Zenana Carriages, a minor mystery solved

Zenana– def. The place where the ladies reside. Origin: Urdu.

Any thoughts on this one? Please pass it on. I am curious to know.

Yesterday I posted this cabinet card image found on Tumblr and asked for help in identifying the style.  Crowd-sourcing research on the blog certainly works.  “KB” responded with enough key words that a quick image search revealed the nature of this carriage.  Often called a Zenana Carriage, this one is extremely well-decorated and may be going to a wedding.  The practice is from the Urdu-speaking Hindustani but can be applied in several ways. This appears to be from British Raj period of India (the good ol’ days to the Brits but the Indians may beg to differ on this).

Really, I’m just in it for the vehicles.

The term seems to be applied rather broadly from sedan chairs to carts and wagons of various quality.  The key being a covered transport for the modesty of the lady enclosed.

It’s more of a concept than a carriage, except among the wealthy.  Zenana carriages for royals may even be made in silver and gold.  It reminds me of the old pilgrim woman in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.  She was so old and beyond modesty, she would often even ride with the curtain partially open.

The Carriage of a Hindoo Lady.
Zenana Cart.
Silver zenana carriage Baroda, 1895.
Sacred bullocks before state carriage - Baroda.
Sacred bullocks before state carriage – Baroda.

I suspect some of the design elements were influenced by British carriage building but overall, this is very much a regional phenomenon.  Perhaps there are some motifs and textures found in this genre to spice up a modern caravan.

And finally, an interesting little cart I found while combing images in the wee hours.

Use whatever you can tame?
Use whatever you can tame?

2 thoughts on “Zenana Carriages, a minor mystery solved

  1. You might enjoy visiting this online forum. It is dedicated to serious scale modeling of historic horse drawn vehicles from many ages. Serious meaning they build from entirely from scratch, starting with basic lumber and metals using very exacting standards of work and replication of details. There are a lot of archived photos of real vehicles as well as photos of the progression of their scale model projects.

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