Arts & Crafts of Haryana
Pottery is essentially a village craft, and Haryana is essentially a
village state. The potters wheel, dating back to pre-Aryan
times, is the most common feature of any village in India.
Although numerous kinds of wheels are used throughout India, in
Haryana the kick-operated type is common. With this contraption you
dont use your hands to turn the wheel as in normal cases; on the
other hand, you use your foot. The actual wheel may be either of
cement or stone.
The material for making earthen articles comes cheap, and from the
earth itself. While the potter works on the wheel, he has a helper
(usually his son or a relative) mixing clay, while a woman (his wife
or a sister) makes intricate designs into the finished vessel or toy.
From utensils to toys to decorative pieces, clay forms the most
essential ingredient on which the potter literally survives. Seasonal
festivals call for the potter to get cracking he has to make
hundreds of toys like miniature cows, horses, people, houses and
sepoys which are then sold in brightly decorated stalls along dusty
¤ Embrodiery & Weaving
Haryana is quite famous for its woven work, be it shawls, dhurries,
robes or lungis.
The Haryana shawl, an offshoot of the shawl from Kashmir, is a work
of art in itself. Known as phulkari, it is a spectacular piece of
clothing, full of magnificent colours and intricate embrodiery. Worn
with with a tight-fitting choli (blouse) and ghaghra (long skirt), it
forms the basic winter wear for the women of Haryana.
A deviation from the phulakri is the bagh (garden). In this case, the
entire cloth is covered with embrodiery inasmuch that the base cloth
is hardly seen.
is made by female members of a house, and takes a long time to make;
sometimes even a few years.
Normally only one woman works on the design so that the uniformity is
maintained. However, it is no surprise that the other women also
contribute in little ways to its creation.
Traditionally, work on a phulkari commences from the time a daughter
is born in the family and is given to her at her wedding.
Against a red background, motifs of birds, flowers and human figures
are stitched into the cloth. The design is fed into the cloth from the
reverse side using darning needles, one thread at a time, leaving a
long stitch below to form the basic pattern.
The stitching is done in a vertical and horizontal pattern as well as
variations from this standard format, so that when the phulkari is
finally complete the play of light on its shiny surface can do
wonders. Satin and silk is also used frequently to enhance the effect.
design almost always follows a geometric pattern, with green as the
basic colour probably because mainly Muslims worked on them. Although
lacking in technical finesse, it makes up for the loss by a colourful
display of its design.
Everything goes into its design elephants, houses, crops, the
sun, the moon, kites, gardens, anything and everything.
The embrodiery is worked into khaddar (coarse cotton cloth) with silk
thread. Khaddar is cheap and locally available everywhere in India,
and in making a bagh narrow pieces are used. Sometimes two or three
baghs will be stitched together to for a phulkari.
Another kind of shawl is the Chope , a rather simple affair in
comparison to the phulkari and bagh, and is presented to a new bride
by her maternal grandmother. The darshan dwar shawl is gifted to a
temple by a devotee whose wish has been fulfilled.
Haryana durries are rather coarse, although spectacular geometric
designs adorn the entire rug. The Jats of Haryana are known to make
durries with white triangles often set against a blue background. In
Haryana, durrie making is concentrated in and around Panipat.
Karnal is a hot spot for bright robes and lungis (a skirt-like
garment worn by men and originally invented by Gautam Buddha), a
common garment worn by inhabitants of rural India.
Haryana was always a rendezvous for various tribes, invaders,
races, cultures and faiths, going right back to BC 2500, and it
witnessed the merging of numerous styles of painting.
While references to paintings are to be found of the Aryan period,
art actually flourished during the reign of the Guptas (5th
century BC to 6th century AD). However, these are mostly
concentrtated in southern India, and nothing close to such magnificent
art is to be found in Haryana.
Discoveries of earthen ware and designs painted on them in black and
white in Siswal district in Haryana are the first impressions of art
in this state.
Mitathal and Banwali districts have also revealed that art did exist
here, but definitely on a much smaller scale than that of the Deccan
and southern India. The drawings are mainly in horizontal and vertical
lines, with a little more creativity allotted to floral art. During
Harshas reign art and painting received special attention for
some time as the king himself was a painter of sorts.
After Harshas death, painting flourished for a while under the
Rajputs, but the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate put an end to
The Sultans had no love for art they were busy fighting wars
and battles and never did patronise painters. The Mughal empire was
different, and art reached its zenith during this time. Jahangir was a
patron of art, and during his reign the influence of the Persian
painting style was happily married to the Indian style.
However, all that was happening in Delhi, and Haryana was
conveniently left out in the cold. There were rich jagirdars who liked
paintings, and they engaged artisans and painters to do up their
houses; celings, walls, the works.
Temples were another area where the painter got to work, decorating
everything within reach with landscapes, dances, hunting expeditions,
wrestling bouts, birds, bees, and love scenes. Come the 18th
century, and the Rewaris made sure that painters got enough work,
albeit under a Rajput style.
The god Krishna was a big hit in the villages walls, doors,
windows all bore his likeness with the Mughal and Kangra styles
merging with the Rajput style.
