16 Brass Foot Scrubbers (Vajri)
Maharashtra or Karnataka, India
19th-early 20th centuries
length: 5cm – 9cm
This collection of sixteen different foot scrubbers (vajri) comes from southern India and dates to the early 20th century, the 19th and possibly the 18th century. Typically they were used by women when bathing to scrub the feet, something made necessary as most users did not wear shoes.
vajri is of cast brass and comprises a pedestal with perforated lattice work and a rough, scored base, that is surmounted by a decorative cast figure or composition that includes mongooses, peacocks, lions, horses and elephants. The figures also serves as a handle. Such vajris are similar in function to present-day foot-scrubbers in steel and plastic.
Small pebbles or rocks are contained within the bases of most of the scrubbers. Bathing often occurred in a public space, perhaps a stream or river. When the scrubber was being used, the small pebbles jingled, perhaps to warn off others in the vicinity that women were bathing nearby.
One vajri is illustrated in Sharma R.C. et al, Alamkara: 5000 Years of Indian Art, National Heritage Board (Singapore)/Mapin, 1994. Several are illustrated in Jain-Neubauer J., Feet & Footwear in Indian Culture, The Bata Shoe Museum Foundation, 2000, p. 35.
Inventory no.: 582
for another example of a Vajri.