Bartan, Dhanteras aur Lucknow

As rightly mentioned by Abdul Halim Sharar in his legendary book Guzishta Lucknow; it was the court of Lucknow, above all others that the late Mughal civilisation reached zenith of its splendour and sophistication. The high culture of Lucknow which was flowering from the 18th century until today can be seen in various art forms present in the city. Bartan ( utensil ) are an integral part of every household and it is believed that no marriage is complete without gifting of the bartans. Dhanteras is celebrated before Diwali where the purchase of the utensil is considered as auspicious. One of the oldest shop in Lucknow where you would find finest of the bartan along with variety is Kanhaiya Lal Prag Das in the Yahiyaganj area. Mr Pramesh Agarwal, the owner of the shop shared with us the details of every bartan and the occasions where these are used frequently.

‘Paandaan’, ‘Khaasdaan’ and ‘Ughaldaan’ display the perfect picture of ‘Lucknawi Ethnicity’. The idea of ‘Paandaan’ or betel box which turns raw betel leaf into a thing of glory called ‘paan’ is one of a kind.
‘Khaasdaan’ is the betel case in which the prepared paan is served in formal gatherings and in daily life. ‘Khaasdaan’ is simply a tray covered with beautiful and designer lid. The idea of presenting paan in khaasdaan in itself portrays the ‘nawabi culture’ of the city. There are variations in khaasdaan pertaining to different sizes and designs. ‘Ughaldaan’ or the spitting vessel completes the whole process of paan eating. Ughaldaan is a broad vessel where you can spit the collected saliva of pan called the ‘peek’. The use of ughaldaan presents the idea of a mannerly disposal of peek rather throwing it anywhere like today. ‘Lota’ is a water-jug which is used in bathroom for cleaning and for performing wazu. ‘Glass’ the popular utensil for drinking water is a new invention whereas the traditional one is ‘Katora’ which is still used in houses. ‘Salefchi’ is a basin to keep the used water and is associated with royal living and marriage functions. ‘Seeni’ and ‘Lagan’ are the big flat utensils for cooking food. ‘Degh’ is the biggest pot to cook food in the family of ‘Pateli’ and various sizes are available depending on the usage. ‘Gagra’ is used in functions and for keeping curd and water. ‘Kadahi’ and ‘Tawa’ are the utensils where curve space is used in cooking. ‘Karchul’ and ‘Kavgeer’ are the traditional spoons used for cooking food. The list of the utensils is endless and so the tradition ! All the utensils are available in various dimensions, shapes and varieties which are credited to be invented in Lucknow. These bartan are an integral part of the cultural heritage of Lucknow ! It is this practice which is keeping the art and tradition alive. The production of these utensils also boosts many similar profession like ‘kalai coating’. Due to lack of demand and invention of new elements, traditional utensils and that too of copper are facing severe competition from steel and aluminium utensils. Happy shopping at Dhanteras !

Credit : Intern – Nishita Banerje