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.
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.
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
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