the neck to receivethe water. There is a concave curved spout attached to the belly with a ring around the hole of the spout to protect the whole from accidental damage.The wide mouth has a sloping grip ring which is designed to carry the kindi with the five fingers. There is embossed ring around the base of the neck. There are parallel line designs around the large belly that arehandmade. The belly is filled up with water poured from the open mouth and water is dispensed through the hole of the spout. I have purchased this lovely kindi from RASI silk house, a reputed shop near Kapaleswara temple, Mylapore, Chennai, in the year 1994who used to sell rare antiques along with classical silk saris and dress material.

 

Copper kindi showing the base, small belly, straight neck, tapered mouth and the spout

 

The antique copper Kindi: This cute copper kindi has different design. It has a larger straight neck than the belly.The neck opening is flared at the top.There is a grip ring just below the flared neck opening. The  spout has a convex curve.There is an embossed ring joining the belly and the neck. This pretty copper kindi is gifted to me by my colleague from Kerala by name Subramani in the year 1984.I was told that his grandfather was using this kindi for pooja and abhishekam purpose.

The design of Kindi: The shape of the kindi is designed to minimise the wastage of water.The narrow spout opening will dispense water that is just required for the purpose like washing feet, hand and drinking without any spillage or loss. Its design is such that water will not get contaminated as the fingers will never touch the water when the kindi is used.

Brass kindi showing slip ring attached to the mouth and embossed ring joining belly and neck

 

The multiple uses of Kndi

VellaKindi:  VellaKindi is used for storing and drinking water. It is a common practice in traditional south Indian families few decades ago to keep a kindi filled with water at the entrance of the house on the first step. The traditional houses used to have in the front an elevated plat form on both sides of the steps leading to the entrance called Arugu in Telugu and Arukkanchatti in Malayalam. VellaKindi is placed on the first stepand the guest is expected to wash his feet, hands and face with the water from the kindi. Thereafter the guest would sit on the Arugu and drink the water from the protruding spout  of the same kindi. In certain communities like south Indian Brahmins, they practice a hygienic tradition called yengily in Telugu and Echai in Tamil in which the person while drinking water should not touch the vessel with his lips. If it touches the lips, the content of the vessel becomes impure for consumption by other person. Kindi is designed to beat this practice since the spout helps to take water from the vessel without touching the lips. Thus it is convenient to have multiple people have the water from the same kindi. Kindi is also used to clean the hands after taking the meals.

 

Copper kindi in inclined position

 

Copper kindi with top view

 

Pooja kindi: Pooja kindi is used for Hindu ceremonial prayer known as pooja. Kindi is a must in most of the communities in Kerala particularly in Namboodri and Nair communities. The kindi is used to perform abhishekam to idols by pouring water or milk on the deities through the spout of the kindi. The same kindi is used for giving theertam to devotees after the pooja. For achamanam ritual (drinking small quantities of water during pooja) people in the other regions use uddarini and panchapatram for using small quantity of water but kindi is used in place of Uddarini in kerala. Udharani is also used in the pooja ritual of Arghyam, and Sandhya. Uddarini is also used to distribute holy water as prasadam to devotees.

In Kerala, Kindi is an integral part of any religious ritual. It is a tradition in Nair families that the bride should bring one kindi along with the utensils she brings to her new family after the marriage. It is a traditional practice to gift the new bride with a set of seven vessels called Ezhupaatram comprising of the inevitable kindi, Kuthuvilakku (oil lamp), Thambalam, Kolambi(spittoon) and assorted plates in brass or bronze.

 

Brass kindi with rear side view notice the parallel line design on the belly

 

Brass kindi showing spout and spout hole

 

Brass kindi with top view- notice the wide mouth to pour in water and spout hole to dispense water out

 

The oil Kindi: Herbal oil is used during the Ayurvedic treatment for oil massages. Kindi is invariably used to pour the oil on the massaged body.The quantity of the oil required can be controlled by the movement of the wrist when pouring oil through the spout of the Kindi. Kindi is so convenient that the poring can be handled by one hand with precision while the second is used to spread the oil on the body.

Kindi for ceremonies: The Hindu marriage ceremony is actually called Kanyadanam, meaning gifting a virgin girl.The bride groom is considered as Maha Vishnu and the father of the bride gifts his daughter to the groom by washing his feet with water and giving a coconut to the groom as a symbol of giving his daughter.For washing the feet of the groom kindi is used as a tradition. In annual death ceremonies of the departed elders known as Shraddha, it is a tradition to use Kindi for washing the Brahmin’s feet that are considered as Devas and Pitrs.

