Folk Arts of Punjab The desire of ‘Shubh’ and ‘Sukh’

Dr. Jaswinder Singh Bhullar
Evidence of the existence of folk art is abundant in prehistoric art remains. For example, the inscriptions, seals, pots and other objects found in the excavations of the Indus Valley can be associated with the artistic heritage of Punjab. In these, idols related to myths, sketches, paintings and many religious symbols have been found. These art remains and symbolic materials provide proof of the existence of folk art in ancient cultures.
Folk art is not taught in any school, but because of its nature, it is learned from one generation to another through watching and learning. The beautiful things made by the common people with their own hands in traditional manner, using local materials with the help of native tools, for public use, all come under folk arts. Folk art is made for folk use, so simplicity is its life.
So this art, which expresses the mental states of a human group of a similar tradition, passes through the flow of tradition and is inherited – is folk art. In this, human beings acquired linguistic (literary) forms orally in the historical period and non-linguistic forms (performing arts, functional arts, object arts) from their elders.
In English, ‘folk’ means people, nation, mass or class. The word art is derived from the Latin ‘ars’, which means; Proficiency or eloquence. In many places, we also take the meaning of art from skill.
Art has been an important source of mental satisfaction for man since time immemorial. Adi-man has been getting beauty and pleasure from ‘art’. This art tradition, etc. is an ancient tradition due to its association with the pre-historic moods and tendencies of mankind. Although this tradition has not become a significant tradition of art, but still some of its elements are included in the current folk arts. Primitives used art to direct their magical intentions. When this art is based on magical thinking, it is transformed into ‘Adam art’.
Folk arts are so intertwined with folk culture that it is difficult to separate them. Paintings on walls, curtains, khes, phulkaris, patterns/art motifs in carpets, articles for home use, ornaments of countless patterns inspire people to live life in a beautiful way.
The folk art of Punjab has been continuously progressive and transformative. It is imbued with deep human values, highly sensitive, joyful, subtle and effective qualities for the upliftment of life. It has always been associated with feelings and signs of reality. The folk art of Punjab is not the art of any particular class, religion or sect. It includes the popularly accepted expression of collective lifestyles of people living in villages and cities. We have divided folk paintings into four types:
* Folk Paintings on the walls of Mud Houses
* Mural paintings
* Miniature Paintings
* Muharkashi/fresco paintings
Paintings on the walls of mud houses are of simple type, which are done to fulfill some interests according to folk beliefs. For this, dung, soil, clay, brick powder etc. are used. Woman creates folk images around the main door of her house, on courtyard walls, hearths, garlands, grain sheds, bhadolas, gheiras etc. This painting is usually done during fairs, arrivals of festivals, harvesting of crops and marriages.
By painting on a wall, colors are filled after drawing on it, which are called Mural paintings. Mural painting in Punjab has been done by expert painters at special places. Which include temples, forts, shrines, palaces, tombs,Vaishnava Maths etc. The themes of the mural painting are taken from important events from Janmasakhis, Ramayana, Mahabharata. Portraits of headmen/administrators of deras are also made in Samadhas, Deras, Mathas, Akharas. Apart from aesthetics, the purpose of mural paintings is to increase the devotion of the people towards a particular hero.
Drawings made in small size on paper are called pen drawings or Miniatures. Images of this type are found in ancient handwritten Janam Sakhis and other manuscripts. In fresco paintings, the wet plaster is peeled away and then filled with the appropriate colors. Fresco paintings deal only with natural subjects.
The folk art of Punjab is full of the basic instincts of human life and people wish for the goodness. It depicts only the pleasant side of people’s life. It is unpretentious, romantic, vulgar. The ornamentation of motifs/symbols in them is the fruit of the creation of the folk group. It starts from ‘Shubh’ and works for the desire of ‘Sukh’.
On the other hand, under folk idolatry, the worship of folk goddesses by making idols on the walls has been very popular. These goddesses have been worshiped in Punjab since prehistoric times. The proof of this is the many works of art found during the excavation of the ruins of Harappa and Mahinjodaro. These bear witness to the abundant worship of the Mother Goddess in many forms.
Among the folk goddesses in Punjab, the most common goddess’Sanjhi’ is worshiped by making an idol or painted directly on wall. This folk goddess is associated with folk psyche, folk faith and folk religion. Considering ‘Sanjhi’ as a mythological goddess, it has been integrated with Brahma’s daughter Sandhya. Many consider it the Kalyan form of Durga Mai. During Navratri, girls make an idol of ‘Sanjhi’ on the wall. A field of barley is sown in the hollow under the idol on first Navarata. Every morning, girls pour water and bow down to this garden of Gauraja. Girls light lamps in front of the idol and sing songs in her praise. After performing the aarti of the goddess, the prasad of sweet rice is presented to the goddess, later distributed among all.
