COMMENT. This item is a decorative tip (finial) of the pole of the palanquin, a covered stretcher, which served as a vehicle for noble persons. In India, palanquins varied in proportions and wealth of decoration, which reflected the social status of the traveler. Most of the ornate palanquins had metal mainly bronze cast sculptural ornaments at the pole ends. The presented silver finial is designed as the head of Makara, a mythical sea monster that fancifully combines the features of various aquatic and terrestrial animals. In Hindu mythology, it appears as the vehicle (vahana) of the sea god Varuna and the river goddess Ganga, as well as a symbol of the god of love Kamadeva. Makara is one of the most popular decorative motifs in both Hindu and Buddhist architecture and art.
A Makara-head finial
Late 17th or early 18th century
Silver, steel, bone