Betel and betel boxes have a social history as long and rich as that of the snuff box. In North India the chewing of betel (called paan) is a very old custom. Thin slices of the nut of the areca palm (supari) are mixed with lime paste (chunum) made from ground seashells and spices. The whole mixture is then wrapped in the fresh leaf of the betel tree. The prepared product is called a quid. At court, it was considered an honour to participate in this custom and an even greater honour to be given a box known as a pandan. Many other Eastern societies used betel as a gentle stimulant and alkaline digestive. This example is of brass and is in the shape of a stupa (a bell-shaped Buddhist shrine or reliquary). When opened, it reveals five small copper containers – four cylindrical and one more complex with a small stand and a tiny plate that sits on the top. The other four boxes are lidded. These would have been for the various components for the production of the finished betel quid. It is most satisfying to find such a box complete with its original contents. Its condition is very good for age. The boxes need to be carefully positioned inside so that the lid can be closed with a firm fit. This would be of interest to those involved with Asian arts and cultural practices. Height 8.5 ins (21.5cm), diameter 5.75 ins (14.5cm). Weight 990 grams. This item appears in my book, “Antique Boxes, Inside and Out” on page 185.
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