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Kashkul

Kashkul

  • Place of origin:

    Iran (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1859-1860 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Nut shell of coco de mer palm, carved

  • Museum number:

    876-1889

  • Gallery location:

    Islamic Middle East, Room 42, The Jameel Gallery, case WW7

The beggar's bowl or ‘kashkul’ was a sign of the religious poverty assumed by Islamic mystics. This function is reflected in the inscriptions used. On this ‘kashkul’ they include verses from the Qur'an as well as poetry in Persian praising the ‘kashkul’ in mystical terms.

This bowl is carved from half the shell of a huge nut. It is the fruit of the coco de mer palm which grows in the Seychelle Islands, in the Indian Ocean. The shell washes ashore in southern Iran.

The shell’s journey took on spiritual significance as a symbol of the dervish’s journey on the ocean of mystic knowledge. Many ‘kashkuls’ even have a ‘prow’ carved on them. Others, including this one, have a small spout to make the bowl into a drinking vessel.

Physical description

Kashkul carved from coco de mer. A mouthpiece has been added to make it a drinking vessel, and rings to allow it to be suspended. The surface is carved with Persian and Arabic inscriptions, as well as scenes including lions.

Place of Origin

Iran (made)

Date

ca. 1859-1860 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Nut shell of coco de mer palm, carved

Marks and inscriptions

invocation and poem
O ‘Ali, help.
This kashkul is of the Apparent Sun;
It is of the light of the manifest Creator.
If you put your finger on its lip [you will hear?]
Until the Resurrection this kashkul’s cry of “O ‘Ali”.

date
1276
At end of Qur'anic inscription

Dimensions

Length: 29 cm, Width: 14.3 cm, Height: 12 cm

Descriptive line

Kashkul carved from coco de mer, Iran, 1859-60.

Labels and date

These bowls are made from a coco de mer (double coconut, Lodoicea maldivica), which probably came from the Seychelles. The surface of this one is carved in relief with animal combat scenes on the base - you can just see lions attacking bulls.

SUFI ALMS BOWL (KASHKUL)
Iran, dated A.H. 1276 (A.D. 1859)
Coco de mer
876-1889 [5 June 2000]
6–8 Beggar’s Bowls
Iran
1800–75

The beggar’s bowl was a sign of the religious
poverty assumed by Islamic mystics. This
function is reflected in the inscriptions used.
They include verses from the Qur’an (6),
poetry in Persian about the mystic’s quest for
enlightenment (7), and Shi’ite prayers (8).

The first bowl (6) is carved from half the shell
of a huge nut – the fruit of the coco de mer
palm. The tree grows in the Seychelle Islands,
in the Indian Ocean, and the shell washes
ashore in southern Iran. The steel bowl (7) has
the same shape.

6 Carved coco de mer with steel mounts
Museum no. 876-1889

7 Steel with chiselled decoration. Signed
by Haji Abbas
Museum no. 405-1876

8 Lime wood, carved and painted
Museum no. 726-1876 [Jameel Gallery]

Production Note

dated AH 1276

Subjects depicted

Lions (animals)

Categories

Drinking; Islam; Religion; Dervish

Collection

Middle East Section

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