Beautiful 19th century Kerala betal nut pandan box with lock latch.
These box's were used to store and prepare paan, made from betel leaf, lime, tobacco and the nut from the areca palm. This mixture of ingredients when prepared and placed in the mouth for long periods is said the user a mild aphrodisiac affect.
The chewing of betel, or pan as it is called in North India has had a long history of India and many other parts of South Asia. It is particularly appreciated after meals because of its alkaline content, but it can be consumed at any moment, and has come to be associated with a leisured and refined style of life. Its consumption was important both at court in the etiquette of the upper classes. During royal audience (darbar), the ruler would often ‘calmly’ chew betel, perhaps to show his detached, and therefore superior, judgement. The offering of the royal pan to a courtier was a sign of extraordinary favour, and an even greater honour would be the offering of the betel container (pandan).