Fish Shaped Pandan Box

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Size (WxDxH): 9 x 5.5 x 4.5 inches
Medium: Brass
Origin: Hyderabad


This is an unusual brass, repousse and cast pandan box in the zoomorphic shape of a fish, from Hyderabad. The lid is shaped as a fish with large eyes and markings that look like a moustache. The body is engraved with scales. The lower part of the pandan is ribbed with a flat base. Boxes like this were used to contain paan, which consisted of slices of betel nut mixed with lime paste and wrapped in betel leaf. This pandan has no compartments inside, and so was probably used for serving ready rolled paan.
The history of chewing paan dates back about 2,500 years and its beautifully crafted accessories elevated it to a level of ceremony, much like the Japanese and tea. The word pandan was coined during the Sultanate and Mughal period joining the Hindi word paan to the Persian suffix dan. “The offering of the royal paan to a courtier was a sign of extraordinary favour, and an even greater honour would be the offering of the betel container (pandan),” says Mark Zebrowski, author of "Gold, Silver and Bronze from Mughal India".
The fish is a common motif in Indian art; in Hinduism it is the form taken by Matsya, fish avatar of Vishnu, while in Islamic India, the fish was an emblem of the Shia Kingdom of Oudh (Avadh), appearing on flags, heraldry and coinage.