The walls of the palace of Maharaja Tej Singh in Mirpur in Gurgaon is
adorned with paintings, following the Rajput pattern. The patterns on
the walls express scenes from the Ramayana. The Matru Mad ki Paio in
Gurgaon features mythological paintings, but these are slowly fading
The Asthal Bohar paintings are also in the Rajput style, and their
influence can be seen even in the Shiva temples in Panchkula and
Pinjore, Venumadhava temple in Kaul, the temples in Kaithal and
Pabnama, the Kapil temple in Kilayat and the Sarsainth temple in
Sirsa. The Rang Mahal in Pinjore is also decorated with wall
paintings, an originality straight from the hands of Mughal painters.
The samadhas of Lala Balk Ram and Lala Jamuna Das in Jagadhari in
Ambala are famous for their walls paintings from Hindu mythology. The
entrances to both are flanked by heavily painted dwarapalas.
The Rajiwala temple near the samadhas also boasts of religious themes
in its paintings. Its walls, cells and verandah have been subjected to
the Jain style, while the Qila Mubarak, a two-storeyed Mughal
structure is embellished with images of birds and flowers.
Kurukshetras Bhadri Kali temple has religious themes and
frescos running throughout its structure, with a broad frieze
bordering the lower end. The second storey is covered with murals, as
is the haveli (house) of Rani Chand Kaur in Pehowa, the temple of Shri
Ram Radha in Pehowa and the temple of Baba Shrawan Nath. In fact, youll
find similar paintings in temples and holy Hindu places throughout
The Persian style infused with script also gains prominence,
especially with murals in which the Persian script is freely used.
Elaborate detail forms the central theme within which verses from the
Koran are written in various flowing styles, following the calligraphy
Mughal paintings also seeped into Hindu temples, especially in
Kaithal, Kalayat and Rohtak. Here too, the subject matter is lifted
right out of mythology and carry moral and spiritual messages.
In Rohtak paintings have been found which are now in possession of
the Manuscripts Department of Kurukshetra University. Liberal use of
blue, pink, green, orange and red enhance the beauty of these
paintings which are of the Lord Vishnu and his incarnations.
Rock and stone were the most common subjects for the development of
art, right from the Maurya period to Harshavardhana to the Mughals and
However, the Mughals put a stop to carving idols and images out of
rock as this was against the very basis of Islam. They went a step
further, destroying temples and any such figure which crossed their
Sculpture in Haryana was concentrated around centrtal and northen
parts and was basically religious in content. Vishnu was the most
important, and he and his incarnations were enough material for
sculptors to start cutting away. A figure of Vishnu found in
Kurukshetra is a remarkable piece of art, showing the god with four
arms gracefully reclining on the coils of Anantnag, the many-headed
snake. This stone figure was probably made in the 10th century
Gods formed the basis of sculpture in ancient Haryana, and likewise
all over India. Sandstone was widely used, be it green, buff, grey or
black. But besides the images of Hindu gods and goddesses, Jain images
from the Pratihara period (9th century) have also been
found, all made of sandstone. The Buddha also surfaces once in a
while, like in Rohtak where he was found seated cross-legged on a
lotus pedestal and made entirely of grey stone.
Better known as sang in Haryana, theatre forms an integral part of
the states culture. Theatre here is usually performed in rural
areas, complete with a touch of folklore, music and narration from the
The word sang is the corrupted form of swang, which literally
translated means imitating or diguising. The sang is the rural folk
drama which expresses the interplay of love, depicting mythological
and modern tales of valour, sacrifice, humour and whatever else comes
With a deep rooted tradition, the sang is based on the open theatre
style, i.e., they do it in the open. As in other parts of India,
Ramleela and Rasleela are the more popular dramas, both being based on
mythology and religion.
The sang is not at all a complicated affair, the stage being simply a
raised platform open on all sides. Any open space can serve this
purpose, be it a field, a courtyard or a verandah of a temple.
The participants squat on the platform, getting up and taking their
turns at acting. Forgetting lines is not a problem; therell be
prompters who do their bit without any concern of being audible to the
Green rooms and curtains do not exist, simply because they are of no
use here since nothing is hidden from anyone. A number of musical
instruments like the ektara, dholak, kharta, sarangi and harmonium put
a little flavour into the dialogues. Sangs are also performed at
night, and the female characters are often played by men dressed as
women. No, this isnt crossdressing; its just tradition. In
recent times women have replaced the men, and they have their own
sangs in which women play men instead of the other way round.
Folk theatre in Haryana found a solid base sometime during the 16th
century and is very popular today. An offshoot of the sang is the
nautanki, and is pretty similar.
Ali Baksh of Rewari is said to be the father of folk theatre in
Haryana and has staged the mythological-cum-historical saga Padmavati.
Pandit Deep Chand, known as the Shakespeare or Kalidasa of Haryana,
modified and polished Ali Baksh style of folk theatre.
Other luminaries of the sang were Swami Har Dev, Qutabi, Dhoom,
Pandit Bhartu, Pandit Lakshmi Chand and a host of others during the
British rule and later.
The middle of the 20th century brought in television and
radios right into homes, and the sang slowly faded away. It is
performed on rare occasions, being confined now mainly to rural areas.
The Cultural Festival organised by the Goverment of India aims at
reviving this disintegrating culture by promoting artists and their
music through festivals and related programmes.