February 19, 2017 4 min read
“Pot Cushions? What on earth is a Pot Cushion? And why would anyone put embroidery on it?!” This is the incredulous response of my friend – raised in the mega-city of Mumbai!
Mumbai has had piped water since forever.
But even today many hamlets in India get piped water only through a common village tap and a few still rely on common wells.
To bring water from the common village source to the home, pots are used.
And photos of Indian women carrying several pots of water on their heads can be found all over the internet.
Here is one from Rajasthan – a beautiful Bhil girl I met in Jhadol district inRajasthan:
If you look carefully, the pot that Paaro is carrying on her head rests on a little cloth cushion.
This could just be a long piece of multipurpose cloth that is twisted and coiled up to form a cushion.
Or it could be an ornately decorated piece like this one from the Banjaras of Odisha:
Here are some from Gujarat:
A common item associated with housework and chores has been decorated so beautifully!
What is it that drives these women to compulsively make everything around them beautiful – decorating every object that they can lay their hands on!!
Today – extended families live scattered across a region and relatives are constantly dropping in to visit, usually after a tedious journey in the heat. So the first welcome in any home is to offer the guest water and a piece of jaggery. This standard welcome within the home takes on larger proportions in weddings when the bride’s family welcomes the groom’s family.
And for such ceremonial occasions, ornamented Indhonis are used:
And here is a different type of Indhoni:
This type of construction is used to hang pots of butter and milk suspended from the beams on the roof of the house.
“What? Hang a pot of milk from the ceiling?? Why?”
Such an arrangement finds a mention in the epic Mahabharat, in the stories of Lord Krishna’s childhood. Although he was an adorable toddler, he was known as “maakhan chor” or “butter thief” as he stole pots and pots of their home-made butter and exasperated them!
In order to keep their butter and milk safe from him and his buddies, such devices were created. Today these hanging Indhonis are useful in avoiding mischief by cats!
The things I have learned about my own cultural history through things I had seen as “art” just amazes me!
In Indian folk art – nothing ever seems to be art for art’s sake – art is always always alwaysa palimpsest and merely acts the visible layer to attract viewers to the real treasure of the cultural context that lies beneath.
And it is through these layers
that I, a person born
the concept of India!
Here I am a dozen years ago – with the pot and an Indhoni trying very hard not to be clumsy!!
The Indhonis are available on
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