On the tenth day, before the sun sets, the girls take down the idol of the goddess and sing songs in her praise. People believe that if the garden of Gauraja is floated in a well-filled pond, there is no shortage of rain throughout the year. According to another belief, worship of the goddess leads to a long-lived husband.
In the month of Katak, Ahoi Mata is worshiped by making an idol to protect children from diseases. An idol of Ahoi is made on a wall of the house with the help of clay or soaked rice flour and colors. Children’s idols, fruits, toys, sun, moon are also made along with this idol by adorning it with jewels. A pair of adjacent triangles is also formed. An earthen pot is filled with water, fruit is placed on top, and the idol of Ahoi is placed under it. This vessel filled with water is a symbol of female fertility. The story of Ahoi is heard from Prohatani after offering milk and rice to the goddess. The idol is water-flowed on the Ekam of Kattak month.
In the month of Magh, an idol of Sitala Devi is worshiped to ward off smallpox. In the idol, the color of the goddess is golden and the color of the clothes is red. He holds a broom in his right hand and a pot under his left hand. Along with the puja, many women observe a fast. Women pay obeisance at this place,at the end of forty days during childbirth. If the child is a boy, a thread in the name of the mother, in which copper coins and sticks are tied, is put around the child’s neck.
Apart from these goddesses, an idol of Goddess Khashti is worshiped on the sixth day after the birth of a child. In the mythological stories, Khashti is described as the wife of Kartikeya. In the room in which the child is born, an idol is made and worshiped on the wall of that room. People believe that by worshiping, evil spirits do not come near the child.
With the arrival of fairs and festivals in Punjab, colors start coming into the houses. In addition to cleaning or painting houses, mothers make clay peacocks, parrots, pigeons, sparrows, dolls for their children. Sometimes these toys are not made at home but are bought from fairs and decorated at home.
Rituals performed during the worship of these goddesses are associated with fertility, which are performed for procreation and child protection. These goddesses embody the origins of all levels of human life.
In ancient times, a bird or an idol was given as a gift to a child born by a village potter. These forms of folk art, on the one hand, promote the child’s mind, on the other hand, they become a form, a means of knowledge for the child. But nowadays most things are made of plastic, toys have also started to be made of plastic. The potter creates masterpieces of folk arts. Many colourful paintings are also done on vessels. These pots neatly placed in the house express woman’s sense of beauty.
By using the Dab, sarkra grown outside the deserted places of village; chhikku, bohia, baskets are prepared from them. They are also found in various designs with colours. From dried palm leaves hand fans are made. These colourful patterns bring out the artistic flair of woman.
Woodwork done by carpenters also falls under the realm of folk art. Artistic crafts on the main doors of houses, fireplaces, beds, pillars and other wooden items in the house show the influence of carpentry. These exquisite examples of folk arts bring joy and happiness in life.
In ancient times, artistic work was also done on the handles of weapons used in war, like swords, knives, guns, etc. Apart from these, the goldsmith also makes jewellery with various designs, which are excellent examples of craftsmanship.
Apart from these folk art forms, Kasidakari has also been an integral part of Punjabi life. In addition to pillows, bed sheets, handkerchiefs, jholas (hand bags), clothes are embroidered.There is a trend of giving phulkaris in daughter’s dowry in punjabies. When Mothers and daughters are freed from household chores,they spend in embroidery. Sometimes this work is also done by organising Trinjhan. In phulkari, the khadar is dyed red and then all the motifs are drawn from the back side of the cloth with the silk. Motifs used for embroidery include peacocks, parrots, pigeons, sparrows, lions, elephants and flowers. Although there has been a change in the ingredients of kadai from time to time, but the method of kadai has not changed as a whole.
Phulkari art excels in many forms and styles, in which three forms are prominent – Bagh, Chop and Subhar. If the phulkari is made without leaving any space on the surface of the cloth, then it is bagh. Mostly natural motifs like flowers and plants are carved in it. In Chops embroidery is made on the head sides. Art motifs are also made leaving some space in Subhar. Phulkaris are commonly given by maternal side in ‘Nanki-Chhak’ on the marriage. Among the colours used for kadai, red, yellow, blue, green etc. are prominent. Folk songs are sung at the beginning of Kadai. Phulkari is also mentioned in many places in Punjabi folk songs. Similarly, the woman also weave dhari, khes and carpets with different folk motifs.
So Punjabi folk arts are mostly performed by women. In these folk arts, the sentiments and attitudes of the entire Punjabi folk group have been reflected, aesthetic perception, artistic talent and mentality. All the materials, colours, motifs, patterns used in folk arts present some specific context in Punjabi socio-culture. With the speed of time and the penetration of modernity in the modern Punjabi culture, these folk arts are vanishing, which needs to be restored.