Boat-Shaped Kashkul (beggar’s Bowl)
Safavid, 16th century CE
Materials and technique
Length 61 cm
Snarling dragon heads project from either end of this boat-shaped kashkul or dervish’s begging bowl, which contains a wide band of elegant inscriptions engraved in cartouches in Arabic nasta'liq script and several bands of floral interlace decoration. This brass kashkul is one of five important Safavid examples from the end of the sixteenth century. The others are in the Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul; The Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar (ex-Khosrovani coll.); in a private collection; and one formerly in the Rothschild and Edwin Binney III Collections (A. U. Pope, A Survey of Persian Art, London and Oxford, 1938, pl. 1386A; Welch 1973, fig. 42, pp. 470-71). A.S. Melikian-Chirvani presented this group in an article that demonstrates how the dervish’s begging bowl developed from the ancient, pre-Islamic royal wine-boat shape. He notes that “. . . the idea [is] embodied in the shape: the crescent-moon out of which wine, seen as liquid sunlight, is poured.” (Melikian-Chirvani 1991, p. 21). The Persian inscriptions on this vessel have been read in full by the same scholar, who comments that this kashkul once belonged to the head of a khanaqah or Sufi hospice. The inscriptions may be translated as follows [Side 1]: The prince of the two worlds, the seal of messengers He became the pride of the very first He made his ascent o the throne and the seat, not to the sky, The prophets and friends of God were in need of him His existence was spent in guarding the two worlds The whole surface of the earth became his mosque The lord of the two worlds, the leader of mankind: The moon was split by the tip of his finger. [Side 2] (in a different metre): The one had for him the friend of the Beloved While the other was the leader of the Pious bands (The servant of the Shah of Najaf, Shams al-Din) . . . For this reason did they become friends of God The one was a fount of moral gentleness and spiritual modesty in the world While the other was ‘The Gate of the City of Knowledge’ That envoy of Truth/God that was the best among humans His immaculate uncle was Hamza son of cAbbas. (Melikian-Chirvani 1991, pp. 35–36) AF
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