Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra

Art in Antique Hookah Shisha Pipes

My children are surprised to learn that Hookah and Shisha is not a discovery of their generation!

That generation (and every other before it) of young people believes that every vice is a discovery of their generation.

And so when they hear of me talking about art in Hookah pipes they are alarmed at how ‘with-it’ I am, when I am actually talking about times long past.

My first exposure to Hookah was in my elementary school years. I was visiting some school friends who were muslim and their mother and aunts were smoking their pipes at home. Young servants would prepare the pots and place it near the reclining mother and she would use it to take leisurely pauses as she supervised her large household, her staff and her children without moving an inch.

Later in 2006, I was at the home of a Nawab in Lucknow and in the inner quarters of his wife, I saw the Hookah closely again.

The two women separated by time and space, had identical poses as they reclined, smoked and ruled their world with serenity.

Hookah or Shisha was, in all likelihood introduced to India during the rule of the Mughals that lasted a few centuries.  This particular legacy of smoking tradition remains entrenched in some elite muslim households even today.

In those days, the pursuit of art was not restricted to artists. It was a part of daily life. And so the Hookah was also turned into a medium of art.

While the smoking pot and the pipes were common, pipe ends were  individual and some created in silver took on artistic forms.

Presented below is a small collection of antique Hookah pip ends:





Most are shaped like animals – Why? No idea. Someday we will find an interesting answer to this!

Anomalously, the following one is not modeled on any fierce animal.

It is shaped like an lady’s hand holding a hookah!   Self referencing!

Am sure Escher and the silversmith artist who created this piece would have enjoyed a hearty discussion on the concept of self-referencing!

All of these pieces are a part of the WOVENSOULS collection.



Aug 2013

One comment on “Art in Antique Hookah Shisha Pipes

  1. Pingback: INDEX | Articles on Art | Wovensouls Journal

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