Posted by: cochinblogger | April 6, 2012

A Bed Fit for a Maharajah

I can’t resist sharing another mention of India in the sleep book (Counting Sheep: The Science and Pleasures of Sleep and Dreams):

An Indian maharajah had a bed weighing more than a ton made for him in Paris. Four remarkably realistic and life-size models of nude women guarded the corners of the bed. The weight of the maharajah’s body on the bed automatically triggered a musical box and set the naked houris in motion, two fanning his face and two whisking the flies from his feet.

I was curious about the identity of this maharajah; a little research on the Net revealed him to be Saddiq Muhammed Khan Abassi IV, the Nawab of Bahawalpur, who ordered this bed in 1882. Here is the relevant excerpt, which gives more fascinating details:

Besides a host of thrones, howdahs, palanquins, gem-encrusted weapons, court paintings and fine jewellery, there is one quite startling object – or, at least, the design for it which will be in the exhibition. In 1882, Saddiq Muhammed Khan Abassi IV, the Nawab of Bahawalpur, ordered a silver-encrusted bed.

The design was sent to Christofle in Paris calling for a bed of “dark wood decorated with applied sterling with gilded parts, monograms and arms, ornamented with four life-size bronze figures (of naked females) painted in flesh colour with natural hair, movable eyes and arms, holding fans and horse tails”.

Some 290 kg of silver was needed to decorate the bed. The four naked figures were European, representing women of France, Spain, Italy and Greece, each with a different skin-tone and hair colour. Through ingenious mechanics linked to the mattress, the Nawab was able to set the figures in motion so that they fanned him while winking at him, against a 30-minute cycle of music from Gounod’s Faust generated by a music box built into the bed.

The winking was an imaginative touch. 🙂

The full article:

India’s Royal Riches

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