Hamsa Lamp Finial 02

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Size (WxDxH): 7.5 x 4 x 8 inches
Medium: Bronze
Origin: North Karnataka / Andhra Pradesh


This is a very finely engraved and rare, cast bronze, Deccan Hamsa oil lamp finial from North Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. 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 wings and body of the bird are engraved with feather designs and the tail is an elegant open scrollwork. Birds or Hamsas like this were used as decorative elements on the top of oil lamps as containers for the oil.
In this piece, an internal mechanism would have allowed the oil to pass, drop by drop, through a narrow, often faceted, spout on the breast of the bird (missing here but the clean cut hole can be seen) into the bowl with the wicks beneath. Comparable examples can be seen in Mark Zebrowski's "Gold, Silver and Bronze from Mughal India", cat.93-95, p.98.
The hamsa, swan or goose, which is revered by Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains, is seen as a symbol of purity, detachment and divine knowledge. It symbolizes the highest spiritual accomplishment, as it swims in water, walks on earth and flies in the sky.