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Coco-de-Mer Libation Pitcher for a Hindu Tantric Mendicant (Sadhu)

Haridwar, Uttarakhand (formerly in Uttar Pradesh), India
19th-early 20th century

length: 32cm, height: 26cm



UK art market

This vessel, made to hold water and for use by a tantric wandering Hindu holy man or mendicant (sadhu), comprises a carved coco-de-mer nut fitted with a wooden base and a wooden handle and lid. The lid has been turned and its rim has been painted pink. It has a small turned wooden pull with a small bone finial. The lid is connected to the handle by a brass chain. The handle is decorated with two star-shaped bone inserts. There is also a brass tube pourer from which water is emitted from the pitcher.

An almost identical example is illustrated in Rawson (1971, p. 15).

The nut of the coco-de-mer was traded across India and Iran. It is native to several islands in the Indian Ocean and in the past would float ashore and so it was originally believed to grow on some type of sea plant, hence its name.

Haridwar is on the Ganges River, and is one of India’s most important Hindu pilgrimage sites. It hosts several religious festivals throughout the year including the Kavad Mela and Somvati Amavasya Mela festivals, in which more than two million pilgrims take part.

It also hosts the massive Kumbh Mela festival every twelve years in which as many as 80 million pilgrims visit the city to bathe in the Ganges.

The city has long been a draw for Hindu sadhus and vessels such as the example here traditionally were made in the city for pilgrims to buy as meritorious offerings to sadhus.

The example here is in excellent condition.


Rawson, P., Tantra, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1971.

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