A small selection of us, have been chosen here, to shed light on the country’s unique interaction with furniture, through the emblematic category of Seating.
ASANAS: Our early presence dispels the misconceived notions about forms of seating being introduced in India only during the later medieval period. Allusions can, in fact, be made from the sculptures and paintings at the Ajanta and Aurangabad Caves; or from our mention in literature from the Rigvedic times, and as observed in the carved relief sculptures of Buddhist origin in the 2nd century BC. Further references include those from folios of Jain manuscripts; coins issued during the Gupta period; the seated bronze figurine of the yakshi Ambika; miniature paintings from the Basohli and Rajasthani styles, and from architectural elements like stepwells (baoris), which doubled as spaces for retreat, replete with platforms, galleries, ledges and stone benches with backrests.
Ubiquitous since time immemorial, we are symbolic of festivity, recreation and a sense of gaiety and joyousness. While the earliest references to us have been made in the Vedas, the regions of Mathura and Vrindavan are famous even today for the epnonymous Jhulan Festival, observed right after Janmashtami, where the love between Radha and Krishna is celebrated over elaborate swings, song and dance.
References can also be seen in the early Deccani-style miniature paintings from Bijapur as well as some from the Mughal period.
Constructed with a simple wooden board, suspended from the branch of a tree, our more elaborate versions are made of silver or brass, replete with trimmings, bolsters and dhurries. In Gujarat, the Sankheda technique (or lacquered wood design) is still common. As objects of interior and exterior usage, we can still be found across larger homes, often, as symbols of luxury.