Crafts of Punjab



Different corners of Punjab are the traditional workshops where marvellous pieces of handicrafts are given life. Beside Phulkari there are other captivating crafts which are groomed only in Punjab.


At Kartarpur, Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur, craftsmen and women create pidhis (low, four legged woven stools), which are both functional and artistic. In a marvelous display of skill, the pidhis are first carved out from wood, and then covered with lacquer and woven with threads of different colors. Other lacquer ware products of Punjab include table lamps, dolls, and attractive scratch work surahis. Wood workers at Hoshiarpur and Kartarpur specialize in making artistic furniture with intricate designs. In those golden days when artisans received royal patronage, the wood workers of Hoshiarpur particularly were specialists in inlaying ivory. With motifs and ornamentation drawn from life around them -Patta (leaf), dodi (bud), jhari (bush), flowers and animals and birds-the wood workers created masterpieces that found their way to the homes of those who had an eye for skill and beauty.

Today, the march of time has taken its toll in terms of raw material-with ivory inlays being replaced by plastic. But the skills of the craftsmen continue to blossom and they turn out a remarkable range of trays, mirror frames, dressing

tables, easy chairs, sofa sets, dining tables, chairs, and much else.


Color, beauty and utility combine to form the central theme of the well-known leather jootis (shoes and slippers) of Punjab. Rich gold and multi-colored threads are used to decorate and impart a royal touch to a variety of jootis crafted from leather of different shades. In many parts of Punjab, entire families continue to devote themselves to making jootis. A good place to buy jootis is Patiala-once the proud capital of the Sikh Maharajas. One can find a stunning range of jootis embroidered with zari (gold thread), salma and tilla here.

Muktsar, near Faridkot, is also a good center for purchasing jootis. Known for the production of two varieties-khosa and kasuri, Muktsar is home to more than 50 families who specialize in making jootis.


In the villages, women weave durries (a pile less cotton spread, which can be used on a bed or on the floor). Girls are taught the art of weaving durries at a young age. The durries are woven in different sizes, patterns-geometrical, animals, birds, leaves and flowers-and colors. Nikodar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Tarn Taran and Anandpur Sahib offer a vast variety of durries.

Carpet weaving is not as widespread as the weaving of durries, but the art of weaving carpets took root long ago in Punjab, with Amritsar being one of the oldest centers of carpet weaving in the country.


Making parandis may not be as exotic as carpet weaving, but the parandi craftspeople have refined their art and now produce wonderfully attractive parandis in a number of colors and designs Parandis can be purchased almost everywhere in Punjab, but Jalandhar, Amritsar, Nikodar, Hoshiarpur and Ludhiana are amongst the places where the greatest variety can be seen.


Rivaling the parandis in popularity, are the dolls of Punjab, especially the Punjabi bride and the bhangra (a lively fold dance) dolls. Colorful and beautifully crafted and dressed, dolls are made all over Punjab, but the most important center for doll making is Chandigarh.

Both collectively and individually, the crafts of Punjab symbolize many of the strengths of the state and the feel of the people of Punjab to come up with superb combinations of color, beauty and utility bound together by the skill of the craftspeople. In the process, the buyer is served with a tasteful feast of crafts.


Phulkari work is one of the most fascinating expressions of the Punjabi folk art. Women have developed this art at the cost of some of their very precious moments of leisure. They have always been very fond of color and have devoted a lot of their time to colorful embroidery and knitting. It has also been customary for parents and relatives to give hand-embroidered clothes to girls in dowry. Punjabi women were known for embroidery with superb imagination. Phulkari is something of which Punjab is justly proud and is also noted as the home of this embroidered and durable product. This is a kind of women's dress used a special cover to be worn over the shirt which women traditionally don. It actually formed part of the brides trousseau and was associated with various ceremonies preliminary to the wedding during which it used to be embroidered. The cloth used for making this, is generally in red or maroon colour and the thread employed in the close embroidery is made of silk in gold, yellow, crimson red, blue and green colours.

In the Phulkari work, the whole cloth is covered with close embroidery and almost no space is left uncovered. The piece of cloth thus embroidered is called baag meaning a garden. If only the sides are covered it is called chope. The back ground is generally maroon or scarlet and the silken thread used is mostly golden. Colour schemes show a rich sensitiveness. Some Phulkaris are embroidered with various motifs of birds, animals, flowers and sometimes scenes of village life.

