The pride of Patiala and a former must for its matyars (belles), the ‘parandi’ today seems to have become an item used exclusively in weddings or as a souvenir being bought by expatriates or being gifted to them.
The craft has come a long way from its hey day before partition when there were more than forty shops selling parandis as well as nalas in the Kila Chowk Bazaar here. Today though 14 to 15 shops in the Kila Bazaar keep both the goods, there are only some shops which cater exclusively to only the two items.
Most shops have branched off into keeping cosmetics and other beauty aids for women. This is because the demand for parandis starts only during the marriage season after August and carries on for most of the winter. There is very little demand for parandis from the local girls otherwise due to which the shopkeepers are catering mainly to goods which can be brought for marriages or picked up as souvenir pieces.
Seventyfive-year-old Om Prakash Khanne of Khanne Di Hatti says though there were a large number of shops catering to both parandis and naalas in Patiala before partition, they had been declining steadily since. He said the main reason for this was the large scale migration of Muslims from the town who were both users of both products as well as versatile karigars. He said the sale of naalas was the first to suffer with the advent of modern equivalents which were available at a fraction of the earlier price.
Mr Khanne said there had been a drastic reduction in the sale of parandis as they were no longer part of the customary dress of youngsters even though punjabi women continued to wear them. He said presently parandis were mostly brought as gift items to be presented to people from outside the state. He said they were also bought by Non-Resident Indians to be taken abroad regardless of the fact whether they eventually wore them or not.
The shopskeepers who are doing good business are those who have adjusted to the new scenario and are basically catering to only these two categories to earn their bread and butter. This has resulted in today’s parandis being very ornate with silk thread, zari, false pearls and tilla being used in their production. Shop keeper Nand Kishore said there was profit only in making ornate parandis. He said while the basic parandi which had only cotton threads could be purchased for Rs 5, ornate ones cost as much as Rs 350 each. ‘’It is on the latter that we derive our profit’’ , he added .
Though the established shopkeepers are still doing well, the same cannot be said for the karigars who prepare the product. The ‘ karigars ‘ who consist of mainly women and children, are able to earn around Rs 50 per day making parandis.
Presently there is a demand for parandis from Amritsar , Jalandhar , Ludhiana, Bhatinda and Sri Ganganagar. The product also goes to Uttar Pradesh where it is used by Muslim women. Artisans engaged in the trade feel there should be exemption of the product from sales tax. They said presently 8.8 per cent sales tax was being charged on the product despite it being a handicraft item. They feel the tax should be withdrawn immediately. Artisans feel efforts should also be made to export the product to Middle East countries where there was a market for it.