Triptych Lamp (Kavara Vilakku) - 04

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Size: 19 x 9 x 13 inches
Medium: Bronze
Origin: Kerala


This is a bronze, lost-wax cast, Kavara Vilakku or three-branch oil lamp from Kerala. This is an unusual version of this lamp as the stem is shorter and the round base larger than one would normally find. On the top of each branch is a circular oil reservoir where several wicks can be placed. Above these are stylised Kalasam finials. The Kalasam (or kalasha) is considered a symbol of abundance and "source of life" in the Vedas. The Kalasam is believed to contain amrita, the elixir of life, and is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom, and immortality. On the base is an inscription in Malayalam that translate as “By way of Ukkotil Raghava Panicker as offering. Date 1034 month of Eddava.” The date & month are the Malayalam date & month, which is 1839. There is some school of thought that this three-branch style of lamp came into being as a result of the influence of the Jewish community in Kerala and the menorah, a multi-branched candelabra, used in the religious rituals of Judaism.
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.