Collection online

model / gandau

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Carved wooden model gandau, of male figure riding horse. Figure carved with headdress with two points, a tunic and belt. The headdress is decorated with carved lines and dots. The rider's back is smooth and slightly concave. Prominent nose, bared teeth, and the eyes of both the figure and horse are indicated with white stones. Horse carved with reins and wearing bridle. The wood is mainly dark brown and slightly scuffed.


  • Ethnic name

  • Date

    • 1895 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 55 centimetres
    • Width: 31 centimetres
    • Depth: 33 centimetres
    • Weight: 2.72 kilograms
  • Curator's comments

    Acquired by Capt Hector Bethune of the 32nd Sikh Pioneers, possibly during the relief of the British garrison at Chitral in 1895.
    According to Register note: 'Made one year after the deceased's death.'
    Gandaus are traditionally carved by the Kalash people in Chitral, Pakistan. These figures are often carved from one piece of wood and take the form of of the deceased. They are usually erected over the grave by the son of the individual who has died.

    See Eth Docs 1712, 1721, 1751.According to Register note: 'Made one year after the deceased's death.' See Eth Docs 1712, 1721, 1751.

    The British Museum holds 11 examples of model gandaus dating from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. While these models resemble full-size gandaus, they were made for a different purpose: for sale to visitors to the region, and especially soldier-collectors from whose collections the majority of the model gandaus came to the British Museum. Model gandaus are still being made for sale to a foreign, increasingly tourist-driven, market.

    Gandaus are life-sized male and female effigies carved from wood (usually deodar) by the Kalasha people in Pakistan and, formerly, by the Nuristani people in Afghanistan. Gandaus are often intricately carved, painted and draped with items of clothing. Considered to be imbued with the spirit of the deceased, the figures are placed near coffins. Notably, they are not exact portraits of the deceased but generally uniform and stylised representations. There are three types: standing, seated and equestrian figures. Male figures are more common than female and are generally carved either standing or on horseback, with the horse having either one or two heads. The two-headed horse figure is a particularly potent symbol of power, representing the highest status that can be accorded through a gandau to a Kalasha individual. Similarly, male figures carved wearing turbans denote authority and bravery. By contrast, women tend to be depicted seated on ornately carved chairs wearing caps with four horns. These horns refer back to the belief among the Kalasha that a goat born with four horns was an auspicious omen.

    Captain Hector Bethune (As1930,0130.1; As1944,06.1) and Colonel G.C. Hodgson (As1951,01.1; As1951,01.2) acquired the four earliest examples of model gandaus in the Museum’s collection during the Relief of Chitral in 1895. Three models were made for Captain J.P. Sulley (As1930,1023.1; As1930,1023.2; As1930,1023.3) in Chitral, Pakistan, in 1915-16, arriving at the British Museum with a selection of photographs and a letter. Lieutenant-Colonel G.P.T. Dean (As1963,14.1) acquired one from Chitral in c.1923 and one came from the collection of Major-General S.H. Powell (As1931,1013.1). H.G. Beasley (As1930,0613.1) donated one, while there is no acquisition information associated with the final model (As1981,Q.45).


  • Bibliography

    • Jansari 2014 pp.48-51 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1900 (c.)

  • Acquisition notes

    According to Register note: 'Given in memory of Capt. Hector Bethune, 32nd Sikh Pioneers. Given by Arthur A. Bethune Esq., Carlton Club.'

  • Department


  • Registration number


Register 1944: Wooden equestrian figure wearing two pointed head-dress; the eyes of the horse and rider indicated by white pebbles, the rider's back flat and concave.

Register 1944: Wooden equestrian figure wearing two pointed head-dress; the eyes of the horse and rider indicated by white pebbles, the rider's back flat and concave.

Image description



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Object reference number: EAS18923

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