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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 Copper Water Storage Pot – Pani Ka Ghada

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

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

Design of the Copper Water Storage Pot

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

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

Section 1: A convex bowl at the bottom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Ownership of the Copper Water Storage Pot – The Story

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

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

The Tradition of Copper Pot Making

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

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

Making of the Copper Pot

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

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

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

Copper pot or Ghada – As a Folk Musical Instrument

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

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

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


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

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