Have you heard of a home especially for lamps? Then, you must make a visit to Deepanjali Lamp Museum once. It is situated in Kozhikode. Lamps, lamps and lamps is what welcomes you here. By the front door, in the shelves, on the side tables, under the bed, on the window sills, lining the stair shelves, they are everywhere.
We have known lamps for a long time, do we? It’s time to think, we ought to know a lot about them. Every lamp here has a story to tell.
More than hundreds of lamps and lights can be seen here. In Deepanjali, you could see traditional lamps like Kallu Vilakku, Chirathu, Paala Vilakku, Kindi Vilakku and Kuthu Vilakku. There are lamps carved out of stone, metal, and wood.
The museum houses hanging lamps, table lamps, port lights, buggy lamps and what not. There are lamps that use animal fat, whale oil, wax and even vegetable oil as fuel for lighting. Each lamp or light serve different purposes.
Behind the curtains
ICR Prasad is the curator of this amazing home of artifacts. It houses a wide and varied collection of rare and unknown lamps he garnered from various parts of India and outside.
ICR Prasad is a former lighthouse keeper and engineer. He has served in different lighthouses and has authored about 9 books on individual lighthouses while the 10th one is awaiting release.
He started collecting lamps as a hobby. While working as a lighthouse keeper, he happened to get a few pieces of ancient lamps from a friend. This actually invoked interest in Prasad to look for more, know, learn and collect them. His job made him travel places making it easier to go looking for them. There are more than a hundred lamps unnamed and unknown in his collection.
It’s just one year since this collection was open to public as a museum. But Prasad wishes to extend the space for he feels his lamps stay sophisticated inside the house. He is looking for a larger building, more accessible for his visitors, preferably by the seaside or nearly a tourist spot for his lamps.
In a small space, curator Prasad has done a wonderful job of keeping them well arranged. The museum is one of its kind in India, attracts a large number of foreign visitors. There are nearly similar ones in foreign countries like Europe.
Persian Mosque Lamp
These are mostly seen in mosques or similar places of worship. They serve both functional as well as ornamental purposes. They are surrounded by carvings and designs and also covered by colored glass. This is to add beauty to the light they spread. Now they are seen in houses, mostly to add to the home decor.
This is a type of lamp from Nepal. It is heavy and is made of bronze. It is lighted at the top. There are many carvings all over it and has small hangings around its top where the wick is lighted.
It is both functional as well as ornamental. The top is flat so the light it spreads would also be wide like the ancient stone lamp.
Pendant lamps, Hurricane lanterns
Pendant lamps are generally for ornamental purposes. They are hung for beauty outside homes. The hurricane lanterns, in a way are a look-alike to pendant lamps.
They are in Malayalam known as ‘Randal Vilakku’. These are functional lamps. They were widely used in most houses, until a few years back.
These are familiar to Keralites as ‘Laksmi lamps’, which actually is evolved from the ancient sun-moon lamps. They have sun and moon carved on them which were later replaced by Dutch missionaries with crosses when they came to India.
Then eventually, Siva and Vaishava communities recreated these lamps according to their beliefs and incorporated separate symbols. And now these are commonly used as ‘Karthika Vilakku’ or ‘Lakshmi Vilakku’.
This is a must-visit if you are a art-lover and also if you are not. Tourists from foreign countries are the common visitors here. Though localised artifact lovers come, having heard of the collection. It would surely be a worthwhile trip with a lot to learn about the lamps and their origins.
It is open on all weekdays. Prasad is happy to welcome anyone on Saturdays and Sundays also but only on appointments. There is an entrance fee of Rs 100.
Photos by CH Shaheer