The Punkha Story

The origin of this common and special artifact is quite uncertain. It can be assumed that the first fan can be found in prehistoric times, when humans discovered fire and used any kind of object to blow air and keep it alive.
Hare are 10 interesting tales on the Pankha
1) The oldest fan was used in India in 500 BC.

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The Punkah fan, the oldest fan to our knowledge, was a handheld fan made from bamboo strips or other plant fiber that could be rotated to move air.
2) The history of the Punkha is traced to ancient times, for use in temples to fan deities.
3) The earliest shape of a well-defined punkha though, is noticed in the numerous 18th and 19th-century miniature paintings of Rajasthan, Mughal or Deccani schools. These were handheld fans made from a single frond of palm or a woven square of bamboo strips, rattan or other plant fibre made into various size and shapes.

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4) In the Mahabharata, Kunti uses a sandalwood fan to cool Rishi Durvasa on a hot afternoon.

Picture: Sandalwood fan
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5) In the 18th century, fans reached a high degree of artistry and were made by skilled craftsmen. Many were imported from China by the East India Companies. In fact, they were a huge part of the fashion amongst the wives of British officers posted in India.

6) During the 19th century, a woman’s freedom to communicate was severely limited due to the social conventions in India, so young women devised a secret “Fan Code” which they shared with those they loved, so they could carry on a conversation without anyone knowing.
7) In its early history, the fan served as a status symbol, held only in the hands of the rich and powerful.
8) The Fan Museum, Greenwich exhibits over 100 traditional, crafted hand fans of the Indian sub-continent. It is the first of its kind in Europe and celebrates the history of Indian fans and the art of fan making.

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9) Fans in India are handcrafted not only by specialists, but more often than not by women working at home, carrying on a long tradition of decorative creativity.

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10) Jatin Das, an eminent contemporary artist, has travelled throughout the Indian sub-continent collecting over 2000 fans from every province.

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The Punkha comes in a various of shapes and sizes and in multiple varieties – straw, woven palm leaves, cardboard, khus, leather, sandalwood, wood, organza tissue, reed and yarn, feathers, satin, silk, even gold and silver. Some are embroidered and bejewelled zardozi ceremonial fans with ornate handles, while others are the plainest kinds.