Let There Be Light: Expo Of Vintage Lamps, Lanterns, Petromaxes, Mashals At Birla Museum

Let There Be Light: Expo Of Vintage Lamps, Lanterns, Petromaxes, Mashals At Birla Museum

Khushnoor Ahmed showcases her father’s collection of rare lighting devices from prehistoric times to modern era

Staff ReporterUpdated: Thursday, November 09, 2023, 03:25 PM IST
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Khushnoor Ahmed showing a vintage lamp in an exhibition ‘Deepmala: Chiragon Ki Dastan’ at Birla Museum in the city on Sunday. |

Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Since prehistoric times, humans have needed devices to help them see after sunset. For thousands of years, human beings used artificial sources of light to allow them to work after the Sun, the only source of light for earthlings, went on its nocturnal journey. And this continued till electricity revolutionised lighting, allowing us to convert nights into days.

The journey of artificial lighting devices is long and interesting and you can get a glimpse of it at a four-day exhibition, which began at Birla Museum on Sunday. Very appropriately named “Deepmala: Chiragon Ki Dastan”, the exhibition has been organised by Khushnoor Ahmed from the city and curated by B.K. Lokhande, in-charge of the Birla Museum. Khushnoor has showcased around 150 sources of light that were used by our ancestors to light up their shelters, their workplaces and public spaces.

Prehistoric pothole lamp, weighing 27 kg

Prehistoric pothole lamp, weighing 27 kg |

The exhibits range from prehistoric stone lamps to petromaxes and lanterns from the British era. And she has chosen the eve of Diwali - the festival of lights - for the first public display of her dad’s unique collection. All the exhibits are from the private collection of Khushnoor’s father, Aftab Laiq Ahmed, who has been an ardent collector of these devices. “All these items have been collected by my father over a period of 51 years. He is passionate about them. He visited scrap markets to hunt for old lamps and made it clear to all his acquaintances from India and abroad that a vintage lantern was the best thing they could gift to them,” says Khushnoor, who, incidentally, is pursuing her PhD from the Barkatullah University on the topic “A historical study of lamps in India from 1853- 1947 AD”.

Rare Kerosene oil lamps, lanterns

Rare Kerosene oil lamps, lanterns |

Petromax , made in Germany

Petromax , made in Germany |

The exhibits include Chakmak or flint stone, which produced fire when rubbed against each other. Then, there is a prehistoric pothole lamp, weighing 27 kg. Mashals (hand-held torches), which were portable sources of light, are also on display and so are a range of diyas including those made of metal and terracotta. There are butter lamps, too.

Hunting lanterns of British period (1860)

Hunting lanterns of British period (1860) |

However, the most interesting exhibits are kerosene lamps, lanterns and petromaxes from the British era. “But for these lamps, which were imported into India by the British, the trains couldn’t have operated at night and libraries would have been shut at sundown, ” she says. There is a Russian Carbide lantern made in 1860 and Baby Petromax of German make, manufactured in 1900. Also on display are Victorian table lamps made in England and an Austrian-made Astral Lamp manufactured in 1890.

Lamps from Mughal era

Lamps from Mughal era |

Parsi Lamps

Parsi Lamps |

Tribal, Mughal and Parsi lighting devices are also on display. “Mughals loved lamps with net designs while the Parsis preferred lamps with images of the sun and the moon,” she says. Hunting lamps, lamps used on horse-drawn carriages, a lamp manufactured by British company R. E. Dietz and patented in 1912, a Fan Lamp from England, dibbi lamps from India and petromaxes used in the railways are among other attractions of the exhibition which will remain open for visitors till November 8 from 10.30 am-5pm.

.“The collection of rare lamps is marvellous. It seemed to me the period of my grandparents and the smell of my soul,” said Dr Pradeep Jain, a visitor.

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