Silver-Inlaid Bidri Hookah Base
early 19th century
height: 19.0cm, diameter of base: 20.2cm, weight: 2.509kg
This bell-shaped hookah base is profusely decorated with inlaid silver. Unusually for a piece of this age, very little of the silver inlay has been lost.
The inlay comprises a band of Ottoman-style stylised tulip heads around the base and shoulder, and spiralling bands of flowers on the body and neck.
The base flares at the bottom far more than most extant examples giving it a particularly graceful and elegant shape.
The base is inlaid in silver three times in
nasta’liq script and a date of 1256 which corresponds either to 1840 in the hijra calendar or to approximately 1811 if the Bangla calendar introduced by the Mughals was used.
Stronge (1985, p. 30) shows a bell-shaped hookah base which has a Persian inscription in inlaid silver which names the commissioner of the hookah base and provides the
hijra date of 1296 (1878-9).
Bidriware is believed to have originated in the city of Bidar in the Deccan. It is cast from an alloy of mostly zinc with copper, tin and lead. The vessels are overlaid or inlaid with silver, brass and sometimes gold. A paste that contains sal ammoniac is then applied which turns the ally dark black but leaving the silver, brass and gold unaffected.
Stronge, S., Bidri Ware: Inlaid Metalwork from India, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1985; and Lal, K., Bidri Ware: National Museum Collection, National Museum New Delhi, 1990.
Inventory no.: 731
Inscriptions to the base