Object Of Month

Object Of Month

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Jesus on Cross

17th–18th Century A.D.
Ivory, 32.5 cms. x 25 cms.
Goa, India
Acc. No. – 76.59

Jesus came with a message of peace, forgiveness and love, with the promise of eternal life for those who turned to him. He broke no law, committed no crime and sanctioned no rebellion. However, since Christ had identified himself as a Messiah with the "suffering servant" of Isaiah, it caused his rejection and thus was crucified on the Calvary. This figure showing Christ with outstretched hands and head bent towards his right, depicting the scene after crucifixion. Whereas the body and head are carved out of one piece of ivory, the arm and the loin cloth-ends are carved separate and joined together. He is having beard, moustaches and hair leaning to shoulders and the face shows the pain being suffered by the body. This body shows emaciated figure, similarly his hands and legs show realistically rare treatment-veins, muscles etc. He is wearing only a loin cloth fastened with a rope. Nail marks on palms and feet. Traces of paint can be seen at places.

Rose water Sprinkler

Mid 19th century
Ferozabad, Uttar Pradesh
Material: Opaque white glass, painted
Size: Ht. 19.5; Wd. 5.8 cm.
Acc. No. 57.31/17

‘Gulabpash’ or ‘rose water sprinkler’, has been coined from two words; ‘gulab’ (rose) and ‘pash’ (container). The fragrance of the rose was popular with royals and nobles, and used in a variety of ways. The essence of rose flower was extensively used in cuisine, in cosmetics and in courtly affairs. The custom of sprinkling the rose water during social events, ritualistic ceremonies and festive occasions was the part of court etiquette in northern India. The fragrance of rose water is preserved in different types of gulabpash, made of a variety of materials; glass, silver, gold or gold gilded according to taste and stature of the user. Imaginative Artisans created containers in different shapes, generally with a globular body and long elongated neck with perforated tip. This opaque glass rose water sprinkler is in the shape of a bird. It has an oblong body, flat and rounded tail, narrow zigzag feathers and it stands on three legs. The body is hollow, with a small projected knob for filling the bottle and a tiny hole at the mouth for sprinkling the rose water. The slight depression on the front just under the beak is provided probably for better grip. The small flower butis (motif) contrasts with the white opaque ground which makes this piece very attractive. The object is a good example of nineteenth century Indian glassware.

Jambhala (God of wealth)

Pāla period, 11th century, CE
Eastern India
Size, 7.8 x 5 x 5 cm.
Bronze, Acc. No. 74.296

During Pala-Sena period a strong regional style of art developed. With the growth of Vajrayāna, a number of Hindu tantric deities were assimilated in to the Buddhist pantheon. Jambhala is considered as the god of wealth and is counterpart of the Hindu god Kubera. The three eyed, two armed, pot bellied miniature deity is shown seated in lalitāsana (posture of relaxation) with his left leg drawn-up on a single inverted lotus pedestal having a beaded border at the top and a plain moulding at the bottom. The right leg is pendent resting on an over turned nidhi (treasure). He is clad in a dhotī (lower garment), engraved with a pattern of dotted circles held by a girdle. In the right hand, he holds a citron while in the left he carries a mongoose, vomiting jewels. A decorated udarabandha (girdle), is visible only at the back. He wears an elaborate conical diadem, armlets, bracelets, necklace, pattrakundalas (ear ornaments) and the wide conspicuous ends of ribbon over his ears. His dreamy eyes and smile, indicate an indolent, contended attitude of opulence..

Jewellery Mould

Sunga 1st century BCE
Northern India
Size 11.0 x 6.2 x 5.5 cm
Acc. No.-78.138

In ancient times, both male and female partook in the activity of adorning jewellery. A large variety of jewellery was worn during the Sunga period 2nd – 1st century BCE as is evident from terracotta figurines and excavations. Earrings and armlets were worn both by male and female, while girdles and anklets were worn exclusively by the latter. This period also witnessed an evolution of ornaments. The lalatika, many-stringed necklaces and phalaka-hara became more popular. The use of triratna and srivastsa symbols also gained importance, along with that of pearl- strings and bead-string. Interestingly, excavations generally not have yielded variant of ornaments made from expensive materials such as gold and silver. The materials thus used include copper, bronze, led and terracotta. However, even though gold and silver jewellery from the sunga period are not physically present in abundance, archaeologists have found a few moulds which indicate the exact manner in which these ornaments were made. One such mould is on display here. It is rectangular, narrow and is carved on two faces in low relief. It depicts floral medallions, horned ibexes and an elongated vase. It also includes crescents shaped designs and the srivatsa symbol of Sri-Laksmi. These designs were most probably used to make pendants, ear plugs and other jewellery. The back is carved with a design for making long strips that can be used for girdles.


Acc. No. 2471
3rd-2nd Century BC
Mathura, Uttar Pradesh
Diameter 10 cm

This neatly executed disc-stone presents a decorative pattern of tendrils on round, emerging from one central point and spreading all over, ending with half volutes. The motif also exists on the ancient-most coins of India, called punch-marked coins. The ring-stones (round stone pieces with a large hole in the centre) and disc-stones are widely distributed, from Taxila to Pataliputra. These are smaller in size, but are considered the examples of real beauty, displaying the intricate workmanship of the jeweler’s in stone-low-relief art. A large number of motifs have been found depicted on these objects, floral as well as faunal, including the image of a nude mother-goddesses. The use of these objects is a matter of controversy, but their ritualistic purpose cannot be doubted.

