Asian Art Museum Acquires Rare Zoroastrian Bowl

One of the Asian Art Museum’s newest acquisitions is a solid-silver muktad bowl, a gift from the Zoroastrian Association of Northern California and several private donors.

By Sunita Sohrabji | India West

2012_3$largeimg206_Mar_2012_152302303The rare, 5-lb. bowl, circa 1890, depicts scenes from Zoroastrian mythology, including an image of Darius standing with his foot on a defeated Gautama. The muktad bowl was commissioned by the Alpaiwalla family of Mumbai, and created by Burmese silversmiths.

The base of the bowl — which cannot be seen on display — depicts a peacock with splayed feathers, which served as the Burmese craftsmen’s signature.

Muktad prayers are performed for the dead on the last 10 days before the Zarthusthi New Year each August, when the souls of the dead are said to return to Earth. Each deceased member of a family will have a special muktad bowl or vase into which living family members can place fruit or flowers.

F.D. Alpaiwalla, a gold bullion dealer, also commissioned a special vase from the same craftsmen for his father-in-law; the vase is housed at the Alpaiwalla Museum in Mumbai.

The Asian Art Museum received the bowl in 2010 and will house the piece as part of its permanent collection. It is the only Zarthusthi-related artifact in the museum, Nazneen Spliedt, former president of the Society for Asian Art, told India-West.

Other donors for the acquisition of the bowl included Rati Forbes, Betty N. Alberts, and members of the board of the Society for Asian Art, in honor of Spliedt.