India Interior

Connecting with a long-forgotten era

Sarita Brara | Updated on February 22, 2020 Published on February 22, 2020

A unique exhibition in Haryana showcased rural life before the advent of modernisation

My grandmother would often cite rati, masha and chhatank as measures of weights while referring to eatables. And if we made any mistake, she would say, ‘you don’t have a rati bhar of common sense’. We knew then that rati means very little (rati weighs 0.1215 gram, while masha 11.67 gram.)

Showcased recently at the Apna Ghar exhibition set up by host State Haryana, at the Surajkund International Craft Fair, was an amazing collection of weights used during different periods of history, with markings or inscriptions, some in Hindi, some in Urdu and in other regional languages. The collection was sourced from erstwhile riyasats or princely States, including Mughal period.


On display were varied measures from Ratlam, Sangrur, Jabalpur, Kaithal, Jind and Patiala, as also scores of other tools, agricultural implements and household items.

The household collection consisted of around 50 ancient locks, big and small. Some of these could only be opened by multiple keys, which meant that if one key was lost, the lock would not open. Why, there was even a lock that needed as many as three keys to be opened! The diversity in design and simplicity was obvious in different kinds of utensils exhibited — an indigenous thermos to keep liquids hot or cold, a huge container made of leather to store mustard oil, and the batuha, a tumbler-shaped vessel made of brass that can hold two kg of milk and used during social rituals.

On display were agricultural tools the villagers used before the advent of the tractor and mechanised tools. The paani ki ghari — a contraption used by the farmer to measure how long he needed to irrigate his land — and ancient cowbells to rein in the cattle attracted public interest, not to forget the hookah, part and parcel of panchayat meetings.

Clothes too featured among the exhibits. A 500-year-old ghagra (long skirt) with several frills, embroidered mirror-work and block printing attracted much attention. It was completely handmade, right from spinning the thread, dyeing it, weaving the fabric, stitching, ultimately adorning it with embroidery. There were also samples of phulkari craft work from Haryana, different from the phulkari embroidery of Punjab. City visitors to the fair took selfies with the stone grinder, the hookah and after donning a Haryanvi style of pagari (head gear).

The Apna Ghar exhibition, a part of the collection at the Dharohar museum in Kurukshetra University campus, provided a peep into rural life in Haryana before modern science took over. The collection from Haryana is the result of years of painstaking effort by a team led by Dr Mahasingh Poonia, Director at the Department of Youth and Cultural Affairs and Curator/Director at Dharohar, a museum of Haryanvi culture and archaeology at Kurukshetra University. Poonia says those involved in the exercise travelled from village to village to collect the exhibits — not an easy task as villagers are reluctant to part with their belongings. Sans much government support it was individual effort to save the rich heritage of the State.

On the anvil is a project to develop a world heritage village over 10 acres on Haryana’s main GT Road.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Delhi

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Published on February 22, 2020

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