Parsee Muktad Silver Bowl
diameter: 34cm, height: 20.2cm, weight: 2.533kg
This extraordinary ceremonial bowl, commissioned by the Alpaiwalla family, a wealthy Bombay-based Parsee family of bullion dealers, is decorated in unusually high relief with Parsee/Zoroastrian themes. A near identical bowl (there are slight differences) is in Mumbai’s F.D. Alpaiwalla Museum and illustrated in Godrej & Mistree (2002) on page. 696 and also on the front and rear inside covers. The Museum’s bowl was commissioned by F.D. Alpaiwalla as a muktad
flower vase in the name of his father-in-law Bhownagree. The bowl here most likely was commissioned at the same time from the same silversmith in the name of another Alpaiwalla family member. (Silver is a sacred metal among Zoroastrians; it symbolises purity.)
Muktad vases are used during the Parsee ceremony of muktad, the annual prayers for the dead, celebrated in the last ten days of the Parsee calendar. The muktad days are set aside to remember the fravashis or spirits of the dead. One vase is commissioned for each deceased family member and during muktad, in a room set aside for the purpose, the vases filled with flowers, are placed on tables and blessed. A small fire is kept burning in the room for the ten days. Typically, vases are plain and not necessarily made from silver, making this bowl all the more extraordinary.