6437

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Hindu Bronze Five-headed Cobra (Mucalinda) Arati Lamp

South India
18th century

length: 17.8cm, height: 12.5cm

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Provenance

UK art market

This votive arati lamp is of cast bronze. It is in the form of a five-headed cobra (Mucalinda) rising from a lotus stem. The lamp stands on two domed feet, both of which are etched with lotus petal motifs to suggest lotus blooms with the scrolling bronze stem between them being cast as a lotus stem. This functioned as the lamp’s handle.

The lamp does not have pans to hold oil. Instead, it is of a more unusual type whereby the back of each of the cobra’s heads has a small eyelet through which cotton slivers soaked in ghee or some other oil were inserted and lit.

The lotus stem handle allowed the lamp to be moved in front of a deity as part of the arati ritual, a component of puja worship. The lamp would be moved in a clockwise direction before the image of the deity.

A similar example is illustrated in Kelkar (1961).

The example here has a splendid, dark patina. The back foot has been cast such that it does not sit flat but this does not affect the overall evenness with which the lamp stands.

Overall, this is an unusual lamp with a wonderful patina.

References

Kelkar, D.G., Lamps of India, Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, India, 1961.

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

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