Lamps and Incense Burners

Sanskriti Museums

Sanskriti Museums
New Delhi, India

In addition to being a source of light, the lamp has been an important ritual accessory. The nine essential Brahmanic forms of worship include lamp offering to deities.
Deepa-lakshmi is a lamp in the form of a celestial female attendant of light, identifiable with Lakshmi, the Goddess of light and wealth. In some examples here the Goddess is shown holding the lamp-bowl in both her hands, in some she stands on the tortoise, bull or elephant, whereas in few others the image of Lakshmi is adored by elephants.
Large standing metal lamps with a central shaft fitted with lamp-plates and multiple bowls for oil and wicks are sometimes topped by a bird or an elephant. The wooden ones with devices to adjust their height are noteworthy.
In South India, the home of beautiful lamps exists a type called changalavatta in which there is a reservoir for oil with a ladle attached. Oil from here is fed to the wick-pan and to replenish other lamps.
Lamps in the form of a peacock from Orissa made by the cire perdue technique are also represented.
A large variety of lamps meant to be suspended from the ceiling, hung on the wall or carried in procession come from all over India.
A peculiar lamp comprising four metal pots with spouts for wicks, piled up in tapering order and topped with a lid having cobra-hoods is spectacular.
Arti-lamps with handles comprise of a lamp plate with a row of multiple cavities for ghi and wicks. These are waved in front of the cult image as a concluding ritual.
Simple round lamp-bowls of copper with an elongated trench for the wick presuppose the form of the common Indian earthen lamps.
Boatmen often used an iron lamp with a gyroscopic device so that despite the movements of the boat, the wick remained straight.
Burning of incense, to keep insects away, to ward off evil spirits and to fill up a room with scented air, has been a popular practice in India. It is also one of the modes of temple-offerings. Incense burners were usually in metal and could either be suspended on chains or placed on the ground. The lids of incense containers were usually very decorative and had perforations which elegantly let out the smoke.
One such container is in the form of a peacock and another with miniature images of bulls, phalluses, etc. (from a Shaiva temple) is also noteworthy.
Others represent incense stick holders.


  • Title: Lamps and Incense Burners
  • Type: Artefacts

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