By Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Community Furniture: Creating Public Spaces

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Vernacular furniture has been a crucial part of lives of people in north-west India. Furniture like paata (bench) and takhat (bench) have been used in public spaces for the people to sit, socialise and rest. 

A chowk in Bikaner old cityDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Vernacular furniture as public furniture

Vernacular furniture has been an important part of the lives of people across the north-west region of India. The most commonly used public furniture is a bench. In Haryana, such bench is known as takhat and in Rajasthan, it is known as paata. These furniture are not only limited to residential, commercial or religious spaces but are also found in the public spaces.  

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Takhat of Haryana

A takhat is a bench found in residential, public, religious or commercial spaces. It is a common piece of furniture across the north-western states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab including Haryana. 

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Takhat are most commonly seen in chaupal across Haryana. Chaupal is a public building found in villages of Haryana. It is a community space, built and maintained using collective funds.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

In chaupal, men gather for panchayat meetings, playing games and socialising with other village men. It is also used as a rest house for the male guests when any woman in the village gets married.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Two or more takhat are placed edge to edge to form a larger seating surface.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Men gather around during the daytime to socialise and play games. This takhat was kept outside a shop in Rawaldhi village, Charkhi Dadri.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Earlier, takhat in the chaupal were made with elaborate carvings and fretwork. One such example was found in a chaupal of Maham. It can seat around ten to twelve men at a time.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

It had backrests on three sides of the surface for comfortable seating. The fourth side had partial backrests, leaving a space for men to climb over the takhat.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This takhat was placed in the verandah of a chaupal in Manduri village of Palwal district. A terracotta pot filled with water was kept near takhat for people gathering in the chaupal.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Takhat are also kept in the courtyard of chaupal. It is used during the gatherings or functions. Three takhat were kept edge to edge to form larger surface for seating.

Takhat (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The map indicates the places where takhat (bench) were mapped across the state of Haryana.

Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Paata of Rajasthan

In Bikaner district of Rajasthan, wooden benches called paata were placed in almost every street and neighborhood. Such benches are found only in the old city of  Bikaner.

Regional divisions and districts map of RajasthanDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Bikaner lies in the Marwar region of Rajasthan. It is one of the magnificent cities of Rajasthan. Bikaner is surrounded by golden sand dunes, spiritual temples, traditional houses, majestic forts and richly sculptured Palaces in Dulmera red and yellow sandstone displays the ideal creations of the Rajput civilization.

Map of Bikaner Old CityDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This map indicates the paata (bench) mapped across the old city of Bikaner in Rajasthan.

Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Paata are used by men for taking an afternoon nap, to take rest from their commute, while others would sit around reading newspapers. On festival days, paata are lined up and used as stages and places for serving for food and drink.

Paata (Bench) Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Paata can be owned by individual families, by a specific community, or by social establishments like a temple or a panchayat. People from the specific neighbourhoods partake in maintaining these pieces of furniture.

Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This paata was kept in Kocharo ka chowk in Bikaner and was around hundred and four years old. It originally belonged to a rich merchant family and is now used and maintained by the people of the neighbourhood. The original rohida wood was replaced by teak wood in some parts and was painted to reduce weathering of wood and metal. This was one of the biggest paata recorded during this research, measuring about 12’-4” x 8’-3” x 3’2” (l x b x h).

Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The surface of a paata (usually square or rectangular) can be made in a range of sizes. It is raised off the ground on turned wooden legs called paaga. A paata can have four, seven or nine legs depending on its size. This paata in Mundhara ka chowk had seven turned wood legs that supported the seat with metal rods. 

Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This is the only paata with chhatri (canopy) recorded in Rajasthan. The chhatri was originally made using sheesham wood, and was restored recently using metal.

Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This paata was kept on the periphery of the street in Kikani viyaso ka chowk. A paata generally is around two feet in height. Stone blocks were kept around this paata for the men to easily climb on.

Paata (Bench)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Paata were used by the men as a meeting place. It was a site for conversations and information being shared about the neighbourhood.

Credits: Story

The research on this story was conducted as part of the Vernacular Furniture of North-West India project, a collaborative research project conducted between 2015 - 2021 by the Design Innovation and Craft Research Centre (DICRC), CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust (SADACC), Norwich, UK.

The research on the vernacular furniture of Rajasthan and Haryana is presented in the following publications:
1. Anaikya: Vernacular Furniture of Rajasthan, co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright
2. Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Rajasthan, co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright
3. Catalogue of Vernacular Furniture: Haryana. co-authored by Mansi S Rao, Rishav Jain, Ben Cartwright and Radha Devpura

This story has been compiled by Radha Devpura.

For more information on the Vernacular Furniture of India, please visit: www.vernacularfurnitureofindia.com

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