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Base for a water pipe

Base for a water pipe, 1650–1700. India; Bidar, Karnataka state. Zinc alloy with silver and brass inlay. Courtesy of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Gift of Marjorie Bissinger, B86M11. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

Base for a water pipe, 1650–1700. India; Bidar, Karnataka state. Zinc alloy with silver and brass inlay. Courtesy of Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Gift of Marjorie Bissinger, B86M11. Photograph © Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

The central plateau region of southern India, called the Deccan, was home to several Islamic dynasties whose patronage supported the development of distinctive art forms and styles. This water pipe (huqqa) base represents a type of inlaid metal ware known as bidri, after the Deccani city of Bidar, where the production technique is said to have been practiced since the fifteenth century. Bidri water pipe bases were probably first produced shortly after tobacco was introduced into the Deccan by Portuguese traders in the late sixteenth century. 

Architecture, landscapes, and animals are almost never found on bidri ware. Most examples depict floral designs. The pavilions decorating this water pipe base recall chini khanas, or "china rooms," popular architectural features during the Mughal period in north India (1526-1858). Their multiple niches were used to display objects such as Chinese porcelains, which were highly prized at South Asian courts.