The story of Sukracharya and kindi: There is a famous story in puranas depicting how Sukracharya, the guru of asuras, lost his eye due to blocking the hole of a kindi. Bali is a great asura king and he has conquered both the earth and the heavens and thrown Indra out from his kingdom of Devas. Indra prays to lord Vishnu to restore his kingdom. Lord Vishnu visits Bali in the form of a dwarf Brahmin called Vamana, asks for a boon of tripada (three feet lengh) of land and Bali grants the boon to Vishnu. It is a tradition that any boon granted should be accompanied with water as a witness to the granting. Sukracharya is against Bali granting boon to Vamana and hides himself in the hole of the spout of the Kindi to prevent water flowing out thus hampering the boon. Vamana takes a dharba grass and pierces the hole to dislodge Sukrachrya and in the process Sukracharya becomes blind in one eye. For complete story on Vamana and Bali and how Sukracharya lost his eye please read the article by clicking on the following link.

http://ykantiques.com/2013/08/antique-brass-and-copper-kamandalam.html

The evolution of Kindi: According to Vedic knowledge, the entire universe is the manifestation of panchabhuta in varying combinations dictated by cosmic laws. The panchabhuta, the five elements, are -earth, water, fire, air and ether. The panchabhuta are the basic elements that form the life force.Thus Hindus consider water as a basic life giving and sustaining force. Any element that is a life giving force should be pure and hence water is considered as pure and purifier.Water as a purifier has taken the vital role in all Hindu rituals and daily life. In India water is called Ganga devi elevating water to the divine status of goddess. Man from times immemorial has been creating vessels to carry the life giving water along with him to quench his thirst and to use for religious ceremonies. Starting from the earthen vessel, kindi has taken various forms of evolution and taken a central place in many of the houses few decades ago made out of Bell metal, brass, copper, silver and even gold.

Some attribute the origin of present Kindi to the cultural invasion by Arabs to the coast of Kerala in South India. They came to Kerala via sea route for trade and gradually settled in Kerala coast by marrying the locals.Now there exists a community called Mapalai literally meaning son-in-law who resemble Arabs and blended themselves into Malayali culture. It is a practice in Arab culture that they share food from common plate and drink water from a single jug. Indians use each separate plate for food coand separate vessel to drink water. One school of thought believes that it is Arabs who invented the Kindi. This vessel with a spout satisfied the cultural element of both societies in a way that water can be shared by all from the single vessel and at the same time the lips are not in contact with the water.

Categories
Most Viewed

Vintage Ugadi Vendi Ginni (Silver bowl)

Vintage Ugadi Vendi Ginni
Vintage Ugadi Vendi Ginni

 

 

 

 

 

 

This vintage silver bowl is used for keeping the Ugadi pachhadi the traditional chutney prepared every year for Ugadi festival. We used to call this vintage bowl as Vendi Mattu Ginni meaning the silver bowl with Mattu, a type of supporting ring under the bowl. This vintage silver Mattu Ginni is used only for two occasions. Firstly, to hold and serve Ugadi chutney every year and secondly to serve curds whenever we have a special guest or ceremonial meals on festive and religious occasions. The rest of the time this beautiful silver bowl is kept in the wooden cupboard in the bedroom. For each occasion, my mother used to take out the Mattu Ginni from the locked cupboard clean it with white lime powder domestically made with sea shells called gulla muggu. If the sea shell powder is exhausted, until the fresh lot of sea shells arrive, my mother used to make lime powder by crushing the lime stone called raati muggu. At any cost the silver bowl has to be cleaned with natural lime powder only. Once in a while, the vendimattuginni is given to our only trusted gold smith, Somasekharam, for polishing. After polishing he is to return the precious silver bow to my mother wrapped in a pink colour paper to make it look like an almost new one. 

Antique silver Vendi Mattu Ginni top view
Antique silver Vendi Mattu Ginni top view

 

The antique VendiMattuGinni has a great history. My paternal grandfather, Yenugu Krishna Murthy garu (garu is a respectful way of addressing elders in Andhra) has started the only school in our village Someswaram, in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh when he was around 18 years age. The school started with few students has grown up to a large educational institute and was later taken over by the government. He served the school as a head master till he retired in the year 1944. His retirement was an emotional and touchy occasion to my grandfather as well as to the entire village. On this occasion the students collectively presented this enchanting silver bowl to my grandfather. It is inscribed on the back of the antique bowl as “Sri Sishya Sangham Ye.Kru.gariki samarpinchinadi.12-11-44”. Meaning that the bowl was gifted to Shree Yenugu Krishnamurthy, by the Disciples Association on the day, dated November 12, 1944. He served as a teacher for 40 years and the entire village used to address him as “Mastarugaru” meaning “teacher sir” and not by his name. Our family has a great emotional and esteem value for this antique silver Mattuginni. That is why it is used only for the Ugadi pachhadi which is a new year for Telugu community and is celebrated with great religious fervour.

