Since 2016, Pradeep Sangwan and his army of volunteers have been cleaning up the trash left behind by tourists from Himachal Pradesh
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Don’t leave Punjab without a souvenir, something that exemplifies its traditional arts and crafts. Though the state’s industrial mills have pushed handcrafted textiles, leather items and carpets into a niche market, there are still some pockets where you can get them in their authentic form. Similarly, while its toy market is flooded with China-made goods, a simple wooden or tin toy tractor, car, aeroplane or a JCB machine made by local artisans in the villages makes for an avant-garde décor statement for your home.
There was a time when Punjab’s craftsmen were envied for their excellence in woodwork. Influenced by Kashmir, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran, these craftsmen produced works of great beauty. This can still be seen in the pre-Partition houses. Today, ornamental furniture and wooden products are available in places such as Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Bhera. Wood carving here is known for its geometric or floral patterns dating back to the Mughal era. Its inlay work—known as dibbi—can be seen on furniture, boxes, screens, bowls, cigarette cases and chess boards made of sheesham or black wood. Hoshiarpur is also known for its delicate trellis woodwork and you can get them made to order to suit your purpose.
Excavations date the earliest needle found in Punjab to the 2nd century BCE. No textile pieces have survived from this age, but it is likely, that people were quite deft with the needle. Phulkari (literally, ‘flower’) started out as darning at the back of the damask by either counting the thread or with the help of a thread line. Bagh Phulkari is a type of drape where the entire surface of the cloth is covered with ornamental designs connected to each other in a seamless pattern. A phulkari where only the edges of the drape are covered with stylised motifs of flowers, fruits, beads or geometric design is known as chope (it was traditionally gifted by older women of the house to the bride). These are usually stitched with silk or cotton threads. The traditional combination of colours used to be gold, yellow and white or green embroidery on red or indigo-coloured cloth. Now, it is made in any colour combination you want. Patiala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar are the places to shop for phulkari.
Durries & Carpets
There is no home in Punjab that doesn’t own a durry—the simple loom woven thick cotton spread, used as a bedcover or a carpet. You can buy these in Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Tarn Taran and Anandpur Sahib during any festive season when artisans come to sell their ware. Most of the carpets available in Punjab now are machine-made. The patterns of these carpets are usually inspired by the Mughal era. But, if you are interested in the real deal, you can travel to the village of Raja Sansi, not far from Amritsar airport, where you’ll find famous Bukhara-style hand-woven carpets. Women have kept the tradition of weaving carpets alive here.
If you’ve had lassi in a traditional mega-sized Punjabi brass tumbler, you’d have noticed the delicate repoussé, piercing and metal engraving. Besides tumblers, Punjab also makes decorated metal lampshades, metal doors and engraved panels—the kind that are seen in gurudwaras depicting the famous battles from Sikh history.
The vibrant and colourful leather shoes of Punjab constitute a craft that’s thriving, even though most of the embroidery done on leatherette surfaces today is executed by machines. If you want the real thing, choose pure leather juttis, which have to be executed by hand because the leather used for this type of shoe is too thick to stitch by commercial machines. These handcrafted shoes are usually decorated with silver or gold threads.
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