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

Chowry or fly whisker ('Chamer')

  • Object:

    Fly whisk

  • Place of origin:

    Calcutta (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1855 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Yak's tail and silver handle, cast and chased

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Chauri - a plume of yak tail hair in an elaborate holder - are the most frequently used and depicted emblems of royalty. Chauri are swayed on either side of the ruler by dedicated officials called chamardar. Chauri derives from the Sanskrit word chamara, meaning fly-whisk, which is extremely close to the word for 'yak'.

Physical description

Chowry or Fly whisker ('Chamer') is made of hairs or wool from Tibetan yak's tail and mounted on a silver handle, cast and chased.
Ca. 1855.

Place of Origin

Calcutta (made)


ca. 1855 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Yak's tail and silver handle, cast and chased


Height: 108 cm, Width: 40 cm

Object history note

Possibly acquired from the Exposition Universelle, Paris in 1855.

The hair or wool from tail of the Tibetan yak set in a handle was used as a fly whisk, represeting 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

Ritual, yak tail, silver, Calcutta, India

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

Skelton, Robert and Mark Francis eds., Arts of Bengal, text by Robert Skelton, John Lowry, Andrew Topsfield, Veronica Murphy and Susan Stronge, London: Whitechapel Art Gallery 1979, no.224, p.74.
ISBN 0 85488 047 X
Susan Stronge, in The Indian Heritage. Court Life and Arts under Mughal Rule, V&A, 1982, cat. 524, p.156, ISBN 0906969263.
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.


Silver; Wool


Metalwork; Ceremonial objects; Animals and Wildlife


South & South East Asia Collection

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