The dying rural crafts of Haryana are in desperate need of our patronage
In the post-Independence scenario, a number of attempts were made to promote small-scale industries in the Gurgaon district and the surrounding areas. Manufacturing units for glass bangles were established in Palwal, Rewari and Basi Meo areas in Firozpur, but the industry failed due to competition from Firozabad.Updated: Apr 29, 2019 09:26 IST
Historically, the Gurugram district or, for that matter, the state of Haryana does not record any patronisation of arts and crafts under the erstwhile princely states and rulers, as was observed in the nearby states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Delhi. Yet, the region boasts of some local rural crafts, which have survived through the centuries but need sustenance today.
The rural crafts in Haryana are often simply listed as pottery, metalware, sarkanda(grass) crafts, durries and shawls and even Phulkari in a few areas. Most of these are surviving in the rural areas based on the requirements of the village residents that are slowly diminishing with time. The Crafts Council of India has mapped the crafts of Haryana as metalware, sarkanda crafts, leather footwear, such as juttis, pottery and clay products, and textiles in Gurgaon, Rewari, Sonipat, Panipat, Jind, Jhajjar, Mahendergarh, Faridabad and Yamunanagar.
In the post-Independence scenario, a number of attempts were made to promote small-scale industries in the Gurgaon district and the surrounding areas. Manufacturing units for glass bangles were established in Palwal, Rewari and Basi Meo areas in Firozpur, but the industry failed due to competition from Firozabad.
A glue-making industry was set up in 1948 that closed down due to stiff competition from manufacturers in Madras. The department of industries, Haryana, also tried to revive the salt industry from 1962-65 but it was not found to be a viable option.
The earliest Gurgaon Gazetteer, 1883-84, records moorah-making as an old industry in the Farrukhnagar area. It mentions that the raw materials required for this industry are sarkanda and munj, both of which are abundantly available in the area. The finished products find a ready market in Delhi. The later Gurgaon Gazetteer from 1990 records about 75 families of Farrukhnagar, who are engaged in this industry.
Not too long ago, you could see such moorahs lined up along the main street of Farrukhnagar, when INTACH had initiated its heritage walk in 2004.
The research project “Moorah” carried out by the NGO Sarai in 2008 provides a very interesting insight into the history of morrah-making in Farrukhnagar. It talks about the master moorah maker, Kubban Khan, who was one of the earliest craftsmen (possibly from the late 1880s or the early 1900s), and who trained the next generations of moorah makers in the town. Possibly, the number of families practising at that time were about 200 or more.
The system of moorah-making involved the entire family. While men and women worked together in tying up the moorahs, the children also learnt by observing and helping in tying the cords from an early age.
The moorahs apparently had a market few years back and all of us probably recall this informal seating in our childhood homes. It is even mentioned that a few politicians in Haryana specifically encouraged the use of moorah in government offices and gatherings, thereby leading to an increase in the demand. A few years back, you could also find these in most dhabas along the roadside. However, today this sustainable material has been replaced by plastic chairs all over. These chairs are sturdier and easier to maintain but are definitely not environment friendly.
Haryana’s iconic annual crafts mela of Surajkund also used to exhibit and showcase the best of moorahs initially and craftspeople from Farrukhnagar held the stalls. However in the past few years, the demand has reduced leading to an almost redundancy of this craft in Gurgaon. Lack of appreciation, innovation as per the market, and scarcity of materials are leading to a death of this traditional craft of our region. There are enough examples in India for promoting such crafts through engagement of traditional craftspeople with designers and creating a special market for this handicraft. None of us who have sat on a Moorah can deny the comfort of sinking in the natural fibres that can mould and adapt to your posture nicely.
Can we consider moving back to this eco-friendly mode of seating and reviving this dying craft of Gurugram?