putul (Toy)

About this object

History of use

Bengali potters of the (Kumara) Kumbhakara caste are heirs to a long tradition in village and urban areas. Production of clay pots and vessels for everyday use is their regular occupation. However, images for votive offerings are also important and are variously represented as fertility figures, protective symbols (horses, elephants), or gods. The animal and human figures sold as toys have a close affinity in shape and character to the votive images. In fact, the same image often fulfills both purposes. This figure was purchased in Gariahat market, Calcutta. Made for sale in pottery sections of markets.

Iconographic meaning

The elephant is an auspicious symbol, and guardian image as shown by the characteristics of Ganesh, Hindu deity, the remover of all obstacles, or the elephant as Vahana (vehicle) of Indra.

Physical description

Unglazed clay elephant figure with incised trunk markings. The tail, tusks, ears, and toes are appliqued. The eyes are pelleted and the trunk is slightly curved to the side.