Examples of Indian design are hard to find as it is so ingrained into the daily lives of people that it is easy to ignore them. One such example is our unassuming broom. Called Phooljhaaru, Jharu, Bhuari etc. in rural India, the broom has more meaning than we give it in our regular households. In more traditional parts of India, the broom is seen as embodiment of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth who brings wealth into the house by taking away dregs and dust. In rural Rajasthan, village women make their own brooms from whatever is available in their environment–leaves, twigs, shrubs, and waste material.In Jainism, monks and nuns keep a broom with them to keep out insects and animals from their paths as they walk. It prevents killing them unconsciously and is considered as an act of non-violence. Goddess ‘Sheetala’, worshiped in Hinduism, Buddhism and some tribal cultures holds a broom in her right hand. She is a goddess associated with smooth transition of seasons and prosperity. In some cultures, brooms are used by ‘Tantric healers’ to cure psychic problems (again the symbolism of warding off mental dirt).
There is no dearth of variety here in terms of shape, size, and material, which are closely related to the texture of particular surfaces. For an object as simple as broom, Indian craft communities have come up with more than a hundred varieties, utilizing different plant species and construction techniques found vernacularly. Several wasteland species and seasonal grasses are used for making brooms. In some regions, waste of harvest, fine twigs, hay, straw, plant leaves are also used.
Material for making brooms changes with usage and area of application. To brush aside dust from smooth floors, a broom with fine strands is used. For sweeping water or other fluid materials, a broom with thick and stronger strands is used. For sweeping pliable areas such as grass or open land, a broom with branched strands is used. Outdoor brooms are never used indoors. As the different variations of their names suggest– bungra, buaro, buara, baro, khuaro, havarno and haveno – the gender of the broom used in outer spaces is invariably ‘male’.
The basic process of making a broom starts with procuring the strands of approximately same length. These are then formed into a bundle and tied together from one end. To increase the gripping comfort, around one fifth of the holding side of the broom is wound with thread or dried grass strips and tied. The process involves various simple tools, which are used to cut, slice or shred the base straw into finer lengths.
All of the above methods have not changed since ages. They have many stories to tell about our olden and newer culture. They tell us about the beliefs of the society, the condition of surrounding lands, the craftsmanship available etc. We can analyse various aspects of the broom to gather insights about a particular place and time.