This brilliant brass-statue, a decorative artifact, or perhaps a tiny casket designed for casually dropping in jewellery articles or whatever, is a fish-form conceived and cast like a conch, an art-piece of rare merit with hardly any thought given to its utility aspect. Its extra stylised muzzle, tail and legs-structure apart, the fish form that the artist seems to have had in mind when conceiving this artifact could be the fish from the class of Powder Blue Sturgeon. A fish from the biological family of acanthurus leucosternon, Powder Blue Sturgeon has relatively short length, rounded and inflated belly, or middle, with sharp slope towards the head and gradual descent towards the tail, much like a conch, and a horizontally stretching wings-type tail. For protecting it against danger from the bottom side the fish has below its belly a protective cover, a structure with front and back facing sharp piercing nails and saws-like edged projections on sides. In imminence of danger the fish withdraws its legs and secures them under this protective cover and moves to safety.
The other way, while adhering to the anatomy of a Powder Blue Sturgeon fish in conceiving and casting this form, the artist has ingeniously manipulated it for revealing the form of a conch, a sacred article having alike significance in worship rites as in war, far more than the fish which is just auspicious, not conch-like sacred. The opening, besides the grooves for fingers on the opening’s right side, provided on its middle part, greatly helps the artifact’s transformation from a fish to a sacred conch. What appears to be affected and stylised – head-part, tail or legs, when the artifact is seen revealing the form of a fish, becomes its most ornate aspect when it is seen as a conch.
A conch, one of the paraphernalia of worship rites, at a public shrine or domestic, a king’s or an ordinary man’s, and one of the principal attributes of Lord Vishnu, has always been the object of everyone’ reverence and, hence, was not only always adored but also adorned with gold, silver or with whatever one could afford. Ritual conches or those consecrated by royal families to be blown during wars, and even such as are sold in shops at shore-side pilgrim sites, are hardly ever unadorned and plain. At least it muzzle-part would have a small thin leaf of gold, silver, copper or brass.
This conch form has, besides a brilliantly ornamented muzzle, neck and breast part, floral brooches on its middle and an exceptionally ornate tail, studded with precious stones, designed like a peacock’s tail, appended to its bottom, perhaps for providing it with a proper grip, as also for adding to it exceptional beauty. The base with three legs, a head and a tail, and a back-support, which in the fish iconography looks like its protective cover securing it from any imminent danger, becomes a mini canon which carries on it the divine conch sprawling over it in full majesty, when the form is seen as a conch.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain
specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of
numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the
curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New
Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of
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