Nakshi Pakha

Nakshi Pakha decorated hand-fan traditionally made by housewives and commercial artisans. The pakha or fan, has been in use in Bangladesh since ancient times and is still used extensively in rural areas where there is no electricity.

An artisan makintg nakshi pakha

When decorated attractively with colourful designs, the fan is called nakshi pakha. The main raw materials for making nakshi pakha are yarn, bamboo, cane, date palm leaves, shola (sponge wood), palm leaves and flax. Peacock feathers and sandalwood are also used. When peacock feathers are used, no additional designs are necessary.

A variety of motifs are used to decorate nakshi pakha, the fan being named after the predominant motif: for instance, bhalobasa (love), kankair jala (comb’s hassle), guyapata (betel leaves), palangpos (bedspread), kavchanmala, chhitaphul, taraphul, shujaniphul (different flower motifs), balader chokh (eyes of a bull), shabkhalata (conchshell creeper), manbilasi (mind’s delight), manbahar (glamorous), baghbandi (the caged tiger), solakudir ghar (house of sixteen scores), mansundari (most desired beauty), lekha (written message), sagardighi (large lake), hati-phul-manus (elephant-flower-man), gambuj tola (dome), pashar dan (game of chess), yugal hans (pair of ducks), and yugal mayur (pair of peacocks).

A woman’s song from kishoreganj refers to yugal hans and yugal mayur: “ Someone has written  [embroidered] on that fan a pair of ducks and a pair of peacocks.”

Designs may be embroidered or woven. Usually a round bamboo frame is attached to a bamboo handle. Coloured yarn, drawn from sari borders, is then drawn tightly across the round bamboo frame. With the help of a needle, coloured threads are woven in geometric patterns across the fixed strands. Occasionally, words or phrases are worked across the fan. Some favourite messages are: 'Go, dear bird, tell him to forget me not' and 'Days pass but promises remain but time, meanwhile, flies away'. Attractive nakshi pakha are made of yarn in the chittagong area.

To make embroidered nakshi pakha, white cloth is attached to the round bamboo frame. Then different motifs are embroidered. The fan is finished off with a narrow strip of red cloth stitched around the edges of the frame to make a frill. Such fans are very popular in villages.

Fans made of bamboo and cane are woven like mats in round or square shapes. The most popular fan of rural Bangladesh is made of palm leaves. One leaf is sufficient for one fan. In order to make a fan, a palm leaf is cut in a round shape and framed with bamboo strips. Then triangular designs are made with fine strips of bamboo. These fans are very popular in the natore area.

Currently, fans made of sola (sponge wood) are sold in different folk fairs. These fans are very light in weight. They are made by pasting fine pieces of sola on a thin paperboard. At times paint is used to make the fans colourful. These fans are available in seasonal fairs.

Sandalwood fans are not made in this country, but in the 18th-19th centuries they were fashionable among women of affluent families. Nowadays, folding fans are made of palm leaves, in imitation of such sandalwood fans. They are popular, as they are easy to carry. Plastic fans are also being made today, in attractive colours but without decorative designs. The folk industry of fan making is, however, fast dwindling with the increasing availability of electricity and use of electric fans. [Zinat Mahrukh Banu]