South Asian Seams: Cholistan


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West Bengal









Cholistan Desert

The Cholistan Desert, located in southeastern Punjab, sits on the border with India and adjoins the Thar Desert. Most of the 2.5 million people live a simple, nomadic life of herding and trading camels, sheep, cattle, and goats. Temperatures are extreme in the area, with near-freezing temperatures in the winter and more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Water is scarce. Nomads build shallow basins to catch rainwater from the monsoons to survive long treks away from villages. Perhaps because daily life presents so many challenges, culture and tradition are very strong in this region. The people hold many fairs and festivals called melas, both for pleasure and as a venue for trading and buying goods. These festivals are famous for music, storytelling, and camel dancing, where the animals are dressed in dazzling costumes. The people, likewise, wear brightly colored embroidered skirts, shirts, and robes.

During the cold winter nights, the people stay inside and busy themselves making crafts such as textiles, leatherwork, weaving, and pottery. Beautiful carpets, rugs, and blankets are made from the local wool. Rallis in this area are also known as gindi. Quilts from Cholistan have a distinctive appearance. They are often made in a red, blue, green, white, and gold color scheme. Applique is often combined with patchwork in smaller squares than is customarily used elsewhere. The quilts are known for very fine-lined appliqué. The edges are often embellished with tassels or other fancy edges. Small metal decorations on the edge make a lovely tinkling sound from the top of a moving camel.

South Asian Seams: Audio Tour Track: Cholistan (MP3 File)

Click images below to view larger and read more information about some of the quilts included in the exhibit.

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