Kamandalu which is also known as Kamandala or Kamandalam is a traditional water pot used for carrying water by Hindu Naga sect sadhus, yogis and Buddhist monks. In Hindu mythology it is represented that gods and sanyasis carry Kamandalu in their hands that holds a greater spiritual significance. Some of the gods and goddesses represented with Kamandalu in their hands are:
Lord Shiva: Lord Shiva is symbolized with numerous iconic features that has abundant philosophy behind it. One among such icon is Kamandalu. It is constantly always seen along the image Lord Shiva. It is believed that Kamandalu of Shiva holds nectar and it symbolizes the purification of mind.
Goddess Durga: During the time of Navarathri (Dasara festival) goddess Durga is worshiped in nine forms. One among such nine forms is goddess Brahmacharini. She is represented by holding Kamandalu in one hand and rosary (japa mala) in the other hand which denotes prosperity, peace, grace, happiness and austerity.
Guru Dattatreya: Guru Dattatreya son of Rishi Athri and his wife Anusuya, has six hands and in one hand he holds Kamandalu. The water in his Kamandalu is believed to be of highest purity and has the magical power to cure all the physical and mental ailments.
Lord Brahma: Lord Brahma having four arms holds rosary and Vedas in top right and left hands. In lower right hand he gives Abhayamudra and the lower left hand holds a Kamandalu that represents the cosmic energy through which the universe is created.
Gods like Varuna (God of rain), Agni (God of fire), Guru Brihaspathi (Guru of gods), Goddess Ganga whose birth is attributed to the Kamandalu of Lord Brahma are associated with water and are represented with Kamandalu.
It is mentioned that the water from this traditional pot is used by Gods and munis to curse the sinners and also bless their devotees by sprinkling the Kamandalu’s water on them. As mentioned in Hindu religious text ‘Devi Mahatmya’ Goddess Karamgamaladharini is described to wear a garland of several Kamandalas around her neck and goddess Brahmini killed the demons by sprinkling the holy water from her Kamandalu on them. This upholds the power of the water in the Kamandalu. According to the most renowned Hindu text ‘Garuda purana’, it states that gifting a Kamandalu to a Brahmin during the ritual of a funeral ceremony done for a dead person ensures that the dead person receives plenty of drinking water in his afterlife journey.
Even today in some villages the Hindu religious sanyasis visit few houses and collect rice till their brass Kamandalu gets filled and then cook their mid-day meal sitting under the peepal tree. And recently during the time of an excavation, a coin that belongs to the period 183 to 165 BC is found which has a stamp showing Lord Krishna carrying a Kamandalu. Till the date in many of the Hindu temples of Lord Shiva and other deities Kamandalu is still used for doing abhisheka (purifying the idol of deity by pouring water over it) to the lord.
The actual Kamandalu is traditionally made of ripe bottle gourd or the pumpkin or coconut shell or from the wood of Kamanadalataru tree (bottle gourd tree). Often ripe pumpkin is chosen for making Kamandalu. It is initially plucked from the pumpkin creeper plant. Then the ripe pumpkin is sun dried and once it is dried the pulp and the seeds inside are scooped out retaining the outer skin intact. Then the skin is thoroughly cleaned and dried again just to remove the moisture content. Once the moisture is removed, the shell (skin) of the pumpkin is cut into the shape of Kamandalu (a pot that holds water) and a handle is also made out of it and attached to it. This process of making Kamandalu out of pumpkin is interconnected with a deep symbolism which holds the spiritual significance. The pumpkin Kamandalu is believed to be containing nectar and is presented in front of Lord Shiva on the ground in the centre. Here the process of making Kamandalu is connected with the spiritual messages linked to the individuals regarding the worldly plane representing self-contained and simple life. Here the pumpkin creeper plant is compared to the material world, the pumpkin is compared to an individual, seeds and the pulp of the pumpkin is symbolized as ego. The cleaning and removal of the pulp and seeds denotes the practice of controlling the desires. As a conclusion it states that one should remove the ego and the desires by getting detached from the physical world and stay pure within by cleaning his inner self in order to experience the bliss of the self to attain Moksha. As the way the water is held in Kamandalu, in the same way the mind should fit into the enjoyment of the celestial bliss. It is also considered that the water in the traditional pumpkin Kamandalam is equivalent to Amrita – the elixir of life representing one’s life, fertility, prosperity and continuity.
Now a days Kamandalu is made of brass, copper, silver and also with clay sometimes. Sometimes we also come across a unique Kamandalu made of brass and copper. Aesthetically speaking it is a beautiful combination of brass and copper. As the copper represents river Jamuna and brass represents river Ganga, this type of Kamandalu is called as Ganga Jamuna Kamandalu. This Kamandalu has three stepped base. It is a round shaped pitcher with a wide-open neck that has a semicircular handle attached to the mouth of the Kamandalu to facilitate the grip when carried and a snout - through which the water can be poured in a controlled way.
Since ancient times Hindus consider some of the metals are very sacred and auspicious to prepare gods idols and other Pooja materials. Three among such metals are Copper,Brass and silver. According to Hindu astrology the metal copper is ruled by the planet Venus which is mainly used for money and fertility purpose. As the planet Venus has the lowest rotating frequency and being passive, receptive, kind and ready to adopt are the characters of it and copper shares the same characteristics with a great affinity to Venus. Copper easily blends with other metals and easily transfers heat and electricity and it is used for preparing yantras among Hindus. The other metal that is considered as sacred and used among Hindus is Brass. It gives utmost reliability and has more strength due to which it is used for making idols, yantras and considered it as pure. The idols that are made of brass without any problems pass on by generations to generations. Thus the Kamandalu is either completely made of brass or with the combination of brass and copper. Silver is also one among the metals that are highly used for the rituals. As per astrology Silver is ruled by the planet Moon. It is used as a protection against the supernatural and helps in improving the psychic ability and intuition. The planet moon is associated with the characteristics of motherliness, feminity, cycles and the emotional changes. Thus it is also used as the religious jewelleries and accessories in mass.