This magnificent mottled red sandstone Mughal panel dates from the beginning of the 17th century. The elegant long necked vase (surahi) is seen in relief below three of the cusped arches and a footed tray offers fruit and pan within two of the niches with a stylised rosette in the top centre panel.
The use of the surahi, both painted and in relief probably evolved from their connection with the “waters of fertility” and hence with good fortune and abundance but by this time were appreciated for their elegant decorative effect (see Zebrowski). However, as guests would be offered fruit, pan and something to quench their thirst and these elements are often seen in paintings over the centuries I would propose that they also portray hospitality. Two superb examples of the Chini Kana (china room) panels can be seen at Sikandra dating from the same time: the Gate Pavilion of the Suraj Bhan ka Bagh and the exterior walls of the Kanch Mahal palace nearby.