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?

Marketing to the Caravan Craze: Composting Toilet


Earth ClosetHumanure is not as new of an idea as we are often led to believe.  With the genuine Moules, there are no, bad smells, typhoid OR diphtheria!  That’s quite a bonus.  Well, if it’s good enough for Windsor Castle and Sandringham then it’s good enough for me!

What I find truly fascinating is that we can’t discuss this subject openly.  Certainly wouldn’t have been when and where I grew up.  A close reading of the above handbill does not actually reveal what it is we are talking about here.  Everyone does it, so everyone can figure it out.  Imagine reading something like this as a non-native English speaker.  The beat-around-the-bush lingo would be baffling.  No picture, no real description, just talking about that which cannot be named in polite company; ewww.

If somehow you’re still not sure what we’re talking about here, this should help:

Henry_Moule's_earth_closet,_improved_version_c1875Again… eww.

But seriously, this sanitation unit was probably a huge lifesaver.  Moule began developing the dry-earth system of sanitation after the summer of the “GREAT STINK” in London in 1858.  Oddly enough, a culprit of this mass contamination was the introduction of the flush toilet shortly before.  Overwhelming the ancient sewer systems of London and the surrounding areas.

Adding more water was not the solution to the problem so by 1860 Moule patented what became a widely accepted way to fight disease and water contamination.  Due to it’s efficiency and ease of use the new “Earth Closets” were adopted by hospitals, the British military,  affluent households (including the British monarchy) and throughout British India (a.k.a. the Raj).