Bangladeshi Crafts: Nakshi Pati

As with many of the traditional crafts of Bangladesh, nakshi pati is rich with symbolism and closely tied in with rituals treasured through generations. In ancient times the decorative mats known as nakshi pati were widely used for sitting on at home and at social gatherings, but with the introduction of modern furniture into homes in Bangladesh, they are less often used in this way. Nonetheless, these beautifully crafted mats retain their cultural value and are among the items used in the Gaye Halud ceremony performed some days before a wedding, in which the bride and groom are covered in turmeric to ward off bad luck and bring them good fortune.

The term nakshi pati refers specifically to mats with decorative designs. The mats can be made from reeds, cane, bamboo, palm leaves and yarn, or a combination of these, with designs of creepers, leaves, trees, animals, birds, elephants and other flora and fauna, as well as geometric patterns, boats, mosque domes and palanquins among other items. In addition to weaving pictures and geometric patterns, artisans may include their names, or the names of their loved ones, into the design.

Mats made from murta plants are variously known as shital pati, mostak, paitara, patibet and patipati. Murta plants grow wild alongside bodies of water in various regions, including Sunamganj, Tangail, Barisal, Sylhet, Comilla, Feni, Chittagong and Noakhali. The plants are stripped into strands which are dried in the sun before being boiled with various natural ingredients, sometimes with color being added. This produces silky soft strands with incredible strength and durability, which are woven into mats. In the southern coastal region of Bangladesh, mats are often made of hogla leaves and are used for sleeping on, as well as to spread grain out to dry in the sun, and many other purposes.

Along with crafts such as nakshi pakha, nakshi kantha, and nakshi shika, the traditional craft of nakshi pati makes a wonderful gift to take home as a reminder of a trip to Bangladesh.