Back side of the silver bowl with inscription of gift details
Back side of the silver bowl with inscription of gift details

 

 

During my younger days Ugadi festival means, the inevitable oil bath early in the morning, prayer to our family deity and tasting the Ugadi chutney kept ready by my mother in the silver bowl. I used to run away from my mother to avoid the chutney since it used to be more bitter than sweetish. My mother would catch hold of me and put a spoonful of pachhadi in our palm and ask us to swallow. I used to close my eyes and manage to swallow the chutney with a puckered face. In order to keep me happy on a festive day my mother is to reward me with a piece of new jaggery and I used to tuck the piece in between the cheek and tongue and run away from the scene. Later I used to take a raw mango, cut into pieces, sprinkle red chilli powder and salt and eat it along with the saliva that already sprang out while we cut the raw mango. It is on later days that we understood the significance of eating the Ugadi chutney with its varied and mixed tastes. I subsequently started taking the once-in-a-year dish with enlightened attitude, reverence and started enjoying the mixed variety of tastes.

Shree Yenugu Krishna Murthy Garu,to whom the silver mattuginni is gifted.
My grandfather Shri. Yenugu Krishnamurthy to whom the mattuginni is gifted
Vintage silver Vendi mattuginni with Ugadi Pachhadi
Vintage silver Vendi mattuginni with Ugadi Pachhadi

 

When is Ugadi Celebrated?

The word Ugadi comes from the Sanskrit word”YUgadi” “Yuga” means age and refers to the age we are living in now called Kali Yuga. “Adi” means beginning. Hence YUgadi means beginning of the new Yuga or new age or era.The new Yuga is the current running Kali Yuga which started following the death of Lord Krishna who belongs to Dwapara Yuga. According to the scriptures the death of Lord Krishna took place on 17th February 3102 BC,Kali Yuga started from the mid night of 17/18 of 3120. Ugadi festival denotes the New Year day for the people of South of India between Vindhya Mountains and Kaveri River covering the states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa who follow Lunar calendar.

YUgadi or Ugadi, Samvatsaradi are all meaning same thing denoting new year. Hindu Calendar which is Luni- solar in nature has a cycle of 60 years and each year has a unique name. Each year is subdivided into 12 months and each month has a name. On completion of 60 years the Hindu calendar starts again with the first name. The Hindu calendar has two version called Suryamana and chandramana. In Suryamana the calendar is worked out basing on the movement of the Sun and in Chandramana basing on the movement of moon. Generally Hindus from the north of India ( India that is north of Vindhya mountains ) follow Suryamana and the Hindus from South India (India that is South of Vindhya Mountains) follow Chandramana. Hindus follow Saka calendar known as Panchangam which begins with the month of Chaitra, and Ugadi is the first day of Chaitra masam which falls in the English calendar March-April. Hindus who follow Chandramana, observe the newyear on the first day of Chaitra Masa and those who follow Suryamana, the new year comes two weeks after first day of Chaitra Masa. This is why Hindu New Year is celebrated twice in the year with different names and at two different times of the year.

It is called Ugadi in Telugu and Kannada, the people of Maharashtra call this festival Gudi Padwa. This Hindu New Year is celebrated by Marwaris of Rajasthan as Thapna, Sindhis as Cheti Chand, Manipuris as Sajibunongmapanba. The people of Tamil Nadu celebrate the New Year festival as Puthandu, Punjabis as Baisakhi, and people of Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh as Seri Saja and West Bengalis as Pohela Boishakh.

Ugadi is also celebrated by the Hindus of the countries of Mauritius, Bali and Indonesia as New Year by name Nyepi. The Hindu calendar has spread to the other countries due to common rule under Satavahana Dynasty.

The Hindu Shaka almanac starts with the date on which the great Shalivahana Empire was started and hence is called Salivahana Shaka. The king Satavahana also identified as Shalivahana and Gautamiputra Satakarni is known to have started the Shalivahana Era which corresponds to 78 AD of Christian Era.

Various ingredients of the Ugadi pachhadi
Various ingredients of the Ugadi pachhadi

 

 

 

Significance of Ugadi day

According to Hindus, Lord Brahma started creation on the day of Ugadiie. Chaitra Suddha Padhyami. The beginning of vasantha rutu, the spring season also coincides with Ugadi when the nature is in full bloom and the new life takes place justifying the beginning of new year with new hope and signifying prosperity and growth.

