Chik/Window & Door Screens

In the hot and dusty plains of north India, chiks have traditionally been used to keep out the dust as well as the blinding heat of the hot summer afternoons and, thus, to keep the inside cool. This simultaneously utilitarian and decorative craft uses either bamboo or sarkhanda/ sirki grass as its base material. Sarkhanda is a kind of grass that grows up to 12 to 15 feet in the monsoon months. The lower stem is called sarkhanda while the upper portion is called sirki. Chiks were used widely during Mughal times as screens and as partitions in the zenana (women's quarters). The traditional craft has its roots in the districts of Aligarh, Gwalior, and Agra. Over the years, the crafts has migrated to Delhi in search of markets.

To make the bamboo chiks the craftsperson first splits the bamboo into fine sticks";" the sticks are then rubbed on to a hard surface to achieve a smooth finish. The bamboo is then ready for weaving on the chik-making loom. Coloured or white cotton warp is used with the bamboo weft. The weaving is done in a fretlike design so that a fine chik when hung at the window looks extremely delicate. The chiks are finally edged with cotton tape and a backing of fabric is often provided to strengthen them and allow for greater protection from the sun.

The practitioners of this craft usually create products on the basis of required specifications. The designs are named according to their shape";" the repertoire includes the barfi jaal (rectangle), choori jaal (bangle), makdi jaal, and glass jaal. Of late, chiks are becoming popular substitutes for fabric curtains in urban homes. Consequently, the craftspersons are building upon the standard repertoire and introducing innovations such as cutouts, dyed bamboo sticks, printed cloth backings, and decorative tassels.