Brass Temple Lamp Cast with Musicians
height: 64cm, weight: 6,412g (6.412kg)
This extraordinary lamp is cast in brass with four tiers and a total of thirty standing pujadevi figures each playing a traditional Nepalese musical instrument, such as horns, conch shells, cymbals, drums, and gongs. The four tiers pull apart and clip back together by means of a bayonet screwing mechanism. Each figure has been cast using the lost wax (cire perdue) process and so each is unique.
The lowest tier starts with an open-work lotus petal border. The final, upper tier is topped by a double lotus petal holder that can be used to hold a candle.
Almost certainly this lamp was cast in the Kathmandu Valley. Lamps from western Nepal tend to be less elaborate. Most probably it was commissioned for a temple. Certainly, it is in Nepal almost more than anywhere else on the subcontinent that inventive gestures and motifs are incorporated into lamps even if they are intended for religious purposes.
It is not unusual for musicians to perform in temples in Nepal. Troupes of musicians of between five and thirty gather in temples or other areas to perform religious songs (
bhajan mandalie). The music can be raucous and all of the instruments depicted in this lamp may be used.
Dating the lamp is difficult. It is certainly twentieth century. It was acquired in the UK where its use and origins had become obscured suggesting that it has been in the UK for some time.
Acquired from the UK art market
Anderson, S., Flames of Devotion: Oil Lamps from South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2006.
Nepalese Cast Religious and Cultural Lamps, Pilgrims Publishing, Volume 2, 2005.
Lamps of India, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India, 1961.
Inventory no.: 1434