Indian Art

Introduction In 1966 I was seconded for about three years, by a major British Company, to work in India as an expatriate resident based in Bombay. During this time I had ample opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country which enabled me to explore local customs and culture from a rather privileged position.Local Indian friends and colleagues encouraged my interest and facilitated visits to  places  well off the normal tourist track where I was able to collect authentic items of religious or decorative art that were significant  but cost little to purchase. These acquisitions were always on open display in my flat in Bombay and when I returned  to the UK  every item was seen, inspected  and approved for personal export by the local authorities and customs agency under the laws which were applicable at that time.

The collection,  due to my own extensive travels over the past fifty years, has been stored in various locations  and  until recently,  I have had scant opportunity  to properly  display or discuss it with specialists familiar with Indian Art. All attributions and comments on the items shown below are therefore given in context of the best information which  I have to date but are subject to correction amendment or advice based upon more expert opinion . Such guidance will be very much appreciated.

1. Ganesha

Ganesh ancient bronze statuetteThis ancient bronze statuette is  6cm  tall and  heavily and evenly patinated. Ganesha’s  trunk is pointing to the right hand side which has some religious significance? The age of the statuette has been attributed to the Chola dynasty  and could thus date back  to the 11th Century AD. It was acquired near Nagpur and is the pride of this collection.

Further discussion  and information is invited on what is believed to be an authentic Hindu artifact  of  historical importance  predating Mogul influence on the sub-continent.


2. Rama Bronze Statuette

Rama bronze statuetteRama is the seventh avatar of Vishnu and this strikingly beautiful bronze/brass statuette is 11.5 cm tall and is a very ornate and detailed piece of work which needs further research . It is believed to date from the 18th or early 19th century and   may originally  have been holding a bow. Comments are invited.




3. Hindu Warrior

Hindu warrior on horsebackThis statuette of a Hindu warrior on horseback was acquired in South India. It is 10cm tall,with heavy patina and is obviously very old but I am unable to identify it at this stage. It could possibly represent a folk deity perhaps Khandoba     ( Shiva) ?  but it is quite different in style from the more recognizable format in exhibit #19 below.                        Advice will be welcome.




4. Yamuna
This beautiful little statuette, 10 cm tall, is the subject of  debate as Yamuna standing on a turtle mountto whether it represents Yamuna ( Goddess of the river of the same name) riding on a turtle or a tortoise? The difference is  significant ? In any event it is said to be an unusual representation which may date back to late 18th century or early 19th century.

Further advice will be most welcome



5.Parvati ? bronze

???????????????????????????????This bronze statuette is 10 cm tall  and is an attractive artistic figurine of indeterminate gender which appears to be quite old. It was obtained near Kanpur and has been variously described as Parvati, or Krishna as a youth, or Rishabha-rudha. Further research is obviously required. Advice most welcome.





6a.Copper Water Jugs

6a-Copper_jugsThese were acquired by chance at a roadside stop not far from  Amritsar .They were part of a stock of scrap metal belonging to a local “Potwallah” they were sold  on a weight basis at an inflated price for copper and were filled with mud and junk. Each weighs approx 1.5 kilos and is 30 cm tall. when cleaned the mud was found to contain around 100 mixed coins a selection is shown below.  A mystery waiting to be resolved?


6b. Indian Coins

Obverse                                                                      Reverse


These were discovered inside the jug, and include a Trambiyo of Kutch in the name of Edward VII AD (1909)  and a coin of Constantius II (ad 348-355) and miscellaneous Indian  coins of the fifteenth to nineteenth century  …..Explanations are invited.

7. Bhikku Buddhist ?

???????????????????????????????This is a 19cm statuette carved from a black stone material of indeterminate age. It has been variously described as a Bhikku Buddhist namely a priest of that religion but it also resembles quite closely the statuette of Parvati exhibit #5 above and could be a folk art representation from west or central India. Once again advice is needed.





8. Ganesha and Saraswati

???????????????????????????????Small block of black stone carving, 6cm x 4cm estimated to be about 250 years old representing brother and sister. Ganesh for  auspicious occasions and Saraswati for knowledge, together with two attendants.




9. Bhairava- ancient stone statue

???????????????????????????????This is a very rare,alternative  and more terrifying form of Shiva after he had killed the demons. The statuette is 10cm tall and  Bhairava is carrying a demon’s head with blood still flowing which is being licked by a dog






10. Durga or Parvati????????????????????????????????

The  two names refer to different forms of the same deity,  Parvati is the wife of Shiva when depicted in  usual  form, thus it is possible  that this rosewood statuette could represent Durga who also had problems with the demons demolished by Bhairava(Shiva) above? It is difficult to date the statuette which is 15 cm tall but the style seems typical of work done in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.


11. Buddha as a young man ?

???????????????????????????????White marble statue weight two kilos 40 cm tall.Possible origin Bihar State. It may have been commissioned by a wealthy family because the statue seems to imply Greco/Roman influence.It has also been suggested that the statue could be a 16th or 17th century representation of an attendant to Jain Muni Subrat Nath.

Further research is required.




12. Garuda (the mount of Lord Vishnu)

???????????????????????????????This is an unusual depiction of the deity in the form of a copper statuette 13cm tall with the figure kneeling on a platform base. Originally it may have been part of a lamp from a shrine to Vishnu






13.  Temple Block

13-Temple_blockThis is a block of marble weight three  kilos heavily damaged but believed to have been carved some 200-300years ago as part of a Jain temple that collapsed somewhere near to Ahmadabad in Gujarat.Figures that can be identified include Lord Mahivir and a servant carrying a chowrie (Sort of brush for cleaning the pathway from obstacles or any living creature)plus several other figures in flowing robes said to be servants of the first servant.



