Types of Vernacular Furniture from North-West India

By Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Based on the findings of vernacular furniture from the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, a detailed typology was created to categorize the furniture as a part of the project 'Vernacular Furniture of North-West India'. 

Basket (tokra)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

As tools for activities of daily life, vernacular furniture can be complex and require special craft skills. They are often constructed to fulfill practical or ceremonial roles, by the people involved in the activities and for their community who follow these activities. 

All category iconsDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Typology Categories

Since utility is the most important factor for furniture to find its place in people’s lives, the project classifies the furniture by usage into five categories – Aasan: seating; Manch: sleeping; Manjush: storage; Sapaat: surface; and Vastu: objects.

Aasan category iconsDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Aasan (Seating)

Aasan is derived from the Sanskrit word asana. It signifies body-posture as well as a seat. The term aasan is ambiguous in nature and encompasses anything from a straw mat to a king’s throne. All types of seating furniture have been classified under this category.

Manch category iconsDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Manch (Sleeping)

Manch, among various other implications, signifies a bed. Vernacular beds are essentially charpoys. A variety of charpoy forms and other vernacular furniture pieces, like cradles, are used for sleeping and are included in this category.

Manjush category iconsDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Manjush (Storage)

Manjush is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘manjusha’, meaning a storage space. In different parts of north-west India, manjush is also known as majus or majju, because of the change in vernacular dialect from region to region. A range of storage furniture including in-built options like wall niches and cabinets, are included in this category.

Sapaat category iconsDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Sapaat (Surface)

Various surfaces are used to place objects upon, to write on or are used in ceremonial contexts. Sapaat is a term used to denote any such horizontal surface.

Vastu category iconsDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Vastu (Objects)

An object is known as Vastu, in most north-western languages. The term is not to be confused with vaastu, which signifies a house, or the land to build a house on. Everyday objects such as caskets, hooks, lamps, shrines, hand mills and so on that have been an integral component of domestic lifestyles are featured under this category.

Typology chart of GujaratDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Typology chart of Gujarat

In Gujarat, 31 typologies were established under 5 broader categories respectively from 1380 documented furniture pieces.

Bannk (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Bankdo (Bench)

In Gujarat, a bankdo is a seating furniture. Though their form is western, the benches are often ornamented with local craft techniques, such as woodturning and carving.

Dholio (Charpoy) Dholio (Charpoy)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Dholio (Charpoy)

A dholio is a charpoy used for sleeping purposes. Its structural members (the frame and four legs) are made of turned wood. The heavily turned legs finished with red lacquer are characteristic of a dholio.

Pataaro (Chest)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Pataaro (Chest)

A wooden chest braced with metal strips, that can be accessed through a wide opening on its top, is known as a pataaro. It is used for storage purposes in Gujarati households. A pataaro is often displayed in the living room of a house along with other brass and copper articles for the visitors to admire.

Bajot (Low surface)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Bajot (Low surface)

A bajot is a surface furniture used as offering tables during religious rituals. 

Ikad (Hanger)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Ikad (Hanger)

An ikad is a vernacular hanger established under the Vastu category. It is mostly found in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. Typically, an ikad comprises of a central member, with four brackets protruding from the base, serving as hangers.

Typology chart of RajasthanDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Typology chart of Rajasthan

In Rajasthan, 54 typologies were established under 5 broader categories respectively from 1519 documented furniture pieces.

Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Paata (Bench)

Paata are seating furniture specifically used as outdoor benches where they are located in a chowk (plaza or crossroads), guwad (streets), or mohalla (neighbourhood). They are also used in the entrance lobbies of havelis for visitors to sit.

Ghodiyu (Cradle)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Ghodiyu (Cradle)

A ghodiyu is as sleeping furniture. This particular ghodiyu  found in Rajasthan has been passed down for three generations. The most recent user was the family’s granddaughter who had used it around three decades ago. It is being safeguarded to be used by her children in the future.

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

Majju (Cabinet)

Majju is a cabinet used to store clothes and valuables, with mattresses and quilts stacked up on top.

Peyi (Merchant’s desk)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Peyi (Merchant’s desk)

A sloping desk used for writing; commonly known as a merchant’s desk. n. It was mostly used by traders in their shops, where they would sit in front of the peyi to write account books. This particular peyi has three drawers that form additional storage. 

Daabno (Food cloche)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Daabno (Food cloche)

Daabno is a food cloche used to cover food containers. Its primary use is to keep food safe from pets and other pests in the house. These are a pair of daabno made from metal strips. Each of these has a hook at the top to hold and lift it around.

Typology chart of PunjabDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Typology chart of Punjab

In Punjab, 43 typologies were established under 5 broader categories respectively from 2782 documented furniture pieces.

Pidha (Low chair)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Pidha (Low chair)

Pidha is a low chair with or without armrests and an upright back. The seat of a pidha is webbed using cotton straps or ropes.

Manja (Charpoy) Manja (Charpoy)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Manja (Charpoy)

Manja is a charpoy with turned or carved wooden legs fixed to a frame around which the surface is woven. It is primarily used for sleeping purposes.

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

Sandook (Cabinet)

An independent cabinet with a storage space inside is known as a sandook. It is used to store clothes, mattresses and valuables and may or may not have compartments or shelves inside.

Tarpai (Low surface)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Tarpai (Low surface)

Tarpai is a low surface made of metal. It has three legs and the surface is circular. The legs are usually bent are are braced to the top using metal rods.

Charkha (Spinning wheel)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Charkha (Spinning wheel)

A charkha is a spinning wheel used to make threads out of cotton. It is an important part of the material culture in Punjab, where it is a common practice to gift a charkha to a newly wed bride.

Typology chart of HaryanaDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Typology chart of Haryana

In Haryana, 39 typologies were established under 5 broader categories respectively from 2205 documented furniture pieces.

Mudha (Chair)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Mudha (Chair)

Mudha is referred to as chair in Haryana. It is made of locally available perennial grass called sarkanda. As it is light in weight, it is easily movable and can be used indoors and outdoors.

Palang (Bed)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Palang (Bed)

A palang is a bed used primarily for sleeping. It has four turned or carved legs held together by a frame. The defining element of a palang is an elaborately carved headrest.

Kothi (Granary)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Kothi (Granary)

Kothi is a cuboidal granary commonly made using an admixture of mud, husk and dung.

Chowki (Low surface)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Chowki (Low surface)

Chowki is a low surface, raised up from the floor on turned or carved legs. It is used for ceremonial purposes like festivals and weddings, specifically to place images of deities or ritual offerings.

Hookah (Smoking pipe)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Hookah (Smoking pipe)

A smoking pipe used to smoke tobacco is known as hookah.

Machi (stool)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Overview

This project is an attempt to study vernacular furniture with respect to design, function, making, as well as associated stories and narratives that signify its relevance in a given context.A total of 167 furniture typologies have been established from 7886 mapped furniture pieces across north-west India. The team has travelled 62032 kms in northwestern region of India and visited 429 places to gather this data.

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.

This story has been compiled by Daksh Dev.

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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