Indian art in close-up detail, £14.99
Height: 220.000 cm
Gift of Charles Marsh
Asia OA 1793.5-11.1
Wooden model of a chariot (ratha)
From Northern Tamil Nadu / southern Andhra
Late 18th century AD
Temple chariot for a god
Temple festivals are a major part of the Hindu calendar all over India. In southern India images of gods are taken in processions through the streets on palanquins (covered litters) or on the wooden sculptures of the aniumal vehicles (vahanas) specific to each deity. On festival days bronze processional images of the deity are placed on decorated wooden chariots (rathas); this is a model of such a chariot. The image is placed on the throne and, accompanied by priests and musicians, the ratha is then pulled around the streets by hundreds of devotees.
This model ratha is designed and decorated like those found in temples throughout the south of India today. Wooden panels carved with images of deities cover the wheeled base with a pair of rearing horses appearing to drag the chariot forward. Images of priests and musicians stand around the throne platform with its red cushion where the image would have been placed. The canopy over the top is an appliqué textile. Guardian figures (dvarapalas) are painted on the sides.
This model entered the collections very early in the history of the Museum, in 1793. It comes from the region of southern India around the city of Madras, a major commercial and administrative city for the British. Models of temple buildings and paintings of Indian views and people were produced by local artists for Europeans both as souvenirs and as a means of explaining to those at home, before the days of photography, something of the wonder of India.
G. Michell (ed.), Living wood: sculptural tradit (Bombay, Marg Publications, 1992)
T. R. Blurton, Hindu art (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)