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.
Listed below are some of the popular arts/crafts of Punjab:
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.
Chhaj, used for separating grain from husk was also manufactured out of Sarkanda. Sarkanda was interwoven with coloured cotton threads to weave Chiks, Bohey, Pitarian, (useful household article) and kind of chairs called Moorras. Baskets for keeping pins, cotton, buttons, needles, threads etc., in different shapes and colours were also made from the combination of shaved Sarkanda and coloured cotton thread and were taken by women as a part of dowry. Called katnees, these also find mention in a wedding song: Punjabi (Tyari ho gayi patolaya teri katni nu phul lag gaye) Arrangements for you have been made O beautiful one-Katni has now blossomed forth.
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. Durries also used to form a part of girls dowry.
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. The thread is pierced upwards from underneath the cloth into free-hand motifs, The embroidery is so intricate that it is hard to distinguish between the left and right or upward and downward side of the phulkari. In the Baghs and Rummals, the cloth is worked on the top side only. The patterns are not restricted or controlled, but bold, free and highly imaginative such that no two Phulkaris are alike. Phulkaris were traditionally used as attire but now are exported as wall hangings or sewn as jackets etc.
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.
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. This skill has also passed into folk songs (Raati rondi da bhij gaya Lal bhangoora) Weeping last night my red Swing became drenched.
In giving lacquer finish to wood crafts, in adorning it with coloured mirror and in engraving wood, inlaying ivory (now white plastic only) the workmen of Punjab have been renowned and much of the furniture and boxes, toys and decorative pieces made out of wood are exported. Areas more renowned for woodcarving in Punjab are Batala, Amritsar and Hoshiarpur.
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). Decorative items like lamp shades and engraved metal doors are some of the items on which these artisans work. The figurative engraved panels of the Temples and Gurudwaras are also much in demand. At times metal doors are plated with gold and silver and a very fine repousse work done on them.
Chowk-Poorana: The art of mud wall paintings
Mud walls of the rural houses in Punjab are painted on festive occasions like Dushera, Karva chauth (the day when women observe a fast for the well being of their husbands), Holi, Diwali etc. Walls are plastered with mud and women draw ferns, plants and other fascinating motifs to invoke the blessings of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and plenty.
Dump of old papers out of trash in the house are kneeded with mud to make mouldable dough, which is further moulded into baskets, containers & some time toys as well. hemi spherical bottom counters of the pots available in the kitchen are used as dies to give shape to the dough.