Hindu Bronze Inscriptions

 Small Indian lamp inscribed ‘Guru Nanja Veru’

This morning dance teacher Devika Rao visited Leeds Museum Discovery Centre and was able to read and translate for us an inscription on a small lamp we have on display.

The lamp (pictured above) has five cups or dishes  for lighting oil, held up by a figure with a five-headed naga or serpant behind. The inscription reads: ‘Guru Nanja Veru’ in Kannada-Telugu script, a script used in southern India, particularly in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

In front of the five cups (pictured left) is a Makara guardian demon, seated with forelegs in centre and hind legs to the side. The name Guru Nanja Veru in this position on the lamp indicates that this lamp was reserved or particularly used for the aarti ceremony of this local Guru figure.

Objects used in worship:

In a small domestic shrine there is often only one lamp for performing aarti for all the deities represented, but in a temple particular lamps may be reserved for particular deities. 

This small lamp, pictured right, (11.6cms tall and 10.4 cms long) is on display at Leeds Discovery Centre in a case promoting the larger Hinduism faith case in Voices of Asia at Leeds City Museum.  There you can see a much larger lamp, in the shape of a shikara or Hindu temple dome, collected by Sir Stuart Mitford-Fraser around 1890-1914. The hanging leaves and Ganesha figures are typical of Nepalese Hindu craftsmanship.

Another bronze (pictured below) in the Hinduism display has an inscription we would love to have translated. A large ladle with a bell attached.  This was also collected by Sir Stuart Mitford Fraser. The inscription is on the side of the bell

 Can you help us translate the inscription on this bronze bell (above right)?

Bells usually hang in front of each deity in a temple, and devotees approaching chime the bell before and during their prayers. The ladle handle is decorated with the raised figures of a fish (the Matsya incarnation of Vishnu), the bull Nandi, a Shivling and a naga serpent.  Finding which Indian language this inscription is in will suggest where the ladle and bell were made.

By World Cultures Curator Antonia Lovelace

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