The pandits prepare new panchangam, the yearly calendar and read it for the people of the village for them to have a glimpse of the life to come in the new year. This ceremony called Panchanga Sravanam is done in the temple or under the tree at the centre of the village. The major predictions will be the rains for the year in which the villagers were very much interested in for the crops for the year on which their prosperity is depended. Also the major predictions are the solar and Lunar eclipses known as Grahanam.

On the day of Ugadi the people clean in front of the houses by splashing cow dung water and decorate with colourful rangoli known as muggulu made with lime powder or chalk powder or with rice powder. The main doorway called Simha dwaram is decorated with mango leaves and flowers. Then they take traditional bath called Abhyangana Snanam where in Til oil (sesame seed oil) is applied to the body and head and washed off with a paste made out of herbal powder called Nalugupindi. The oil from the head is washed off with soap-nut solution (herbal shampoo). Then they pray to their family deity and wear new cloths.After this purification they take Ugaadi Pachhadi, the special chutney prepared for this day with ingredients that produce 6 different tastes.

 

Vintage silver bowl with Ugadi Pachhadi showing neem flowers and other ingredients.
Vintage silver bowl with Ugadi Pachhadi showing neem flowers and other ingredients.

 

The significance of Ugadi Pachhadi

 

Ugadi pachhadi denotes a great philosophy of life, in life we experience various emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, bitterness and we should take all experiences, pleasant or unpleasant, good or bad in a balanced way. Similarly Ugadi chutney consists of 6 varieties of ingredients that have six distinct tastes called Shadruchulu-some pleasant and some unpleasant. Tasting of Ugadi chutney on new year’s day remind us that life is a mixture of different experiences and we should accept and take them in a positive attitude. The Ugadi Chutney consists of the following special ingredients that produce the unique characteristic tastes-

 

Fresh Neem tree (margosa) flowers : for bitterness

New jaggery : for sweetness

Green chillies or black pepper :for spicy and hot taste

Salt : for salty taste

New tamarind juice: for sour taste

New crop of unripe mango: for the tangy taste.

 

Each taste is associated with different emotions in our behaviour.

Bitterness is associated with Sadness

Sweetness is associated with Happiness

Spicy hot taste  is associated with Anger 

Salty taste  is associated with Fear 

Sour taste  is associated with Disgust

Tangy taste  is associated with Surprise

 

The Ugadi chutney made with different tastes should be recognised in the spirit of equanimity to lead a balanced and composed life. It denotes the fact that life is a mixture of different emotions and experiences and all should be taken in the same spirit. The Udadi pachhadi is a symbolic taste of Different flavours of life that need to be harmonized and balanced to lead a healthy and happy life.

 

The ingredients- Neem flowers, raw mango, tamarind, green chillies, jaggery, sugarcane, ripe banana and others
The ingredients- Neem flowers, raw mango, tamarind, green chillies, jaggery, sugarcane, ripe banana and others

 

How to prepare Delicious Ugadi Pachhadi

The ingredients

1 table spoon-Neem tree flowers (Vepapuvvulu, Margosa flowers)

3 table spoons –fresh mango cut into small pieces with skin.

3 table spoons –grated freshly made  jaggery

1 table spoon- finely chopped coconut pieces.

3 table spoons-fresh tamarind paste

6 inches long sugar cane peeled and finely cut pieces.

1  ripe banana paste

1 inch long green chilly finely chopped or few black peppers

Powdered salt to taste.

Preparation.

Keep all the ingredients in a porcelain or stainless steel bowl and mix all of them with the hand to form a gravy or sauce like consistency. If you like the chutney to be liquid you can add little bit of water till the required consistency is achieved. The traditional way of tasting this pachhadi is by eating with the hand. Take one table spoon full of pachhadi into the cup of your palm and put into the mouth just like you take the prasadam from a temple priest.The right way to taste the pachhadi is to keep it in the mouth for some time so that the tastes of various ingredients are experienced in the mouth and allow the saliva flow into the mouth. Bite and chew the cut pieces of mango, sugarcane, coconut, neem flowers and swallow the mixture slowly. The ceremonial way of tasting the Ugadi pachhadi is one way of having a family get together on the festive occasion and share the experiences of each on the taste of the chutney. The Ugadi Pachhadi has a lot of medicinal properties with herbs like neem and other ingredients like raw mango, new jaggery and tamarind containing properties that clean our system and serve as prophylactics (prevention of disease).May be the tradition of eating Ugadi pachhadi in the beginning of the year has inherent system of preventive medication to face the changing seasons

 

 

 

 

Categories
Uncategorized

Antique Brass Hair Untangler

Antique Brass hair untangler
Antique Brass hair untangler

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

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

 

Two pronged edges and handle
Two pronged edges and handle

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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