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This beautifully patinated bronze vessel known as a thara pathiram is in the form of a horned cow, possibly Surabhi, the cow of plenty and the mother of all cows. It has a broad opening at one end, and is pierced at the other, the cow’s mouth or snout. The body of the vessel is bulbous and bordered by rows of chiselled lotus petals. The horns, facial features and petals are all well rendered.
Such a vessel would have been suspended with the cow head pointing down over a lingam – a phallus-shaped representation of Shiva. It would have been filled with milk or some other similar liquid which would then drip, drop by drop, from the cow’s mouth over the lingam.
Lingams are regarded as ‘hot’ and require regular cooling as an act of worship. The constant dripping from such a vessel is described as Abhisheka, an act of reverence for Shiva.
See Weber et al (2013, p. 134) for a related example, and Bussabarger & Dashew Robins (1968, p. 80) for another.
The thara pathiram here has an excellent patina. The surface is smooth and soft from ritual use and has a deep chocolate colour.
Bussabarger, R.F. & B. Dashew Robins, The Everyday Art of India, Dover, 1968.
Weber, J., et al, Sur la Routes des Indes: Un Ingenieur Francais dans le Tamil Nadu, Somogy Editions d’Art, 2013.