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Unusual Indian Bronze Conch-Shaped Libation Cup with Hidden Turtle

18th-19th century

length: 12cm, height: 5cm, width: 5.8cm



UK art market

This small brass or solid copper vessel is modelled after a conch shell or a yoni and was used to lustrate water and other offerings over images of deities and lingams as part of the daily Hindu prayer (puja) ritual.

The sides have been cast with rows of leaf or petal motifs as well as parrots on each side.

The vessel sits on a small, flared foot. Hidden in the underside of the foot is a small cast turtle – like a secret treasure to be privately appreciated by the user. The turtle is an allusion to Kurma, one of the avatars of Vishnu, and is associated with the story of the churning of the ocean of milk.

The vessel has a golden brown patina and the contours have been softened from years of ritual (puja) use.

This is an uncommon form with obvious age. The surprise addition of the turtle is a delightful touch.


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

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