The Bridal Trousseau: 'Daaj' Furniture

By Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

In the state of Punjab, vernacular furniture like 'sandook' (cabinet), 'peti almari' (chest) holds cultural importance as such furniture are given in 'daaj' (bridal trousseau) to the girl in marriage. This exhibit displays the furniture items given in 'daaj'. 

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

In Punjab, the daughters were given furniture as part of their daaj (bridal trousseau) during marriage. These were cultural gifts given to the daughter from her maternal family to start a comfortable life with her new family. These furniture also signifies the presence of her material family in her new home. The planning of making such furniture started when the daughter was born in the family. 

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

Furniture given in daaj

Sandook (chest), manja (charpoy), charkha (spinning wheel), pakkhi (fan), innu (pot ring) were among the most commonly gifted furnitures as part of the bridal trousseau. Sometimes, additional items like khes (blanket), gadda (mattress), peti (chest), kursi (chair) were also gifted. 

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

Sandook

Sandook was considered the most essential item of daaj  in the earlier times. The bride would carry her clothes, mattresses and other smaller items of her daaj inside it. Valuable items like jewelry, gold were also stored in its hidden compartments or between the mattresses.

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

The primary material used in the construction of the sandook is wood. A local mistri (carpenter) would show a few samples of sandook to the bride’s father to initiate the making /design/construction process. The making of sandook would take many years to complete.

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

This type of sandook followed a grid construction in its making. Vertical and horizontal members of wood were fixed using mortise and tenon joint to form a basic structure of its facade.

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

These grids were fixed with wooden panels, using tongue and groove joints. The panels were either finished using plain lacquer or decorated with motifs.

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

This sandook was built with a side almirah. It was brought by Surinder Kaur in her bridal trousseau. It was made of well seasoned Taali wood (seasoned wood is lighter in weight than non-seasoned wood). Around 5-6 people are needed to lift an empty sandook.

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

The size and ornamentation usually depicted the status of the family. During the field interaction, a person shared “If a sandook was huge with elaborate ornamentation, it indicated the daughter belonged to a socially rich family”.

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

Where people had moved into new houses, sandook were kept in the living room. This was one such example. It was repainted and the side wooden vertical surfaces were replaced by plywood and finished using laminate sheet.

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

Manja

Manja is a charpoy mainly used for sleeping. It is an important part of the bridal possession. Four vertical posts (legs) and four horizontal wooden members which form the frame are joined together by mortise and tenon joints.

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

This manja (charpoy) was approximately 75 years old. It belonged to Baawi Devi and was brought to this house as a part of her daaj from Gotan village, Gurudaspur district. It was made out of taali (North Indian Rosewood).The nawaar (webbing) was of saan (jute).

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

The lady of the house, shared that this manja was brought from Pakistan as part of her daaj. This manja had turned wood legs with a spherical section at the centre, which was a unique feature of manja brought from the region of Pakistan.

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

Palang

Palang is a bed with ornamented headboard. During the marriage rituals a gaana (holy thread) is tied to the bride and groom for good luck. After the marriage this holy thread is tied to the palang as it is considered auspicious.

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

This palang belonged to the mother of Indian freedom fighter Shaheed Bhagat Singh. It was given in daaj by her father. The mistri (carpenter) had made palang with slender legs. The headboard had a mirror and ceramic tiles encased in it.

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

While making furniture, the mistri (carpenter) sometimes carves or writes his name on the furniture. This palang had the name of the mistri (carpenter) 'Mistri Bhagram Garh Shankar' carved on the headboard.

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

Charkha

Charkha is an object used to spin threads or yarn from raw fibres. It is an object commonly found at home and mostly used by the women  to spin threads to use them in making cloth, for weaving the surfaces of various vernacular furniture and objects like, the seat of a pidha (low seat), pakkhi (fan) and so on.  

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

In villages, women in the households used to spin the charkha and sing folklores. There are a number of songs based on charkha which are a part of the oral traditions of the state.

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

This charkha was part of the bridal possession of Swaran Kaur who got married around 35 years ago. It was made of saagwan wood and was used by the women of the house until a few years ago.

Pakkhi (Fan)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Pakkha and pakkhi (fan)

Pakkha and pakkhi are hand fans made of straw, date leaves, grass or cloth stitched or woven around a frame or attached to a vertical Handle. During the summers, people are often seen sitting under trees in courtyards of their houses. They use pakkhi to fan themselves during such hot afternoons.

Pakkhi (Fan)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A bride-to-be makes pakkhi using colourful threads to make it ornamental. These pakkhi in odd numbers of five, seven or eleven become a part of her bridal possession which she carries to her husband’s house.

Pakkhi (Fan)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

These pakkhi were gifted to Paramjeet Kaur as part of her daaj. Her mother had made these for her using colour beads and laces. She has carefully preserved the pakkhi to gift them to her daughters in their bridal possession.

Innu (Pot ring)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Innu

Innu is a decorative object placed on the head to carry a pot. These are usually made by the girl before her marriage for her bridal trousseau. It is decorated with ghungroo (Small metal bells), beads and colorful thread. 

Innu (Pot ring)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

During our field interaction, a lady shared that the colours used in innu were based on her state of mind and the emotions that she experiences during the courtship period.

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

Though the tradition of bridal possession continues till today, the furniture items have considerably changed. Very few people make a sandook these days and most of the examples recorded are a way to preserve the memory of their previous generations.

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 Punjab is presented in the following publication:
Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Punjab, co-authored by Rishav Jain, Mansi S Rao, Ben Cartwright and Abhishek Ruikar

This story has been compiled by Rishav Jain.

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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