Saturday, 16 November 2013

Punjabi Art & Culture

Punjab is the 15th largest state in India. Many races of people and religions made up the cultural heritage of the Punjab. The genius of Punjabis finds expression in love stories, lusty dancing, and humour. Punjab is very rich in terms of dance. Most popular Punjabi dances are:

Bhangra, Giddha, Jhumar, Luddi, Dankara Julli, Sammi, Dhamal, Jaago, Kikli and Gatka. These days, many non-Punjabis are also getting into Punjab's folk dances, as you occasionally see a European or Chinese in various Bhangra competitions. These non-Punjabis have simply made Punjabi dance a part of their own culture as well.

Basketery :-

The craft of basketry is widely practised all over Punjab. After shaving, thin straws of this grass, are woven into beautiful carpets, curtains etc. Among these products the hand fan is very popular and fascinating on account of its curled shape. These fans are popularly known as Peshawari Pakkhe. The ones smaller in size are very fine and delicate. These are called Kundaldar Pakkhi on account of their curled ends. Another useful household contrivance called Chhaj in Punjabi was manufactured out of sarcanda which is used for separating edible stuff from .the grain. The basketware was intended to fulfil only the daily needs of the people. In most cases, no effort was made to give them a decorative or artistic touch.

Wood Work :-

The woodwork of Punjab has been traditionally famous. Artistic beds with comfortable, skillfully made back rests fitted with mirrors, low seats called Peeras, Peerian were made by carpenters in almost every village. Furniture designed in Punjab and boxes, toys and decorative pieces made out of lacquer finish to wood crafts, in adorning it with engraving wood, inlaying ivory (now white plastic only) the workmen of Punjab have been renowned. Woodcarving in Punjab is practised in Batala, Amritsar and Hoshiarpur.

Clay Toys and Pottery :-

The indigenous traditional clay toys had a decisive psychological effect upon children. They also reflect their sensibilities. The inherent sensibility in the young mind could be properly poked, guided and fostered from early childhood through the judicious choice of playthings of taste and beauty. Toys are made of wood, clay, paper and cloth. Deeva or Clay lamps are made expressly on the occasion of Diwali.

In the villages, the potter obtains his raw material, i.e. clay, free of cost from a nearby pond (Chhappar). In addition to the toys he makes clay pottery, Surahi and Ghara (vessels for storing water), dishes, jars, etc., which he sells at very little profit. The traditional forms have good proportions that only objects whose shapes are dictated exclusively by function. Constant repetition with slight variations often brings refinements of proportion to a classic purity. Each shape fulfils its function admirably. The tall narrow-necked jar (Martaban) and similar specimens of pottery have disappeared from post-partition Punjab. Some specimens of clay pottery can still be seen on certain festivals. They are decorated with different colours, which reinforce and strengthen their form. In pre-partition Punjab, a light wooden toy called Reloo Pehalwan used to be made. It represented an acrobat balancing himself pre-cariously on a small stool. Slightly different from this was another toy also called Reloo; made of paper. It balances itself on a small lump of clay. This specimen of Reloo is the restless type and cannot stand still. It keeps moving from right to left and vice versa, much to the mirth and delight of small children.

The popularity of the clay toys is diminishing day by day but still there are to be seen sporadic instances of miniature dolls in clay, animals and kitchen utensils, roughly coloured with kharia mitti and decorated with motifs in bright colours. A wide variety of traditional wooden toys are still being produced in Hoshiarpur. They are lacquer painted in bright colour-yellow, red, green etc. These include dolls, household articles, train, wheel birds, baby walkers (gadda) etc. About 30 years ago, small girls used to love to possess these toys. Traditional toys generally serve a two-fold purpose. They can be used as playthings by the children and as decoration pieces by the adults. Toys of cloth stuffed with cotton are still made by the women in the villages. Wood and clay tops (lattoo) are still quite popular in some areas of Punjab such as Amritsar. Edible toys in sugar have a great variety of shapes.

In village fairs one comes across toys with a scientific touch though naively native in character.

Dolls, birds and animals are some of the common subjects. The world of these colourful and joyful toys has gradually receded into the background, yielding place to cheap plastic products flooding our markets. The folk objects made by professional potters or toy-makers have no market; so they have had to give up their occupation. The same is true of the artisan community who used to make toys of straw.

Mudwall Painting :-

The tradition of painting on the mudwalls dates back to very ancient times when the earliest man sought protection in the magical drawing which was thought to prevent the aura of evil spirits from coming into the house. Certain symbols were also used to express the wish of the creators for boons of plenty, progeny and well-being. The art of mudwall painting is known as Chowk-Poorana in the Punjab. It is necessary to make it clear that despite its name Chowk-Poorana, the Punjabi rustic women do not draw decorative designs at the threshold of their homes, but on the mud-walls. The mudwalls of rural houses in the Punjab are painted on festive occasions like the "Navaratra poorna" before and on Dussehra day, Karva-Chauth (the day on which fast is observed by Punjabi and U.P. women for the well-being of their husbands), Hoi or Ahoi, and Diwali. All these festivals are celebrated in September, October and November-the months known as the festive season. If one finds oneself in a Punjab village during this season, one is spell-bound by attractive and intricately composed patterns and designs painted on the mudwalls which are intended to invoke the blessings of and welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and plenty. These drawings and paintings are done by the peasant women. Some of these paintings deserve to rank among genuine creative art. The art of mudwall painting does not require special training. Young girls just pick it up from their mothers or elderly women. In fact, as a leisure hour occupation, it is essentially a rural and feminine art. This typical art depends entirely on individual capacity and skill. Painting the mudwalls was the only means for them to add colour and richness to their poor, humble and lowly surroundings. The formal simplicity and beauty of these patterns revealing the inherent sense of design on the part of these peasants would make any artist envious. The symbolic designs and motifs drawn on the mudwalls are born of unconscious and ancient knowledge, potent with power and energy, and used by the woman as an auspicious mark for worship, decoration, beautification and protection of hearth and home. They have also been making paper mache utensils for storing house hold necessities in colourful designs for a long time past, out of a paste made by mixing paper and various kinds of earth.

Metalwork is the most important of Punjab's arts and crafts. The common use of metal objects in daily life has necessitated the evolving of various products and techniques. The metal-workers of Amritsar are known for their skill in various forms of casting, soldering, methods of decoration such as repousse, pierced work, chasing, engraving, etc. Metal pots and other utensils are used by the housewife in her kitchen. Metal objects are necessary for religious rituals in the homes as well as in the temples. Among these objects are included temple lamps and trumpets (Narasinga). Decorative objects are for those who can afford them.

The most remarkable are engraved metal doors and the Kalashas of the temples, the Chhattra and the three-dimensional life-size metal sculptures of lion, Durga's charger, and Nandi, Shiva's mount outside their respective temples. In the 19th century, figurative panels engraved in low relief were very common in the Hindu temples and Sikh gurudwaras. Metal craftsmen engaged in repousse work were called Chitera in Amritsar. It may be noted here that the word 'Chitera' means a painter; the term is commonly used in this sense in the erstwhile Hill states of the Punjab Himalaya, now incorporated in Himachal Pradesh.


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