Crafts of Sonipat, Haryana
Haryana is a state in the Northern part of India. The region is famous for its historic connection with the ancient Indus valley civilization, stories of Mahabharata, and the three famous battles of Panipat. The state also boasts of a rich cultural heritage and is home to the Suraj Kund Mela held in Faridabad every year, one of the largest cultural gatherings in the world.
This article focuses on the craft of basket-making undertaken by the members of Self Help Groups, functioning in Tanda village of Rai block, Sonipat district, Haryana.
India has a long tradition of basket weaving and it is a very popular craft in rural India. Basket weaving is the process of sewing or weaving materials into a shape with a cylindrical, circular or square base. The craft of basket weaving was introduced to Haryana by women of the Multani-speaking Audh community who had migrated from Pakistan during Partition and taken up this craft as a means of supplementing their meagre earnings. Traditionally, the raw materials were the locally grown date palm; phoos, a wild grass; and pula, thin leaves of the sarkanda plant—these were made into coiled baskets intended for domestic use by the womenfolk of the household. The products include a range of round-bottomed, cylindrical, and shallow baskets with and without lids. Some of the cylindrical baskets are nearly three feet high and have lids. The leaves are also plaited into strips and formed into bags and mats. The dry palm leaves, some of which are dyed so as to achieve a coloured pattern, are wound around a bunch of phoos or pula and sewn in place by threading the leaf through the lower coil; a big blunt needle is utilized to push the leaf through. (Ranjan, Handmade in India)
Pyari (name of the artisan), a resident of Tanda Village originally belonging to Punjab, moved to Haryana with her family in the late 1980s. She has inherited the skills to make beautiful baskets from her mother. Pyari, called Ammi (meaning mother in Hindi) by everyone, shared her techniques to make them and how she innovates with the designs during the process.
The basic raw materials used for the craft include Sarkanda or moonj grass– a type of grass grown abundantly in Haryana during winters, Khajur leaves(date palm leaves) that are soaked in water overnight to make them soft. To make new designs, colored Khajur leaves are also used as it adds unique patterns to the baskets.
Pyari is proud of her traditional skills and believes that they should be continued by the next generation. She is also concerned about the sustenance of the craft as most of the young people aren’t interested in such skills and may never understand the importance of the same.
Indian crafts sector is the second-largest employer in the country after agriculture and the Sonipat administration is taking many active steps to keep the cultural heritage alive. It further aims to promote handmade crafts and make them accessible at the local, district, and national levels.
Haryana has a rich cultural history that reflects inter alia in its crafts, textiles, and food. What’s interesting to witness about all the above crafts is the knowledge preserved by women who are involved in continuing these crafts.