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Inventory no. 51703 - Former Display Label

Indian 'Bhugola' (Earth-Ball)

Signed 'In the Saka year 1493 in the reign of the earth - lord Viraji by Ksema Karma the learned (was) the earth ball created'.

Circular box of thin brass in two fitting halves hinged together. When closed the box appears in the form of a sphere flattened at its lower end and rising to a peak at the apex of the upper half. On the outer surface has been etched a representation of the earth as known to traditional Hindu cosmology. The inscriptions are in devanagari character and the date is given in a chronogram. The globe is now mounted on a later wooden stand with elephant supporters.

In traditional Hindu cosmography as set out in the Puranas, the universe is likened to an egg balanced upon its big end and divided by the crust of the earth (which is therefore of a flat disc-shape) into an upper celestial and a lower infernal part. The surface of the earth is divided into concentric rings of alternating land and sea. At the centre of these rings is Jambudvipa, a solid circular land-mass of which the sourther quarter represented the Indian sub - continent (BharatavarsĂș). Under the influence of Ptolemaic astronomy the concept of a spherical earth had been introduced by Sanskrit astronomers, causing a modification of traditional views to accommodate observations such that the southern extremities of the Indian peninsula lay close to the meridian. The representation of the earth shown in the bhugola in which the upper half consists primarily of land identified with Jambuvipa, displays a reconciliation of ideas from the two systems. Beneath the Indian land mass of the upper half of the box , is a sub-equatorial band representing the islands of Lanha (Ceylon) and Palanka, while the remainder of the lower hemisphere is divided into parallel rings representing the other six continents of Puranic geography and their intervening oceans.

Although the figures depicted on the box appear to have little devotional significance, the style of their representation and decoration adds something to the knowledge of the evolution of Indian style in the sixteenth century, the bhugola being among the few dated pieces surviving from this period. The patron Viraji mentioned in the inscription may speculatively be identified with a cadet of the Gohil Rowals family of Sihar in Saurashtra. It is also possible that the maker of the piece is to be identified with Kham Koran a moderately prolific artist working at the court of the Emperor Akbar c. 1580 to the first decade of the seventeenth century.

See Simon Digby, 'The Bhugola of Ksema Karna: a dated piece of sixteenth century Indian metalware', Art and Archaeology Research Papers, 4, (1973), pp. 10-31

Presented to the Lewis Evans Collection, by Captain Cobb of Oakhurst, Banghurst

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