Topi (Cap)

Silk, zari, leather
Lucknow, U.P., 19thcentury
Size: Cir. 57; Ht. 13 cm.
Acc. no: 63. 401

The topi is a stitched headgear, much like a cap, that became fashionable among the South Asian men from around the middle of the 19th century, although it has a long history. The practice of covering one's head by folding or wrapping rectangular pieces of cloth has existed since ancient times. A turban is often considered essential to a man's ensemble, in many South Asian communities, either for religious, ceremonial, aesthetic or even practical reasons. Surviving literature, paintings, and sculptures are among the sources that throw light upon various fabrics, and tying styles that made a turban. This doopali cap has two layered pieces joined together from a round center piece that covers the head. The sides are embroidered with a floral pattern while top depicts big floral boteh. The silver zari (metallic thread) in chain stitch and jali (lattice) work, in floral patterns, are indicative of royalty. The distinct embroidery and the cool color palette suggest that this piecemay have been used in a provincial court in Northern India perhaps Awadh, during 19th century, possibly for ceremonial purposes. A topi, such as this one, is often seen as a non-verbal way by which a user can communicate their community, caste, or religion.


Bharatpur, Rajasthan
4th-5th Cent. CE
23.5 x 17.5 cms.

This spouted vessel of copper has come to be called as Bayana Pot. It contained the Bayana hoard of Gupta gold coins.This pot containing the rarest of Indian historic coins was unearthed accidentally in 1946 by the cowherds in Hullanpur village, near the town of Bayana in Bharatpur State. Understanding the significance of the pot and the coins it contained the Maharaja of Bharatpur gifted it to the National Museum in 1951 through, the then president Dr Rajendra Prasad. This great discovery is an ideal example of each individual’s interest, participation, sensitivity and sincerity towards protecting the antiquities and history of the country. The discovery of Bayana hoard brought to light the rarest of Gupta coinages and added new chapters of political, social, religious and cultural history and glory of India. Along with some major north Indian dynasty coins the Bayana pot contained the best specimens of gold coins of the Gupta period study of which has resolved the issues of chronology, genealogy and attribution of the coins. The Gupta coinage has been classified into various typologies: Couch type of Chandragupta II, Lion Trampler type, Elephant Rider type, The Lyrist type to name a few. The images of the gold coins in the case are an example of figuration, symbolism, composition, inscriptions along-with the aesthetic brilliance of the Gupta period. This is evident in Gupta coinage both literally, in its technique and symbolically i.e. in what it represents. It will be worthwhile to remember the Hullunpur cowherds, King of Bharatpur for this important finding and Dr A.S. Altekar and Dr B.Ch. Chhabra whose intense study and research in documenting and cataloging the Gupta coins of the Bayana Hoard has broadened the scope of the studies on Gupta dynasty.

Mohra (Ritual Plaque)

Himachal Pradesh
20th century
Metal alloy
Lt. 22.5 ; Wd. 13.5 cm
Acc. no. 94.102

Mohras are ritual plaques and have a prominent role in promoting religious faith among rural devotees. The large and hefty idols from the temple are not easy to carry out. So, during major religious festivals, these plaques are taken out on small decorated rathas (chariots) with a procession of devotees venerating them. Earlier these images were cast of an alloy of eight metals (ashtadhatu), although brass and copper were also commonly used. They are generally commissioned by the individual families to be given as votive offerings in local shrines to commemorate a death in the family. Mohras generally depict various forms of Shiva and Devi (goddess). Here, the ritual plaque shows the amalgamated form of Shiva and his consort Parvati, called Ardhanarishvara.

Dashavatara Shrine

South India, Late 18th century
Ivory, carved and painted
Size: 22x15x17.8 cm
Acc. no. 72.251/ (a)

The ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, arranged in a small stepped shrine, is a magnificent example of ivory carving and painting style of south India's age old traditional workmanship. Intricately carved in round all avataras (incarnations) stands on double lotus oblong base. Shrine's sandal wood base covered with ivory sheet has perforated ivory screen backdrop divided in three parts by the European style pillars. Ivory carvers of Trivandrum, Kerala (South India) were the specialists of making such intricate images, while screen, painted in black, is the specialty of Mysore artist. Lord Vishnu's Matysa (fish) avatara is placed on the top most steps. The very next step of the shrine depicts two avataras; Kurma (tortoise), Varah (boar). The third step illustrates the Narsimha (man- lion), Vaman (dwarf) and Parashurama avatara, while Rama, Balrama, Krishna and Kalki incarnations are on the foremost frontal step. Four armed Matysa, Kurma, Varaha, Narsimha and Kalki avatars holds sankha (conch) chakra (wheel) in their two hands, while the other two hands are in abhaya and varada mudra except Kalki incarnations, which holds a sword and a shield. Other two incarnations are Vaman (with bow and arrow) Balrama (holds mace and in abhaya mudra) Krishna (with stick/ flute and sankha). All of them are adorn with lots of jewellery and dhoti except Vaman, who is without crown. These images have been done with perfect body proportion and great aesthetic qualities.

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