Saturday, September 14, 2013

And Then There Was T'song


Modes of lighting in Kashmir and evolution of lamp around late 19th century and early 20th century. Based on notes on specimen found by  Dr. William Louis Abbot (1860-1936) in Kashmir in between 1891 and 1894 and presented in 'Fire as an agent in Human Culture' (1926) by Walter Hough for Smithsonian Institution United States National Museum.



About the kind of torch used in Kashmir: "Mass of fat formed upon a stick, around which is wound a wick of fiber." [Torches of Birch bark are still widely remembered]

No. 10 Stone Lamp with pointed spout. Cashmere, India.

"Doctor Abbott also got pottery lamps from Kashmir. They are saucers of thin terra cotta pressed in on opposite sides to form a handle by which the lamp may be grasped. Another lamp from Srinagar, is napiform of red terra cotta with spout. The wick channel is cut through the rim and the reservoir is open above, as in the Turkestan lamps. This specimen is decorated with incises triangles and the border is scalloped. the native name is song [should be T'song]."


"Modification of the saucer lamp are plentiful for the purpose of placing the wick. Examples are shallow groves pounded in the Cashemere copper lamps and the bending in of the edge of the pottery saucers from ancient sites in Syria, North Africa, and other localities, modifying features suggesting the beginning of the wick spout. […]
The next step is in the measures taken to install the wick. By this step the lamp assumed the shape which it retained for thousands of years, This shape is familiar in the classic lamp, which has a circular reservoir and projecting beak for the wick.

The beak also arises in another manner that is germane to the construction of the lamp. The acute triangle form lamp cut from soapstone by the Kashmir and secured by Dr. W. L. About has the trough contained from the reservoir to the apex of the triangle and related to the shape of the excavation in the vessel. This introduced the pottery lamp in the form of a foot with open wick trough extended as a clumsy spout or beak. The reservoir is closed over, and through the top as through the next of a bottle oil was poured in. This form is ancient, being sculpted on a stone zodiacal slab of Nazi Maradah, son of Kurigalzar II, about the middle of the fourteenth century B.C. It is also shown on the cap of a kudurru or boundary stone bearing the star emblems representing Babylonian deities. Identical lamps are still in use in Turkestan and Kashmir, and have been found in Mohammedan stations in Egypt, Asiatic Turkey, and Spain."

"In Cashmere, India, walnut oil and oil expressed from apricot seeds were used in lamps."*

* A decade later, Sir Francis Younghusband noticed Kashmiris were mostly using rapeseed oil for lighting. 

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Pandit ritual involving T'song for 15th day of Shivratri.
Jammu. 2013.

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An  illustration of Kashmiri boat lamp
 found in 'Aus dem westlichen Himalaya: Erlebnisse und Forschungen' by Károly Jenö Ujfalvy (1884)

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