Hamsa Lamp Finial 03

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Size (WxDxH): 6 x 3 x 8 inches
Medium: Bronze
Condition: Left leg slightly damaged
Origin: North Karnataka / Andhra Pradesh


This is a beautiful, Deccan, cast bronze Hamsa oil lamp finial from North Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. The branch the bird holds in its beak is probably a branch of Sanjeevini, which is known to be a medicinal plant in Hindu mythology that revives life. The wings of the bird and part of the tail are engraved in feather designs. It is also adorned with three necklaces. Birds (or Hamsas) like this were used as decorative elements on the top of oil lamps and as containers for the oil, which is why the base has been added later to display as a decorative object. In this piece, an internal mechanism allowed the oil to pass, drop by drop, through a narrow, often faceted, spout (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.