Indian Mythological Bronze Palanquin Finials

  • These rare palanquin finials take the form of mythological creatures
  • Such finials were thought to ward off evil during travel
  • Palanquin, or palki, were a key mode of transportation up until the mid 19th century
  • Similar finials can be found in several museum collections around the world
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 30-6267

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Beautifully stylized and crafted in the form of protective mythological creatures are these exceptional 18th-century Indian bronze palanquin finials. Palanquin, or “palki”, are litter-type conveyances that have been in use in India for centuries. These finials would have adorned the pole ends that were used to support and carry the passenger compartment. 

The word “palanquin” is derived from the Sanskrit “palanki” meaning “bed” or “couch”. These lushly covered conveyances were intended to be carried by four to eight bearers known as “behara”, “dulia”, “boyee” or “behara” depending on the region. The interiors were furnished with specialized bedding materials, including pillows to provide the utmost comfort while traveling. Though the earliest mention of palanquin dates to the 3rd century BCE in the epic poem Ramayana, the height of usage occurred during the Mughal era from the 16th through 19th centuries. It wasn't until the advent of railways and roadways that could accommodate wheeled modes of transportation that the use of palanquin fell out of favor. Today, these bygone conveyances are used in ceremonies such as weddings. 

The ornamentation and complexity palanquin was directly related to social status. The finials also abided by this convention, but these adornments also reflected whether the owner was male or female. Flowers, particularly lotuses, and birds were the typical forms found on women’s palanquin, while those for men often featured fierce animals and creatures from Indian mythology and folklore.

Similar palanquin finials can be found in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Heritage Transport Museum in Taoru, India has an entire exhibit devoted to palanquin with varied finials on display.

18th Century

10 1/4" length x 7" wide x 4 1/2" high 
Indian Mythological Bronze Palanquin Finials
Period: 18th Century
Origin: Asia
Type: Historical Memorabilia
Depth: 10.25 Inches
Length: 10
Width: 7.0 Inches
Height: 4.5 Inches

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