Lamp with Hamsa Finial - 01

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Size: 8 x 8 x 24 inches
Medium: Brass
Origin: South India


This is a brass, lost wax cast and engraved oil lamp with Hamsa (Annapakshi/divine swan) from South India. At the top is a finial of Hamsa, a divine swan that is revered by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. It is seen as a symbol of purity, detachment, and divine knowledge. Hamsa symbolizes the highest spiritual accomplishment as it swims in water, walks on earth and flies in the sky. The branch Hamsa holds in its beak is probably a branch of Sanjeevini, which is held to be a medicinal plant in Hindu mythology that revives life. The swan is beautifully engraved with feathers on the body and tail. Below the Hamsa is the oil reservoir with five petal like projections for the wicks. At the base of the sculptural pillar is a circular drip pan on a ring foot. Engraved on this pan is Tamil script detailing that the lamp was originally presented as a gift, possibly at a wedding.
The ancient art of lost-wax casting dates back nearly 6000 years in India. First, an artist creates an original model from wax. Everything is then encased with layers of clay, thus becoming a mould for the molten metal that will be poured inside it. When this is poured in, the wax melts and the original is lost. Once the metal hardens, the outer layer of clay is smashed, which is what makes each piece unique.