Of a round form, made in Poona either in the late 19th or early 20th century, from solid silver. This extremely rare, and historical, charger believed to be commissioned and made for a Maharaja, or a very high-ranking Indian individual, or it could have been made as a presentation gift to one of the major Indian temples. The rarity of this piece stems from the fact that, unlike other pieces that were massively produced at the time to satisfy colonial or European taste, this piece was made to satisfy Indian religious beliefs and taste.
The reason why we believe so is because of the important religious significance that it has for the Hindu religion in India. Its monumental status and presence has a powerful impact on the Hindu worshiper and believer, and people who enjoy, love and admire Indian art in general.
This fine decorative charger is of exceptional dimension and proportion. Few examples of these shield size chargers ever come to market and they are uncommon. It is presented in excellent condition with a good patina and is fine example of Indian silverware.
The figures of the Vedic pantheon are chased around the charger in high repoussé. At the centre lies Lord Vishnu, he is reclining and giving birth to Brahma who is sat on a lotus flower that extends from Vishnu’s navel. Markandeya Rishi appears near the Lord’s head, Bhumi Devi (Laksmi) at his feet and Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s vahana (mount or vehicle) is below him. He is surrounded by finely chased acanthus leaves that are in turn encircled by illustrations of Lord Vishnu’s ten reincarnations known as Dasavatara in Sanskrit. A plain boarder punctuates the repoussé work as it steps up to form the rim where there are twelve framed panels, each surrounded by floral scrolls, punctuated with a flower design between each one. These panels indicate various stories attached to Lord Vishnu. Finally, the outside edge has an added repeating floral pattern of high relief. The centre panel featuring Lord Vishnu, the preserver and keeper of life, giving birth to Brahma is an image that is well known in the Vedic arts but deserves explanation.
There are two main accounts of Brahma. The first is that Brahma was born from Shiva or his aspects, or his supreme god in diverse versions of Hindu mythology. The second is that Brahma is considered as the creator of the universe and various beings in it. These two accounts are taken from puranas (purana, in Sanskrit, means “that which took place previously”). Apart from these two views, Brahma, along with Vishnu and Shiva, is viewed as a different form of Brahman, the ultimate formless metaphysical reality and cosmic soul in Hinduism.
Brahma is famous for his ubiquitous appearance in myths whilst simultaneously having very few temples dedicated to him and rarely being the recipient of the most popular form of Hindu worship, called pūjā . Still, Brahma is well-known as the pre-eminent creator god in Hinduism.
Brahma temples are found outside India far more often than inside it. A noteable example is the Erawan shrine in Bangkok. Present-age Hinduism does not place as much importance on Brahma as it places on the other members of the Trimurti, Vishnu and Shiva. Only ancient texts revere Brahma as a deity, but in present day India he is very rarely worshipped as a primary deity.
Brahma is shown to be capable of fierce anger in his mythological persona, and has also rampant sexual desire. In pictorial or scurlutplrual form, Brahma appears bearded with four arms and mostly with four heads, each looking towards the points of the compass, indicating the four Vedas, or teachings.
For similar examples, please see:
1- Indian Silver 1858-1947, Silver from the Indian Sub-continent and Burma during Ninety Years of British Rule by Wynyard. R. T. Wilkinson, Indian silver, lot 281 pages 168-172.
2- Mughal Silver Magnificence, (XVI – XIX th Century), Antalga, Lot 20: A very similar rare piece but measures only 60cm in diameter belongs to the British museum in London, stock number (1981, 4-14. 1). The piece is identified as being produced in Tanjore, South India, while we believe it could well have been made in Pune.
Handicrafts and Industrial Arts of India, D. B. Taraporevala Sons &Co., Private Ltd. Bombay-India, Plate XIII.
Vishnu, Hinduism’s Blue-Skinned Savior, Edited by Joan Cummins, First Center for Visual Arts, In Association with Mapin Publishing, for similar images please see figures 2, 1 & 34 pages 16, 35 & 106, for Vishnu’s Avatars please see Pages 101-282.
Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism
Anna L. Dallapiccola, Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend.
Dimensions: 68 cm diameter.