Happiness is Hala
The traditions of Sindhi craftwork reflect the influence of 5000 years of invaders and settlers, whose various modes of art were eventually assimilated into our culture. The elegant floral and geometrical designs that decorate everyday objects — whether of clay, metal, wood, stone or fabric — can be traced to the Muslim influence.
Sindh has a reputation for ajrak, pottery, leatherwork, carpets, textiles and silk cloth which, in design and finish, are matchless. Perhaps the most professed exposition of Sindhi culture is in the handicrafts of Hala, a town some 30 kilometres from Hyderabad. Hala’s artisans manufacture high-quality and impressively priced wooden handicrafts, textiles, paintings, handmade paper products and blue pottery. Lacquered wood works known as Jandi, painting on wood, tiles, and pottery known as Kashi, hand-woven textiles including khadi, susi and ajrak are synonymous with Sindhi culture preserved in Hala’s handicraft.
The quality of these articles can be gauged from this quote of T. Posten (an English traveler who visited Sindh in the early 19th century) that, ‘the articles of Hala could be compared with exquisite specimens of China.’ Kashi: The village potters known as kumhaar across Sindh specially in Hala, make exquisite earthenware. Kashi work consists of two kinds: (a) Enamel-faced tiles and bricks of strongly fired red earthenware, or terracotta; (b) Enamel faced tiles and tesserae of lightly fired lime-mortar, or sandstone. Similar blue tiles like Hala’s have been used in the renowned architectural designs of Makli and other tombs. Khadi: Hala’s apparel tradition is one of the world’s oldest with handlooms and power looms dating back to the Indus valley civilization. The hand-spun and handwoven cloth called “Khadi” was being exported to various countries since time immemorial. Since Khadi deals in natural fibres such as cotton, silk and wool only, spun and woven in natural environment, it can boast of being 100 percent natural, unlike handloom and mills which receive cotton yarn, blended with some regenerated cellulose fibres. Khadi cloth has found its place in haute couture and on the ramps of most eminent fashion divas. Rilli: Rilli or patchwork sheet, is another Sindhi icon and part of the heritage and culture. Rilli is made with different small pieces of different geometrical shapes of cloths sewn together to create intricate designs. Rilli is also presented as a gift to friends and visitors. It is used as a bedspread as well as a blanket. A beautifully sewn Rilli can also become part of a bride or grooms gifts. Sindhi Topi: Sindhi caps are also very famous and manufactured commercially on a small scale at New Saeedabad and Hala New. Although the market for these caps is huge but the production capacity remains limited due to the intricate designs and patterns.
Like the ancient history of Sindh, the history of its crafts is also very unique and interesting. It is said that the work of Sindhi artisans was sold in ancient markets of Armenia, Baghdad, Basra, Istanbul, Cairo and Samarkand. Times may have advanced now, new techniques might have been introduced in weaving and new markets for Sindhi craft might have been explored but the romance of Hala and its crafts is still the same. The traditional crafts of Sindh thus continue to live