Bidri Box for Holding Pan

Object Name: Box

Date: early–mid 17th century

Geography: Attributed to India, Deccan, Bidar

Medium: Zinc alloy; cast, engraved, inlaid with silver and brass (bidri ware)

Dimensions: H. 3 15/16 in. (9.925 cm)
W. 5 3/8 in. (13.6 cm)

Classification: Metal

Credit Line: Louis E. and Theresa S. Seley Purchase Fund for Islamic Art and Rogers Fund, 1996

Accession Number: 1996.3a, b


Bidri ware, named for the Deccani city of Bidar, is a uniquely Indian alloy of four metals, the main component of which is zinc. An acid bath renders the base material very dark, enhancing its suitability to set off the contrasting inlay metals. This box probably served as a pandan, or container for pan, the leaf pouch filled with chopped nuts, spices and lime so favored in India for chewing. With a shape reminiscent of tombs of the Sultanate Period and decoration that is lyrically Persianate in style, this box is probably one of the oldest surviving examples of bidri ware.