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Fly whisk - Chowry or fly whisk ('Chamer')

Chowry or fly whisk ('Chamer')

  • Object:

    Fly whisk

  • Place of origin:

    Calcutta (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1855 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Yak's tail, silver handle

  • Museum number:

    2491(IS)

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Ceremonial fly whisks are emblems of royalty across the Indian subcontinent, regardless of the religious allegiance of the ruler, and are also used to indicate divinity. Thus, early Hindu and Jain sculptures often include attendants holding fly whisks next to the deity. Chauri - a plume of yak tail hair in an elaborate holder - are the most frequently used and depicted emblems of royalty. This example has a tail from a yak that would have been native to the Tibetan plateau, set in an opulent silver holder. The fly whisk was originally acquired by the Indian Museum in London in 1855, probably from the Paris exhibition of that year, and may have been made specifically as an exhibition piece. The brief accession record made by the Indian Museum gives its place of origin as Calcutta. The fly whisk was transferred to the South Kensington Museum in 1879.

Physical description

A yak's tail is mounted on a silver handle that is cast, chased and engraved
Ca. 1855.

Place of Origin

Calcutta (made)

Date

ca. 1855 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Yak's tail, silver handle

Dimensions

Height: 108 cm, Width: 40 cm

Object history note

Probably bought from the Exposition Universelle, Paris in 1855 by the India Museum in Leadenhall Street, London. Transferred to the South Kensington Museum in 1879.

The hair or wool from tail of a yak that would have been from the Tibetan plateau is set in a handle. It is a fly whisk, representing a symbol of importance of the person over whom it was held. Chamer, Bengali for chowry, is also used during worship of a deity or shrine. The word 'chamer' is derived from 'chamri gai' meaning yak.

Descriptive line

Yak's tail with chased and engraved silver handle, Calcutta, India, c. 1850

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p.74
Arts of Bengal : the heritage of Bangladesh and eastern India : an exhibition organized by the Whitechapel Art Gallery in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum : 9 November-30 December 1979, Whitechapel Art Gallery ..., 12 January-17 February 1980, Manchester City Art Gallery ... . [London]: Whitechapel Art Gallery, [1979] Number: 085488047X (pbk.) :
p. 156, cat. no. 524, Susan Stronge
Skelton, Robert, et al, The Indian Heritage. Court life and Arts under Mughal Rule London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982
pps. 54 and 55
Jackson, Anna and Ji Wei (eds.) with Rosemary Crill, Ainsley M. Cameron and Nicholas Barnard, compiled by the Palace Museum, translated by Yuan Hong, Qi Yue and Liu Ran. The Splendour of India' Royal Courts : Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Beijing: the Forbidden City Publishing House, 2013. Text in English and Chinese. ISBN 9787513403917.
p. 142, cat. no. 125
Swallow, D., Stronge, S., Crill, R., Koezuka, T., editor and translator, "The Art of the Indian Courts. Miniature Painting and Decorative Arts", Victoria & Albert Museum and NHK Kinki Media Plan, 1993.

Materials

Silver; Wool

Categories

Metalwork; Ceremonial objects; Animals and Wildlife; India Museum

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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