PUNKAH (Hindostani pankhd), strictly a fan. In its original sense the punkah is a portable fan, made from the leaf of the palmyra; but the word has come to be used in a special sense by Anglo-Indians for a large swinging fan, fixed to the ceiling, and pulled by a coolie during the hot weather. The date of this invention is not known, but it was familiar to the Arabs as early as the 8th century, though it does not seem to have come into common use in India before the end of the 18th century. Of recent years it has largely been supplanted by the electric fan in barracks and other large buildings.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)