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Date Leaf Cots: A Tradition to Support Skilled Rural Women in South Punjab

In the culturally rich region of South Punjab, the age-old tradition of weaving cots and making carpets from date tree leaves remains popular in rural areas.

Practiced mainly by women, this craft not only plays a crucial role in the economic well-being of the artisans’ women, but also demonstrates the region’s unique heritage and the economic importance of women’s crafts.

Date trees, which are plentiful in this region, offer more than just fruit. Their leaves are collected and processed to form the raw material for a range of handmade products.

In the small villages spread across southern Punjab, women have refined the craft of weaving these leaves into intricate patterns, creating durable and aesthetically pleasing carpets. This skill, often passed down from generation to generation, has become an essential source of income for many families.

Women like Sughra Mai and Rafeeqa Bibi from Rajanpur are examples of this tradition. With skilled hands and creative minds, they turn date tree leaves into carpets that are both practical and artistic.

Sughra Mai says, “We usually prepare these carpets in the winter months when farming activities slow down.

By summer we will have a collection ready to sell. “These carpets find their way to local markets, where they are highly sought after during the warmer months. The natural properties of date leaves make these rugs cool and comfortable, a perfect match for the region’s climate.

The charpoy, a small, woven bed, is another staple made from date tree leaves. This traditional piece of furniture is abundant in rural Punjab and can be found in almost every household.

The charpoy is a symbol of rural hospitality and a focal point of the outdoor spaces.

Villagers place these cots under the shade of large trees, creating a cool, restful place where they can escape the scorching sun waves. In the evening, these shaded spaces become gathering places where families and neighbors relax and share stories.

“The usefulness of the charpoy extends beyond just houses. Along highways and rural roads, ‘Dhaba’ hotels offer weary travelers a place to rest,” said Kamran Seyal, a local citizen.

These roadside eateries are characterized by rows of charpoys woven with date tree leaves, providing a comfortable place for customers to enjoy a meal and a short break. The durable and cost-effective nature of these cots makes them an ideal choice for such institutions, he added.

The economic impact of this craft is great. Women who weave carpets and charpoys contribute significantly to their household income, provide financial stability and increase their social status within the community.

Rafeeqa Bibi stated: “The money we earn from selling these handmade products helps us support our families, especially in difficult times.”

This craft not only supports livelihoods but also preserves cultural heritage. The intricate designs and techniques used in weaving are deeply rooted in the region’s history. Each piece tells a story about tradition, resilience and the harmonious relationship between people and their environment.

Despite the rise of modern, mass-produced goods, the demand for handmade date leaf products remains high, said Malik Arif, another resident of Nawabpur village.

Their affordability, combined with the unique touch of craftsmanship, makes these a preferred choice of both rural and urban consumers.

As more villagers move to urban areas in search of better opportunities, they bring with them their weaving skills, spread the tradition and find new markets for their products.