|A Brief History of Charpoys
Charpoys are an ancient furniture style still used extensively today
in the Indian sub-continent. The earliest reference we have found
is in Hobson Jobson, a glossary of colloquial Anglo Indian words and
Charpoy, s, H.(Hindi) charpai, from P.(Persian) chihar-pai (i.e. four-feet),
the common Indian bedstead, sometimes of very rude materials, but
in other cases handsomely wrought and painted. It is correctly described
in the quotation from Ibn Batuta.* c.1350.-
“The beds in India are very light. A single man can carry one
and every traveller should have his own bed, which his slave carries
about on his head. The bed consists of four conical legs on which
four staves are laid ; between they plait a sort of ribbon of silk
or cotton. When you lie on it you need nothing else to render the
bed sufficiently elastic.”-iii. 380.
*Ibn Batuta. Voyages d’Ibn Batoutah, Texte Arabe,
(Societe Asiatique). 4 vols. Paris, 1853-58.
Beach at Gill House, Port Dickson , Malaysia, 2005.
Raj. 22”H, 78”L, 40”W .Square
And so charpoys, like Indian travelers, have landed on many shores.
In Malaysia, it was mainly the Sikhs who used them. A typically nostalgic
memory commonly held by many Malaysians, is of a burly Sikh security
guard lying on his charpoy on the five foot path that runs along shopfronts.
In the morning, he would either have a place to stand the charpoy
up against the wall or he would carry it off.
Gill House , Port Dickson. Malaysia. 1933
The charpoy is a most versatile and functional piece of furniture.
We have taken this simple design to make many different pieces of
furniture. Thus we have several sizes, which include beds, benches
and footstools. These in turn can be used as coffee tables, bedside
tables or as storage benches. They can be used all over the house
and because there is such flexibility in the design, they can be made
to suit any décor environment. In our lovely Malaysian climate
they are very well suited to patios but they can look equally grand
and elegant in a living room or conservatory. They can also be very
economical in terms of space and we do offer a twin set, which is
a Raj or Luxman with an Ashoka
that tucks in underneath….ideal in a family room or as guest
Gill House, Port Dickson, 2005. Centre: Maya,
16”H, 43”L, 25”W, perigee weave, round legs. Right:
Piri, 16”L, 22”L, 22”W, perigee
weave, round legs.
Left: Private collection.