mach (Purse)

About this object

History of use

Dhokra craftsmen make Hindu ritual objects, rice bowls, and fish purses. They use 'dhuna' threads made from sal tree gum and mustard oil, hand pulled to thickness of one-sixteenth of an inch. This is the depth required for the thickness of the brass which will replace the 'dhuna' in the casting process. Although classic Sanskrit-based brass casting techniques stipulate that ritual objects should be solid caste, this does not apply in folk traditions where hollow casting predominates. Bengali women take money in these auspicious caskets to their new homes.

Cultural context

used by women

Iconographic meaning

The fish in Hindu cosmology is the 1st incarnation of the god Vishnu. Fish, on the popular level, is a symbol of fertility, good luck, beauty and prosperity.

Physical description

Unburnished brass, stylistic representation of fish, item is hollow but remains of central black clay core can be seen on inside of head and large bifurcated tail. Grilled portion on both sides gives light see through effect. Mouth is expansive, extending horizontally from 1 side of solid brass head to the other. Dorsal fin is articulated with 4 tops and 4 pectoral fins, 2 on each side.