14.  Brass paperweights

???????????????????????????????Depicting a Mughal  head  and an African head.They are just over four cm tall and seem to have been forged as a pair. Acquired from a Potwallah’s collection of scrap metal but with no explanation of their origin. It has been suggested that the Mughal head is actually a representation of Bhairava and perhaps the other one is one of his victims ?


15.  Mughal seal and Thuggee pendant ?– This  interpretation was provided by well intentioned local residents in Bombay,  but on reflection it is possible that the “Mughal” seal could actually depict Bhairava and hence sit more easily with a Thuggee pendant ? Alternative explanations are invited.



16.  Talisman metal bracelet

???????????????????????????????The diameter of the bracelet  is about seven cm and it is girdled by 16 tiny three dimensional effigies from the  Hindu pantheon of deities. It is by no means a costly piece of jewelry but it has been well used and probably much treasured by its original owner.





17.  Two metal ankle bracelets

17-Ankle_bracelets_and_toe_rings-together with three metal toe rings.  Similar attributes to the bracelet above,  well worn, and well loved. These  decorations are favoured  in Rajastan  and  other rural areas throughout India. An interesting feature is that notes coins and other small valuables can be secreted inside the anklets and secured with a bolt to remain safe and secure while the wearer goes about her daily business.


18.  Elaborate brass statuette of Shiva


This depicts Shiva and cohorts together with a representation of the owner and supplicant making obeisance.It would stand on a shelf as an altarpiece and similar artifacts are found in many present day Hindu homes.  An alternative interpretation suggests that it  could represent the Jain deity Sarasvati protected by 5 Tirthamkaras plus 2 female attendants plus a female donor? plus Hamsa (Gosda).  It is possible that this statuette which is 17 cm tall could date back to the 16th century.

More informed advice will be much appreciated.


19.  Hindu Warrior mounted on horseback

19-Shiva_Paravati_with_VahanaThis well worn brass statuette is 13 cm tall and appears to depict a demountable rider clutching a child under his left arm.More likely,  the horseman may  represent  Maharashtrian  folk interpretations of  deities as  avatars Khandoba(Shiva) holding his wife Malsa            ( Paravati) and the horse is Vahana.

The statuette is estimated to be from the  late 18th century or early 19th century.



20.  Brass Vase

20-Brass_vase_and_Hindu_PantheonThis stands about 18 cm tall and is etched or engraved with many of the avatars of major deities in the Hindu pantheon,with particular emphasis on Vishnu.Origin possibly Orissa state, in late 19th Century.

More research is required.








21.  Brass statuette (Avatar of a Lion)


This bronze/brass statuette is 5cm tall and  it is clearly very old. The statuette  is  said  to represent a lion called Narishma which in turn  is the 4th avatar of Vishnu at least according to certain bewildering interpretations of Hindu scripture. The subject seems quite  complex and further advice will be most welcome

22. Brass statuette of a Horse.

22-Moghul_horseWith Mughal style   harness and saddle.  more research is needed on this piece.





23.  Brass hand carried plaque


This is designed to be taken on pilgrimage. and the figures may either depict three Shiva saints, or deities or devotees and could possibly represent an important  family undertaking  pilgrimage? Perhaps a King with wife and son worshiping Shiva? The plaque is 12 cm tall and 11cm wide, age could be late 19th century

24.  Five very small statuettes

24-Hindu_deitiesDevotional representations of  various  manifestations of the principal  deities in the Hindu pantheon. All are well used and likely to have their origin in the 19th century or earlier..In back row Vishnu (origin Benares?), Ganesh (shaded by Cobra), Hanuman (Monkey).In front Krishna( as child with stolen butter), Annapurna ,ie (Paravati offering food to Shiva). Height of  the tallest effigy is 6cm.


25. More Religious effigies

25-Religious_effigiesThis is another group of well used  brass effigies all more than 100years old. They are quite small but much handled by their original owners who were probably not very wealthy. The two small items on left in front row for example  are   family altars  with a brass plate base, 4cm width on the larger one, which the various deities are affixed.


26.  Wooden Temple Decoration

26-SubrahmanyaThis  was carved in 1967 from a beam of wood said to originate from an ancient temple destroyed by some unknown calamity many years ago?In any event it is a handsome object representing the deity, Kartikeya (Subrahmanya). It is 50 cm tall, acquired in Bombay and is immensely popular with my Indian friends.






27. Mughal Painting

27-Mughal_paintingThis is a very fragile painting which I have had mounted and preserved  under special glass. It is believed to be more than 300 years old. The original owner had it rejected several times by the custodians of local Indian museums as it is somewhat damaged. It was therefore presented to me in 1967 as a gift without any charge, because of my interest in local culture and arts. The painting depicts Prithviraj Chauhan (1149 -1192), who was the last independent Hindu King of India and who fought fiercely on many occasions,  against the afghan warlord Mohamed Gori ,until he was eventually defeated and executed in 1192. He remains a romantic and heroic figure to this day on account of his marriage to  Princess Samyukta  in 1175.

28. Modern Indian Painting

28-Indian_girls_dancingThis is a three dimensional painting in ordinary gloss paint and coated string or cord which was one of the prizewinning items in a modern art exhibition held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in Bombay around 1968 or 1969.  The artist was Miss Narmala Thuse from Poona, Maharashtra State.


2 Responses to Indian Art

  1. This collection looks very interesting. I particularly like the HIndu Warrior on mounted horseback.


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