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A Punjabi Phulkari and Two Large Mended Wooden Vessels from Gilgit, Pakistan

Written on February 7, 2009

This is a display of exotic textiles and objects: on the wall is a  phulkari or “thirma bagh” from Western Punjab in present-day Pakistan: it is made of hand spun, hand woven cotton on to which counted thread embroidered red silk floss is applied.

The large, shallow wooden basins–I bought these for their rustic wood and their equally rustic repairs–are from Gilgit, an area of far north Pakistan, quite close to Kashmir in India.  The textile and the vessels look really harmonious together; the wonderful rug beneath the mended Gilgit troughs is a Japanese zanshi kotatsugake which is offered here on my website.

A phulkari (flower work) is a traditional shawl from the Punjab region, which is now divided between Pakistan and India.  The phulkari, which usually shows stylized, floral forms can be used for everyday wear or, in the case of heavily worked shawls, called baghs (garden), using mainly gold colored silk floss, are used at marriages.

From “Traditional Indian Textiles” by John Gillow and Nicholas Barnard (Thames and Hudson):

“The rich agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana are famous for the phulkari (flower work) shawls, that worn with a tight fitting choli and gaghra, formed the traditional costume of rural women of this region.  It was a costume both spectacular and eminently practical.  Phulkaris were made for everyday wear.  Usually the border and field of the shawl were not so densely embroidered, with much of the ground cloth exposed. For ceremonial occasions, however, a special kind of phulkari known as a bagh (garden) was made, in which the whole of the ground was covered with embroidery, so that the base cloth was not visible at all.  On the birth of a baby, the grandmother, after a ceremony of prayers and distribution of sweets to the baby’s aunts, would start to embroider a bagh.  It would take several years to complete and was embroidered with special care to be used later at the grandchild’s wedding, after which it would be kept as a family treasure.”

Phulkaris and baghs are not only beautiful, and the amount of work that goes in to each one is mind boggling.  I tend to prefer the simpler, more “every day” phulkari which is shown here, mainly because it suits my aesthetic, which tends to appreciate forms that speak to a Modernist sensibility.

For example: this phulkari is suggestive of “modern” or “minimalist” art.  This reminds me of the work of the great American artist, Agnes Martin: imagine the five-year-old Agnes Martin with a red crayon and you have this wonderful rustic phulkari!

This phulkari measures 96″ x 53″ or 234 cm x 135 cm.

Phukaris are worked from the back using the counted thread method.

These hewn wooden troughs are just fantastic: the simple, metal repairs add so much to their beauty.  Each is from Gilgit in Pakistan, a remote, mountainous area that, more than ten centuries ago,  was an important stop on the Silk Road where Buddhism flowed from South Asia to the rest of Asia.

Each trough measures around 26″ x 18″ x 7″, 66 cm x 45 cm x 17.5 cm.  If you are interested in knowing more or if you would like to ask about purchasing them, feel free to contact me.

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3 Comments

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  1. Comment by maria catuna:

    très beau !

    February 8, 2009 @ 5:09 am

  2. Comment by maggie valavani:

    simply wonderful and so inspiring

    September 7, 2009 @ 6:28 am

  3. Comment by maggie valavani:

    simply beautiful and so inspiring

    September 7, 2009 @ 6:28 am