Pukka Indian – 100 Objects That Define India

In India, to understand objects in terms of design one has to re-imagine design itself. Design in India is not entirely determined by the aesthetic appeal of the object, but by the significance of the object in everyday life and is often influenced by its users. In some instances, the age-old practices established by ancient Indian wisdom determine the design of an object, such as the datun (neem tree twig) recommended for oral care or agarbatti (incense) used to heal and protect. On the other hand, the lota (a kind of metal pot) has been a part of everyday Indian life for centuries and its design remains unchanged even today.

Pukka Indian or Purely Indian brings together hundred objects that are the most coveted symbols representing Indian culture and design. This illustrated book celebrates the diversity, versatility, vibrancy and colours of design icons – ranging from kulhad to the kolhapuri chappal, Nano to the Nehru jacket and auto rickshaw meter to the Ambassador – that set them apart in a country as multifarious as India. Each of these hundred profiles compliments the intrinsically Indian nature of every object and how they have impacted design, culture and, in turn, every Indian.

Read about some of these objects that are featured in the book –

A banta or marble plugs this bottle that opens with a pop

Date of Origin – 1870s, Delhi
Material – Glass, marble, water, lemon juice, sugar, black salt, cumin

Goli Soda or banta is lemonade that pops when opened, and goli is the marble stuck in the bottle to hold the fizz. This corkless bottle, called the Codd-neck bottle (after its creator Hiram Codd), is a late-nineteenth-century design made in the UK, but it is India that gave the drink hundreds of flavours, and an indelible connection to youth, playfulness, taste and patriotism.

A tea caddy designed to carry tea or chai on a rainy day

Date of Origin – Unknown
Material – Wrought iron, metal wire, bamboo

The Tea Caddy is essential to India’s street culture. Known simply as a ‘chai holder’, it is a mobile holder fashioned out of metal with cylindrical compartments for carrying fluted glasses of tea. India is the world’s largest drinker of tea and the tea caddy is the most important conduit for delivering steaming hot chai to the neighbourhood offices and shops throughout the working day.

A hand-held fan for respite during power cuts

Date of Origin – Unknown, wall fixtures 1800 CE
Material – Bamboo, cloth, wood

The punkha was the only way to battle Indian summers. Paintings attest that when its first debuted in the late eighteenth century, it consisted of ornate drapery that hung from a wooden beam and a pulley system with a rope pulled by a servant dedicated to this task, which ensured a constant breeze. In the early twentieth century, household electricity replaced punkhas with pedestal fans. This fan fulfilled people’s aspirations for a comfortable life. But during the interminable hours of load-shedding during the summer months, the hand fan re-appears in the guise of a saviour.

Want to know more about such objects? Buy your copy of the book here

Author – Jahnvi Lakhota Nandan
Photographs by Shivani Gupta

1 year ago

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