A glimpse into the past through the collection of betel nut cutters from Prakash Mahimkar

71-year-old retired merchant marine officer, Prakash Mahimkar He remembers asking for a recommendation from a passerby in Pune, 46 years ago. The man recommended Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum to him, where he eventually went, out of curiosity.

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Once inside the museum, he was completely hypnotized by the collection of antiques on display. From old musical instruments to antique furniture and rare sculptures, everything was fascinating to him. What caught his attention was Adkitta: betel nut cutters or sarota . An hour later, while visiting the local market, he found a small utensil store that had an old Adkitta Mahimkar negotiated a fair price on his screen and bought the first one.

Today, he has more than 350 old Adkitta s - among other big collections such as old paan dabba's (meant for storing paan leaves and supari), old chuna dibbi's (lime powder containers), old containers, chanchee (traditional pouch to carry paan leaves ), telephone calling cards, old and new currencies, wooden cars and bikes, papyrus paintings from Egypt, etc. They span across different eras and geography.

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He recently displayed his Adkitta collection at this year’s grand silver jubilee exhibition of rare items ’at Balgandharwa Kaladalan . It was visited by thousands of connoisseurs across the three day event. When asked about his fascination with Adkitta’s, Mahimkar said, “Back in the day, Adkitta s used to be an indicator of a man’s status just like how mobiles and cars are today. A glimpse at a man’s Adkitta could reveal key facts such as social status, profession, wealth, etc. Each design has a story and is unique to certain individuals. The remarkable craftsmanship of our ancestors is more than evident in these artifacts. ”

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Although most came locally, there are quite a few that were obtained internationally, thanks to their merchant marine profession. Every time he docked at a port, he went hunting to add something new to his collection. Even in India, I would go to remote villages in search of interesting artifacts.

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