A FINE SRI LANKAN OPENWORK IVORY BOX
Sri Lanka, late 17th century
The oval box openwork carved with squirrels amongst vines, in the middle a kannaris, half-woman half-bird.
L. 10.1 x H. 4.4 cm
The kinnaris’ is one of the creatures that inhabit the mythical Himavanta. They are renowned for their dance, song and poetry and are the traditional symbol of feminine beauty, grace and accomplishment. On the underside of the box, a Hamsa bird is depicted in the middle among vines.
Hamsa is the sacred goose/swan of Hinduism, where it stands for discrimination, being able to drink milk only from a vessel of milk mixed with water. It is regarded as beautiful and auspicious. The resemblance between a swan and a beautiful girl is a common motif in Indo-Aryan folk-lore. With these motives, this box may have been a (wedding) present for a woman.