Tea caddy

DATE: Unknown
PLACE: India (made)

This silver tea caddy is decorated in high-relief with scenes drawn from a Hindu legend described in the Bhagavata Purana where Krishna defeats the many-headed snake god Kaliya, who was poisoning the river Yamuna. Krishna is pictured in different poses, dancing and seated on the snakes many hoods, while playing his emblematic flute. The female figures either side of them may be Kaliya’s wives, who pleaded with Krishna to show their husband mercy.

A label positioned inside the lid reads ‘Tantia Topi’s tea caddy, taken by Major A C Warner after the siege of Lucknow’. Tantia Tope was an Indian general who rebelled along with Indian sepoys, or soldiers, when the Bengal army mutinied against the British East India Company in 1857. The rebellion spread across several regions resulting in the massacre of Indian rebels, civilians, British soliders and inhabitants, as well as the looting of cities and former princely residences. Tope led forces in an attempt to capture and liberate Lucknow and Jhansi, escaping capture from the British until 1859, when he was killed. One of the main events in the rebellion was the siege of the Princely Residence of Lucknow, defended by Major A C Warner who served as an officer in what became the 20th Royal Hussars when the Crown abolished the EIC to govern India directly. The caddy was kept by Warner’s descendants until it was sold in 2013 and acquired by the Chitra Collection.