Antique Mobile Wash Basin

Antique Mobile Wash Basin From YK’s Collection
When you go to a good restaurant, you are usually provided with a napkin, and after completing the meal a finger bowl to wash your fingers. This is a courtesy and comfort they provide you and save you from going to the wash room to wash your fingers or hands.

As far as a fine dining restaurant is concerned, a finger bowl would suffice, as you have your entire cutlery (knife, fork, spoon etc.) to eat the food. So, the possibility of dirtying your hands is minimal. But imagine, you are at a typical Indian feast, where guests are seated on a cotton or woollen laden floor; in some traditional houses guests are seated on low level square wooden platforms. And in a typical traditional Indian feast, food is consumed with one’s own fingers and palms, and there shall be no use of cutlery. In this scenario, a finger bowl would definitely not suffice for washing your entire palm, and the hosts would not want to be discourteous by asking their guests to make use of a washroom (which may be located at a fair distance from the dining area). 

Antique Basin
Antique Pitcher with a Snout

The hosts extend their hospitality by arranging a mobile wash basin thus, enabling the guests to wash off their hands in their very seats. While one bearer carries the mobile wash basin, another carries a metal container with water, followed by another who would provide with the napkin(s) for drying the hands. In houses where a dining table is used, the mobile wash basin is brought to the table carried by the servants along with a water jug. Table napkins are placed on the table so that guests can use them for drying their hands.

Antique mobile wash basin and pitcher -Top view
Antique mobile wash basin and pitcher -Front view

A mobile wash basin, also referred to as a ‘Salfachi’ in Urdu, ‘Chilamachi’ in Hindi or a ‘Lavabo’ is not a new concept, and has been in use for several centuries now. A mobile wash basin generally consists of 2 major components, viz. the basin and a vessel (with a snout). While the basin is what you wash your hands in, the vessel, an Indian version of a pitcher, stores the water used for cleaning.

Top View of the Basin with the Filter
Top View of the Basin with the Filter Removed
Top View of the Filter Alone

The antique wash basin shown in the picture along with the matching water jug with a snout to pour water gently is made out of copper. The water jug shown in the picture looks similar to the pitcher without handle but with a snout or an Indian lota with a snout.  The wash basin has a big basin where hand washing is done and underneath the basin is a bowl attached to collect the water. There is perforated filter disk that lies between the basin and the bowl. Any food particles while washing will be filtered by the perforated filter disk allowing only the water to reach the bowl. The second purpose of the filter disk is to prevent the unclean water from surfacing. This filter disk is detachable. When the water is to be emptied from the bowl, the filter is removed and the water is thrown out. The wash basin also has a handle to carry the wash basin. There is an intricate metal carving work on the wash basin as well as on the water jug. This set, I have collected 20 years back from an antique shop in Chennai in the the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The set is now available in my house in Hyderabad city, Andhra Pradesh, India.

Gallery :

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