Punkahwall In The Time Of British India, 1910 Postcard


An old 1910 postcard of a punkahwalla in the time of British India. Punkawallas were a section of servants created by the British as manual fan operators. They worked day and night, especially in the oppressive tropical heat of the country to cool the colonial masters.

British and Europeans in India were unable to get fitful sleep in the summers. The heat, humidity, pesky insects, and the howl of the wildlife make their sleep pattern hell. Leading to a bad mood, less patience, and comprehension the next day. While hill stations were a welcome relief but one couldn’t be holed up there for long.

The punkah – a swinging cloth fan on a frame. A cooling device that is believed to have existed even before the British came to India. It became a crude fan technology popularized during colonial rule. A most useful but “labour-intensive” crude technology. The image shows a man holding the punkah cord while he is almost asleep. Seem to be impulsively swishing the overhead punkah to cool down his white master.

Did you know – a British family employed different sets of punkah-walas. Usually, a minimum of two sets of workers were needed to cool during the day and the night. 

Past posts – Raja Ravi Varma Women Themed Paintings, 5 PCs., Bombay Welcomes King George & Queen Mary, 1911., Apollo Bunder Before The Gateway Of India – Old Print 1874., Princely State of Cochin And Harbour – Old Map 1833.

The images are of the actual items from my collection. And Not a photocopy, pirated, reproduced, stock photos, or taken from other sources.