Handicrafts of Punjab

Punjab has a distinguished tradition of art and craft, which its people have maintained in spite of the passage of time. For years, craftsmen in Punjab have been producing colourful papier mache utensils, intricate needle work, wicker fans and winnows, handmade leather juttis (ladies footwears).

Basketry – Weaving of the vegetable fibers to make wicker articles for daily use is still preserved in the living tradition of Punjab. Osier bast, a straw commonly known as Sarkanda, is interwoven with bast, reeds, rushes and corn husks to make baskets. A few decades ago, Sarkanda, a tough, thick elastic grass used to grow in plenty. Out of this grass, roofs of all sizes (which provided air conditioning) were fashioned in circular shapes. After shaving, thin straws of this grass were woven into beautiful carpets and curtains. The hand fan, popularly known as Peshawari Pakkha, is one of the most popular and fascinating handmade wicker products. Smaller, fine and more delicate fans are called Kundaladar Pakkhi on account of their curled ends.

Weaving – Weaving of Durries (cotton bed and floor spreads) in myriad motifs and designs by young girls has been a much cherished tradition in Punjab. Stripes, chessboards, squares, motifs of birds, animals and plants are common patterns.

Needle work – Punjab’s proverbially beautiful women create a wealth of forms on Baghs, Phulkaris, rummals, scarfs etc using needle work. Phulkari, meaning flower work, is a spectacular style of embroidery peculiar to Punjab. Considered auspicious, Phulkaris add a touch of colour and richness to almost every ceremony. Using a deep coloured cotton cloth as base, women embroider an impression of floral magnificence with contrasting silk threads.

Leather craft – Punjabi juttis (shoes made of self cured leather and embroidered all over with gold and silver wires) are famous world over for their intricate designs and high quality. Even though gold/silver threads have replaced the silver and gold wires, the quality of these handmade shoes has been maintained. Lightness of these shoes is considered legendary, in fact ancient craftsmen had benchmarked this lightness thus: shoes should be light enough for sparrows to fly away with.

Metalwork – The metal workers of Amritsar are renowned for their skill. Various forms of casting, soldering, and decoration techniques such as repousse, pierced work, chasing, engraving etc are used by them to make metal pots, utensils, objects needed for religious rituals (lamps, trumpet, etc).

Woodwork – Punjab has also been traditionally famous for its hand crafted wood work. Artistic beds with comfortable back rests fitted with mirrors with carved colourful legs called Pawas, low seats called Peeras and Peerian were made by carpenters in almost every village.

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