Indian art in close-up detail, £14.99
Height: 39.000 cm (when suspended)
Gift of Col. F.H. Ward
Asia OA 1919.11-4.49
Room 33: Asia
Hanging bronze lamp shaped like a peacock
From southern India, 18th century AD
A Hindu temple lamp
Oil lamps, or deepams, are a common feature in both Hindu temples and domestic shrines. They are commonly made of brass or bronze. This example is shaped like a peacock, below which extends a cylindrical projection that opens into a small receptacle for oil or ghee (clarified butter), lit with a cotton wick. The body is used to store the oil or ghee to refill the lamp. The entire surface of the lamp is finely incised and chased and the ornamental chain attached to its back would have been used to suspend it in a shrine.
Evidence exists for the worship of fire in the ancient texts, the Vedas. Apart from being one of the five natural elements, fire is also the symbol of heat, transforming energy, destruction and creation. Even though worship in Hindu temples is much removed from Vedic rituals, many ancient Vedic practices and attitudes continued to influence temple worship. One of the most obvious manifestations of this remains the importance given to the worship and use of fire.
M. Zebrowski, Gold, silver and bronze from M (London, Alexandria Press in association with Laurence King, 1997)
T. R. Blurton, Hindu art (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)