Mud Works

There is no limit to the creativity of Punjab's craftsmen. They have this panache for turning seemingly dull materials into masterpieces of art. Take as simple a thing as mud for example. Plastering the walls with mud and drawing ferns, plants, several other fascinating motifs has been a way of life of the woman of Punjab.

Weaving and Embroidery

Weaving of Durries (cotton bed or floor spreads) in myriad motifes and designs especially by young girls in the villages has been a long tradition in Punjab. These are also woven in stripes, cheek boards, squares, motifs of birds, animals and even plants as a part of dowry. Needle work of Punjab is unique, it has beautiful names because of its associations with beautiful aspects of life and the beautiful designs which the dextrous fingers of Punjab's proverbially beautiful women create have such a wealth of forms and motifs that they defy enumeration. Some of these are called Baghs, literally a garden, Phulkaris, literally flower work, rummals, scarfs. The patterns of needle work done on the bed spreads, chunnis, dupattas (these are head covers) and shirts and Salvars, are still different. Needle work on phulkaris is done on a deep coloured cotton cloth with striking silk threads. The threads is pierced upwards from underneath the cloth into free-hand motifs, while in the Baghs and Rummals such cloth is worked on the top side only. These were traditionally used for wear but now are exported as wall hangings and sewn as jackets etc.

Folk Toys Making

The earliest hand-made toys of Punjab can be traced back to the Indus Valley Civilization, dating from 2500 to 1700 B.C. These bear a remarkable resemblance to the traditional toys of a much later period which remained popular through the ages till recently when factory made toys found their way to the villages.

The traditional toys usually depict animals, equestrian figures and wheeled vehicles, all of which, though varying in quality and intended for different purposes. 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. Dolls, birds and animals are some of the common subjects. These are embellished with colorful additions of beads, buttons, feathers, tinsels and tassels and also with cowries. Sometimes the body of the toy is appliqued. The material used in this folk art reflects the dynamic spirit of improvisation. Besides their ornamental quality these toys have a sentimental value as well as emotional appeal.

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 colored with kharia mitti and decorated with motifs in bright colors.

Wood Works

The wood work of Punjab has also been traditionally famous. Artistic beds with comfortable, skillfully made, back rests fitted with mirrors and carved colourful legs called Pawas, low seats called Peeras, Peerian were made by carpenters in almost every village. Their skill has passed into folk songs (Raati rondi da bhij gaya Ial bhangoora) weeping last night my red Swing became drenched. Furniture designed in Punjab and boxes, toys and decorative pieces made out of wood are exported. In giving lacquer finish to wood crafts, in adorning it with colored mirror and in engraving wood, inlaying ivory (now white plastic only) the workmen of Punjab have been renowned.

The onslaught of high technology is putting a premium on the arts and crafts in the modern era and it will require special efforts to preserve them for posterity.

Miscellaneous Crafts

The craftsmen of Punjab have also been making paper mache utencils for storing house hold necessities in colorful designs for a long time past, out of a paste made by mixing paper and various kinds of earth. A few decades ago, Sarcanda, a kind of tough; thick elastic grass used to grow in plenty at places, which have now come under the plough. Out of this grass roofs of all sizes are fashioned in circular shapes. After shaving, thin straws of this grass are woven into beautiful carpets and curtains.

Another useful household contrivance called Chhaj in Punjabi are manufactured out of sarcanda which is used for separating edible stuff from the grain. Screens, used as a parting between wheat and hay, for instance, are also woven from this stuff. Baskets used for keeping haber dasbery (pins, cotton, buttons, needles, threads) in different shapes and colors and covers are contrived by young girls by using shaved sarcanda and colored cotton thread which are taken by them as a part of dowry. In Punjabi these are called katnees.

The shavings of sarcanda chicks and colored cotton threads were also used to weave Chiks, Bohiey, Pitarian, ( household articles) and kind of chairs called Moorras. Brushes for white washing are also made by hands out of munjhs. However, these crafts of Punjab are moving fast towards falling into wilderness.

Handicrafts Trade
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