Wicker Basket (Vey Vel Pettiya)

Kandy, Sri Lanka 18th–19th century

16cm high, 20cm wide

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Full Description

Wicker Basket (Vey Vel Pettiya)

This vey vel pettiya or hinged rattan casket is of circular form, comprising sides and a shaped lid finely woven in two types of cane with a geometric design over a wooden base. The casket is fastened with silver fittings comprising an engraved hinge of foliate form at the reverse, and a related lock at the front. The lid is surmounted by an oval plinth upon which a silver, engraved elephant sits. 

This type of casket was produced in the Kingdom of Kandy, modern day Sri Lanka, and is known as a vey vel pettiya or rattan box.[1] These delicate caskets were developed from the 16th century onwards as containers for jewellery or other valuables, and were high-status items at the Kandyan court. The kingdom was dissolved in 1815 when the British seized control of the territory, uniting the island of Ceylon and marking the beginning of over a century of colonial rule. However, many aspects of the previous courtly culture remained into the 19th century, including the use of vey vel pettiya. Indeed, even today these caskets are still exchanged in Sri Lanka as symbolic gifts of high-status and prestige.

Literature: Coomaraswamy, A.K., Mediaeval Sinhalese Art, Pantheon Books, New York, 1956 reprint of the 1908 edition.

[1] See Coomaraswamy (1956, plate XLIIIA). These caskets are here erroneously referred to as vel pettiya, a misnomer that is often repeated in other sources.

Wicker Basket (Vey Vel Pettiya)


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