The state of Punjab possesses a rich tradition of art and craft. The lushness of the land is reflected in its handicraft. The people of Punjab give a lot of importance to artistry. Their talent can be seen in a variety of things like dresses, carpets, footwear etc. The artistic creations of Punjab are much-admired worldwide. The skilled and expert artisans including the rural women of the state contribute to different handicrafts. There are many handicrafts specific to the place and the popular ones are described below:
Folk Toys of Punjab
The creative folk toys are the products of the perfect blend of social values and artistry. The traditional toys mostly depict wheeled vehicles, animals and riding figures varying in quality and purpose. They can be used as toys by the children and as decorative pieces. Toys made of cloth with cotton stuffed inside are still made by the women in the villages. These toys are decorated with colourful beads, feathers, buttons, tassels, cowries and tinsels. The material used in the folk toys depict the dynamic spirit of creativeness. It is the skill and innovation of craftsmen that has made these toys famous amongst the visitors. Today, these folk toys from Punjab are mainly used as decorative pieces at home and in offices. Tourists love to take these folk toys as a token of love for their relatives and friends.
The word Phulkari means flower work. It’s a handmade embroidery art which involves making flower designs on a fabric. The art form became popular during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the 15th century. It is said that the art form was first created by women of North-West region of the pre-partitioned India. The unique feature of this embroidery is the use of coloured silk thread stitch on the wrong side of a coarse cotton cloth. The approach to colours and designs vary in different parts of the state. The darning stitch is the most frequently used technique to make phulkari. The quality of the work is measured by the width of this stitch. The narrowest stitch indicates a finer piece of work. Various types of phulkari used in the state of Punjab include the Thirma, Senchi, Bawan, Suraj-Mukhi, Darshan Dwar and Vari Phulkari.
An ancient and popular handicraft of the state, the mud art shows the zenith of Punjabi creativity, in turning the dull objects into masterpieces. One of the Punjabi special art known as Chowk Poorna involves the plastering of the house walls with mud and then decorating them with striking designs. The Punjabis are skilled in the art of turning the heap of plain mud into amazing art pieces. Nowadays, mud work is done only on special occasions like Holi, Diwali, Karwa Chauth and Navratri. Apart from using it as a beautification tool for their homes, the mud work art form is also worshipped by women. Thus, mud work is the best way to add to the beauty of one’s home at almost negligible cost. On looking at the designs and artwork, it is hard to believe that they have been done by unprofessional hands with no formal training.
Basketry or Basket Weaving
Basketry is a very old and largely followed handicraft in most of the parts of Punjab. The womenfolk in villages are mainly oriented towards it as a means of employment. Earlier baskets were largely used by families for various reasons but with the changing time, Basketry finally became an art and craft work. Basketry is done using raw materials like bamboo, reeds, cane, grass, palm leaf, date leaf, cornhusk as they are easily available locally. Sarkanda is a straw used extensively in basketry. All the major tourist spots and cities have ample range of basketry stuff. Dog rose, Blackberry briars and Honeysuckle are the other plants used in basket making.
Parandas or Parandis is a traditional handicraft of Punjab prominent worldwide. The vibrant hanging hair accessory of women consists of a bunch of colourful threads which is worn at the end of their plaits. The bright and flashy brilliance of the parandis represents the energetic and lively nature of the Punjabis. Women generally wear parandis matching the colour of their traditional dress. Women from Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar and Jalandhar work in this handicraft industry. There is a huge demand of parandis amongst the tourists from other state and also among the foreigners because of its unique design value. Some of the popular parandi designs that women love to wear include the Jali wali, Moti, Jalebi and Laddu Parandi. The designs have constantly evolved with time. Beautiful combo of colours, new materials and a new type of embellishments has ensured that women still have the same strong desire to use this hair accessory just like their ancestors.
The state of Punjab is traditionally known for their artistic woodwork which portrays a lot of creativity. Amongst the variety of high quality and famous wood works, the Pidhis stand out because of various reasons. Created out of wood, Pidhis are small stools with intricate carvings and designs engraved on them by experts. They are carefully made by carpenters using their traditional knowledge that has been passed down through the generations. Measuring about 6-8 inches in height, Pidhis are used by Punjabis to decorate their room as it delivers a traditional touch. They are not mass produced unlike the furniture used by the people nowadays. Possessing high attraction and utility value, Pidhis of Punjab is a major seller at most exhibitions selling handicrafts. They are comfortable to sit, eloquent and attractive as well. Pidhis are primarily made in Jalandhar, Katarpur and Hoshiarpur. The artisans know how to make wooden furniture last a lifetime with their advanced lacquer finishing knowledge.
Durries are the flat woven rugs that are useful and remarkable. They are used either as carpets or as bed sheets. The intricate blend of artistic designs makes these durries different from any usual carpet. The durries are woven in various sizes, patterns and colours. Motifs of animals, birds and plants are the common patterns made on them. Anandpur sahib, Jalandhar, Nikodar and Hoshiarpur are known for the variety of durries.
The woodwork of Punjab is known globally for its detailing and the high degree of creativity. The carpenters have matchless skills in creating vintage furniture that not only have a high visual appeal but are also sturdy and durable. The large wooden bed is one of the most popular pieces of traditional Punjabi furniture that is ordered from all over the country. These large sized creative beds are fitted with mirrors and have exquisitely carved beautiful leg supports called Pawas. The attractive motifs of animals, birds and geometrical patterns are used to make the pawas more attractive. Some of the other well-known wooden artefacts include home furniture, musical instruments, carriage, lacquer work, turnery and boats. The best carpenters with expertise in woodwork come from Jalandhar, Bhera, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur and Patiala. They are admired for their superb artistic skills and plays a significant role in preserving the glorious tradition of an ancient woodwork.
An economically important industry of the state, the state of Punjab is well-known for its interesting leather items like jackets, juttis, khussas and bags. The juttis and khussas are manufactured with cow, buffalo and camel leather soles. The upper part of the jutti consists of a simple leather or textile. Juttis made in Punjab are quite popular all over the world for their elegant designs and durability. Their light weight makes then exceptionally popular. The artisans do not compromise on the durability and quality of this ethnic footwear.