Alladin’s chirag or naga deep, man with lamp has it (Feature)

October 25th, 2011 - 12:40 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Oct 25 (IANS) When retired banker Makrand Karandikar caught a glimpse of the metal scraps, he instantly knew what he had found. He bought the stray pieces for a dime at Mumbai’s chor bazaar, knowing they would take the shape of a beautiful spherical lamp when assembled.

His eye for detail, particularly for rare lamps, is not something he was born with. It has been 42 years since the 62-year-old has been collecting lamps of all shapes and sizes. The spherical lamp, kanduka deep, was one of the many lamps on display at Prabodhankar Thackeray Hall in Borivali in northwest Mumbai last week.

Most lamps in his 600 lamps collection invariably have a similar story behind them. While he bought some on impulse from various markets in Pune, he stumbled upon others while walking across old markets or scrap dealers’ shops.

These lamps are made of metals like copper, bronze and brass and materials like clay, marble and even glass. The variety ranges from those belonging to various religions to thermo-sensitive to conch shell lamps.

Among the favourite lamps in his collection is naga deep-the snake-shaped lamp which can be lit on the hood of the snake. It’s made of brass and is said to be around 150 years old.

Then there’s Aladdin ka chirag, made of German silver; Ganesha deep, a 20-year-old lamp with 21 diyas around lord Ganesha; and Sir Humphrey Davy’s Safety Lamp which had apparently saved the lives of thousands of miners in the 19th century.

Ask him how he developed such a unique hobby and Karandikar does a little flashback.

“When I was a child, we had this ritual when the women of the house would bring out all the old lamps and worship them,” he says.

Though he had always been curious about lamps, it was only two years back that curiosity took the shape of full-fledged passion.

“I have seen old lamps since childhood and took a liking to them. The ritual of worshipping lamps gave birth to the hobby of collecting lamps which soon became a passion,” he added.

Is there any lamp he has still not been able to lay his hands on?

“There’s a ‘poison lamp’ I saw at the Raja Kelkar Museum in Pune. It’s around 350 years old and was used by Maratha rulers Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and Bajirao Peshwa and is said to have been gifted to them by a Mughal ruler.

“Before taking meals, a bit of the cooked food used to be placed over the flame of this lamp and if within a few seconds the colour of the flame changed, it meant that the food contained poison,” said Karandikar.

“But I cannot find it anywhere and even if I do, I’m sure it would cost me a lot of money,” adds Karandikar, who lives with his wife and son.

Besides lamps, he also has an enviable collection of over 1,500 Mahatma Gandhi stamps-right from 1948 when they were first issued till 2010.

He also has over 3,500 stamps related to music, some of them being in pure gold, pearl, silver, wood, metal and 3D. He also owns a collection of miniature models of various musical instruments.

(Mauli Buch can be contacted at mauli.b@ians.in)

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