Women & Crafting: Objects Across North-West India

By Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Some of the vernacular furniture and objects are made by women in day to day life in the north-western states of India. This exhibit presents the stories of various furniture and objects crafted by women across north-west India.

Mud relief workDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Furniture items crafted by women

Women across north-west India craft various furniture items using mud. Husk or hay and dung are added to mud to add to its strength. Women often plaster these furniture items using lime and decorate them using small mirrors. 

Sanjeriyu (Cabinet)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Sanjeriyu

Sanjeriyu literally means a place to store in Gujarati. It is traditionally made by the women of the family by using admixture of mud, dung and hay. It is used to store milk, curd and other food items. Mud relief patterns are made of the surface and mirrors are fixed to decorate the surface of the sanjeriyu.  

Map of sanjeriyu (larder)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This map indicates the places where sanjeriyu (larder) were found across the state of Gujarat.

Sanjeriyu (Cabinet)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This sanjeriyu was documented in a residence of Gandhi nu gaam village in Kutch district of Gujarat. It was built on a platform and had the same mud relief patterns on the surface.

Sanjeriyu (Cabinet)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This sanjeriyu recorded in Hodka village of Kutch was fitted with wooden doors and its walls were made from the admixture to maintain a low temperature making it an ideal place to store food items.

Sanjeriyu (Larder)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A two-dimensional drawings of sanjeriyu.

Sanjeriyu (Larder)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A three-dimensional exploded drawing of the sanjeriyu was made to understand the construction and making of the furniture.

Kothlio (Larder)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Kothlio of Rajasthan

Kothlio is a larder specifically found in the Marwar region of Rajasthan. It is made using mud and built as part of the vernacular architecture of the region in the rural desert parts of Barmer and Jaisalmer. In the absence of refrigerators, such larders are used to store perishable items of food, particularly cooked food and dairy products.

Houses in Mahabar villageDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Mud is used predominantly to construct houses in this region. A typical vernacular house, circular in form is known as jhumpa. A cluster formed by independent jhumpa is known as dhani. An individual jhumpa acts as living room, kitchen space and sleeping area. Kothlio are made in the kitchen space of the dhani.

Map of furniture distributionDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This map indicates the places where the handcrafted granaries and shelves were found across the state of Rajasthan.

Local pond of Tagawali, DholpurDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The women of the house brings mud from the nearby pond to make such larders for days, until enough quantity is collected. The mud is cleaned by removing stones. Water, mingna (camel dung) or leedh (donkey dung) is added to mud to form a consistent mixture for making kothlio by the women. 

Kothlio (Larder)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This kothlio belonged to a lady named Taridevi. In conversation with her during the field visit, she said, "In earlier times it was not necessary that the bride was given everything in dowry. Few things like chulho (hearth), beel (in-built shelves), kothlio (larder) required to run the house, were made by us under supervision of our mother-in-law. Most often, all the women in the house participate and help the new bride to build the kothlio."

Kothlio (Larder)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This kothlio was documented in a house of Roopsi village in Jaisalmer. It belonged to Prem devi. Kothlio is made of different parts. They are called by following names: Kivaad, Haakad-kundi, Thado, Ghero, Paaga

The door of the kothlio is referred to as kivaad.

On kivaad, a latch is provided to lock the kothlio. The latch and loop is known as haakad-kundi.

Thado means a platform. It is the surface of kothlio which sits on the legs.

The inverted dome like structure on the top of the legs is known as ghero.

Legs of the kothlio are called paaga.

Janeri (Shelf)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A typical arrangement of the kitchen in Barmer region with kothlio (larder) and janeri (shelf).

Janeri

Janeri is a shelf which is commonly built near the chulha (hearth) in the kitchen space. It is used to place utensils like plates, jugs, bowls which were used frequently while cooking or serving food.  Admixture of mud, hay and cow dung is used to make janeri. 

Mud relief patterns are made on the borders of the janeri by the women.

Janeri (Shelf)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A two-dimensional drawings of janeri.

Beel (Shelf)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Beel

Beel is an in-built shelf made by the women of the family in the vernacular homes of Marwar region, especially Barmer and Jaisalmer districts. It is used for storing utensils and other household objects. It is made using an admixture of mud, dung and hay, and wood. A series of shelves are made from wood planks and wooden twigs are used to make the vertical members. The basic structure was then plastered with an admixture of mud, dung and hay. 

Beel (Shelf)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This beel was made by Premdevi about forty years ago. It has an aada (in-built cabinet) in the centre with a wooden lockable shutter. It is painted with pink distemper paint every diwali along with the other furniture items of the house.

Beel (Shelf)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A two-dimensional drawing of beel.

Beel (Shelf)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A three-dimensional drawing of the beel was made to understand the construction and making of the furniture.

Haara (Hearth)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Vernacular objects crafted by women

Apart from the furniture, women across the north-west region of India handcraft various objects like chulha & haara (hearth), angeethi (hearth). These objects are made using a mixture of mud, hay and cow dung. Sometimes, relief patterns are made on the surface of the hearths using tips of the fingers as per the aesthetic understanding of the women making it. 

Chulha (Hearth) Chulha (Hearth)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Chulha

A chulha (hearth) is the most commonly made object across the north-west region. It is an in-built hearth used for cooking food by the women across the region. It is made using the admixture of mud, hay and cow dung.  Dry sticks and branches are used as fuel while cooking food on chulha. 

Haara (Hearth)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Haara

A haara is an in-built or portable hearth used especially for boiling milk made by the women in the states of Punjab and Haryana.  A vessel filled with milk is kept in this haara from morning till evening to boil milk. As the milk heats slowly on a constant low flame, the milk becomes more flavourful and its aroma intensifies than the milk quickly boils on the stove.

Angeethi (Hearth)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Angeethi

Angeethi is a portable hearth used to warm up a space and also to heat water during winters. Though angeethi is made in various forms, it is usually made using an inverted broken pot as formwork. Dung cakes are put inside and lit to generate warmth. This angeethi was recorded in the courtyard of a residence.

Credits: Story

The research on this story was conducted as part of the Vernacular Furniture of North-West India project, a collaborative research project conducted between 2015 - 2021 by the Design Innovation and Craft Research Centre (DICRC), CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust (SADACC), Norwich, UK.

The research on the vernacular furniture of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana is presented in the following publications:
1. Sahaj: Vernacular Furniture of Gujarat, co-authored by Mitraja Bais, Jay Thakkar, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright
2. Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Gujarat, co-authored by Mitraja Bais, Jay Thakkar, Samrudha Dixit, Ben Cartwright and Mansi S Rao.
3. Anaikya: Vernacular Furniture of Rajasthan, co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright
4. Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Rajasthan, co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright
5. Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Punjab, co-authored by Rishav Jain, Mansi S Rao, Ben Cartwright and Abhishek Ruikar
6. Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Haryana, co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Rishav Jain, Ben Cartwright and Radha Devpura

This story has been compiled by Mansi S Rao and Radha Devpura.

For more information on the Vernacular Furniture of India, please visit: www.vernacularfurnitureofindia.com

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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