Wood and Lacquer
Beggar’s Bowl (kashkul)
Qajar, 19th century
Materials and technique
Carved nut shell (coco-de-mer), with chain as later addition
This kashkul or beggar’s bowl made from half of a coco-de-mer shell would have been carried by a dervish who had renounced all worldly possessions, subsisting only on almsgiving from devout Muslims. Beggars’ bowls were often highly decorated and this one is no exception: intricate floral motifs, Arabic prayers, and Persian verses cover the entire surface of the shell. The upper band of inscription includes the famous Nad-e 'Ali, the devotional prayer to 'Ali, the Prophet’s first cousin and son-in-law. The spout of the kashkul is inscribed with the signature of a certain Sufi mystic and the date 1028 H/1618–19 CE; this date is probably optimistic, however, since the script and decoration are more characteristic of the Qajar period. The Arabic prayer, inscribed in thuluth script, reads: Help me with your hidden kindness, God is higher than the fire of your torture O … with Your Mercy O You, Most Merciful of all those who are merciful, God is my Lord, my aid comes from You O …
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