India's love affair with silver – now on display
That Indians tend to store and honour their silver through several decades is apparent at the country's first silver museum.
Posted: Wednesday , 06 Mar 2013
MUMBAI (Mineweb) -
It is a silver museum on a scale few other than India could ever replicate and it is hosted by an erstwhile Indian Rajah (King) in the state of Udaipur.
Spread over 7,100 square feet, the museum at Udaipur’s City palace complex is to showcase hundreds of sterling silver objects, some family heirlooms dating back to 743 AD.
Reigning king Arvind Singh Mewar, head of the erstwhile ruling Mewar dynasty of Udaipur, inaugurated the silver museum.
That Indians tend to store and honour their silver ware and artifacts through several decades are on display in the museum, with a custom made silver buggy from Birmingham dating from 1939 holding pride of place.
Mewar said the heavily decked shining silver buggy was part of the current monarch’s late mother's dowry.
In India, it has been customary for brides to be weighed down with golden and silver dowries.
A dowry is money, property, or goods (essentially gold and silver ornaments) that a woman brings as a gift to her husband upon marriage. The practice of using a dowry, also known as trousseau, is a custom that has been around for centuries in the country.
However, given the rampant abuse suffered by women as a result of misuse of the practice, the dowry system has been termed illegal.
The Mewar silver chariot, on display at the museum, has intricate detail work like a ballerina mid-pirouette on the door. Its solid silver chassis, wheels and spoke make it stand out.
Also on display is a wedding mandap, a canopy of sorts, which was used by Mewar at his daughter's wedding two years ago, along with four sets of nine silver pots each and a solid silver vessel (havan) to hold the religious fire, around which the couple has to walk seven times, at the time of the marriage.
Several silver palanquins form part of the exhibition, including small ornamental palanquins for the Gods.
Palanquins were a popular means of travel for royal and noble ladies and especially for the bride. A traditional wedding in India necessitates that the bride is carried to her wedding ceremony in a palanquin, which is a shoulder carriage borne by four bearers.
While the works on display illustrate the longstanding historical relationships between the House of Mewar, the Rajput courts and the Mughal establishment, it also showcases indigenous artisan techniques of the time and India's reverence to silver artifacts.
The Mughal influence can be seen in the gulabpash, which is a rose water sprinkler and the surahis, which are decanters. Most of the items have pierced work or cladding where intricate silver sheets cover contours of wooden objects.
Also on display are portable shrines to conduct religious functions, and a traditional royal transport like the haudah, used for mounting elephants - all decked out in sparkling silver.