A charpai is a light bedstead traditionally used in the subcontinent, made up of woven webbing stretched on a wooden frame consisting of four legs. Over time, the charpai has also been molded into a new and convenient make of steel frame with a nylon webbing, which makes it even lighter, movable and waterproof. The charpai was an indispensable part of everyday routine in the Indian subcontinent. It was the most essential and sometimes the only piece of furniture in a rural household. ‘Peerhi’ was another associated accessory, a stool modelled on the same pattern as charpai. The legs of the charpais and peerhis were a piece of art in themselves, made in sharp colours with floral patterns, somewhat like the truck art. They were an essential feature of the gifts given to a bride on her wedding and their quality and quantity depended on the economic status of her parents.
Besides being an everyday usage item, the charpai is symbol of cultural traditions of collectivity. Old family members would sit on their charpai and do some embroidery or knitting and stay involved in the household management. And whilst the mother was busy, the charpai served as a convenient mechanism for her. A sort of hammock was tied on one side of the wooden frame of the charpai, (often a dupatta of the mother) and the child was conveniently placed in it. It gave the feeling of being protected in mother’s womb. Another view was that sleeping in this posture helped shape the head of baby and save him from choking. Babies would sleep for hours in these hammocks.
Pictured: a man making the legs of a charpai, and behind him the legs of a peerhi completed.
Source: Daily Times
Photos: Iqbal Khatri