Indian Cast Brass Secterian Body Stamp, 18th-19th Century, Script Related To Deity, Vishnu or Shiva, Bengal, India, 18.5 Grams
Navadwip, Nadia District, West Bengal:
This is an antique (18th or 19th century) cast brass sectarian body stamps (chhapp). In use by Vishnu Devotees (gokul sampradaya) and others, they are dipped into a past prepared of sandalwood, then pressed on the skin. (Some is still present on this stamp.) This square sectarian body stamp has scripts related to a deity, usually Vishnu or Shiva. This is made by the lost wax process, which starts with the fabrication of an openwork wax wire model, from which the stamp was then cast in brass. At the back, opposite the face, a supporting, bracing structure was formed that terminated in a handle, pierced by a hole. This makes it possible to link together with a ring set of different stamps, the symbols on them chosen according to the sect preference.
It is customary for many Vaishnavite, Shaivite and other sect adherents to mark the body with such stamps. The marks on the body provide a visual display of the adherent’s devotion and also to transfer the beneficence of the deity to the wearer.
According to Oppi Untracht - Traditional Jewelery of India - (1997:25) the stamps are applied after the devotee has undergone a purifying bath. A paste of white sandalwood and water is then prepared in the case of Vaishnavites or in the case of Shaivites a paste of red sanders wood. The paste is then applied using the stamp to proscribed parts of the body such as the forehead, cheeks, shoulders, forearms and stomach.
Length: 2.7 cm (1")
Width: 2.3 cm (7/8")
Total Weight: 18.5 grams (0.655 oz.)