The Antiques Almanac

 Venkataram Reddy, who owns Basava Ambara in Bengaluru, has been a keen collector of antiques for more than 20 years. His name is well known among those who deal in antiques and his love for all things old and precious reflects in the astonishing number of treasures that decorate his beautiful apartment located on the outskirts of the city. We delve deeper into this treasure trove of antiques – Bengaluru

Beginning at the ornate main door and moving inside, every single wall and surface of Venkataram Reddy’s home is covered in unique and priceless antiques. What catches our attention as we walk through the heavy doors of teak wood are huge wooden statues of Garuda, Hanuman, a tiger and a massive peacock. “They’re vahanas that were used to carry deities in a procession during the olden days,” explains the antique dealer who is like a walking, talking encyclopedia on all things old and ornate. “They’re from Tamil Nadu, easily at least a hundred years old. The Peacock Vahana would have been used to carry a deity of Lord Murugan, while Hanuman would have serviced the deity of Lord Rama. Today it is a pity that temples have resorted to using tractors to ferry their deities instead of these beauties,” he continues.

The living room could easily pass off as a museum for period pieces. Gauging by the different styles and countries from where Reddy has procured these collector’s items, it is obvious his love is for all things old, and not necessarily Indian or ethnic antiques alone. “Take for example the dining table – it is an old English table, but the chairs are not from the original set. Then there is this entire wall in the dining room dedicated to white and blue Chinese porcelain. And this massive round centre table in the living room that is a legacy of the Portugese and Dutch settlers who inhabited Goa. Every piece that’s seen here is precious to me, irrespective of where it is come from,” he says.

A massive Pichwai occupies place of pride on one of the living room walls. The word Pichwai derives from the Sanskrit words ‘pich’ meaning back and ‘wais’ meaning hanging. These are cloth paintings hung behind the image of the Hindu god Shrinathji. Usually Pichwai art depicts images of Lord Krishna alone, though this specific is pretty rare considering it is a painting of Lord Vishnu in his cosmic form. There are also several pillars and arches, all made of teak wood and sourced from Mysore, that Reddy has used to enhance the look of his living room.

Resplendent with lamps, Tanjore paintings, masks and brass and copper utensils that have artistically been used as centrepieces and arranged around the furniture, the living room showcases antiques from several different countries. There are two magnificent mirrors in Gothic design that adorn one wall. “These could easily be more than 150 years old…. there’s a stamp saying Made In Germany behind the mirrors so it is obvious they’re from that region,” says Reddy. A collection of lithographs, all of birds, is clustered around these two beautiful mirrors. “They’re from a book dating back to 1836 and are hand coloured with vegetable dyes,” he says.

A statue of a standing Buddha from Burma, which Reddy happened in to find in Los Angeles, is one of the most outstanding pieces in his collection. “Burma, now Myanmar, showcases different postures of Buddha in its pagodas. And he’s usually protected from the sun by an umbrella shading him. Hence I’ve added a very unique umbrella – it is gilded in 24K gold and made from wood and bamboo – and positioned it behind the statue. Around the Buddha’s neck is a silver Hasli from Afghanistan. It’s one of their traditional ornaments,” he explains.

From having used the base of palanquins and converting them to tables, to the ancient collection of Ganga Jamuna pots made of brass and copper inlay that were used for ceremonies in the olden days, lotus lamps from Kerala, and probably an early Lazyboy type of chair in Chippendale design, Reddy’s home can be explored for days and still remain a mystery to the untrained eye.

His store in Basavanagudi is his haven when he’s not spending time in his home. Considered as one of the best places in the city to buy authentic antique furniture and artefacts, it is always a pleasure to walk in there, even if you’re not in the mood to purchase something, and partake of some priceless information and stories from this antique lover.

Basava Ambara

51, K.R. Road, Basavanagudi, Bengaluru

Phone: +91 80 26561940