The particularly fine silver bowl has been repoussed in high relief. It shows various scenes from the Mahajanaka Jataka, the story of one the the Buddha’s previous lives. The Buddha is not shown in this bowl – he is yet to be born. But a dispute between the Buddha’s father and uncle over the throne is depicted by a dramatic battle scene involving warriors atop elephants. There is also a scene where the Buddha’s mother learns of the defeat of her husband. She is shown being supported by two female attendants on hearing the news from two male messengers. She is then shown in another scene fleeing the palace in an ox cart.
The top of the bowl has a raised border of stylised scrolling orchid leaf motifs. A wider motif of repeated leaf motifs is at the lower register of the bowl.
The base is engraved with a tiger motif, which is purely decorative.
The form of such a bowl is supposedly based on Burmese monks’ begging or alms bowls known as a thabeik (one of the eight parikkharas or possessions allowed a monk). In turn, such bowls are based on a bowl that the Buddha himself is said to have used. But although the shape of such bowls is based on the monk’s begging bowl, ironically, Burmese monks are prohibited from touching gold or silver. Accordingly, Burmese silversmiths did not use their skills on religious objects unlike silversmiths in other Buddhist lands such as Tibet or Sri Lanka.
The bowl is in excellent condition.
Fraser-Lu, S., Silverware of South-East Asia, Oxford University Press, 1989.
Fraser-Lu, S., Burmese Crafts: Past and Present, Oxford University Press, 1994.
Green, A., Burmese Silver from the Colonial Period, Ad Illisvm, 2022.
Tilly, H.L., The Silverwork of Burma (with Photographs by P. Klier), The Superintendent, Government Printing, 1902.
Tilly, H.L., Modern Burmese Silverwork (with Photographs by P. Klier), The Superintendent, Government Printing, 1904.