Hand-held punkahs,("Visiri" in Tamil), were once known as the poor man's fan in the early 1900s

hand-held fan in standing position, India

During the colonial days the rich people and the British  were dependent on the hand-operated Punkha to get past the hot  summer season April to June. In India the hot days continue even after the summer up to late September. In the coastal areas the humidity factor will sustain the dry, sultry  weather patters. Though the electric fans were introduced  in the late colonial time, many of the rural population, particularly poor people had to depend on hand-held light weight fans to tackle the unbearable heat and mosquito bites in the hot months.  

 Hand-held punkahs, also known as "Visiri" in Tamil, were made from a single frond of the palmyra palm or a woven square of bamboo strips, rattan, or other plant fibers. It has been around in India for centuries and was known as the poor man's fan. Even today, millions of people across India use this simple device to keep them cool and comfortable during the hot season when there is a power outage. Power shut down is more common in the summer period than other time because of less production of electricity by Hydro Electric Plants. Much smaller versions of hand-held visiri/punkah are available and can be  used by the user while lying down or relaxing in an easy chair. Modern versions are available in PVC in various styles and colors.

Punkah with long hadle,Alamy.com

Above; In the rich peoples' masonry's residences when electricity was not introduced in India such hand-held fans with long handle  were used.  The servants  wave the fans to and fro in the standing position before a small group of family members, in the dinner room or in the hall and they are also made of light weight materials, mostly dried palm leaves and stem. Indian rulers about 1000 years ago were relieved  on them while sitting in the court, hearing grievances from the people and dispensing justice. The servants - mostly maids, standing on either side of the ruler would wave to-and-fro to keep the kings free from sweating and intense heat.
simple palm leaf (Pana oolai)  visiri, TN  /i.ytimg.com

Above image:  Vetiver Hand Fan crafted from natural vetiver  is  eco-friendly, weight-weight and stylish.  vetiver has unique fragrance...............

Visiri -  hand-held fan, waytoearth.com

hand-held fan (Visiri), India.pinterest.co.uk

Above images:  Hand-held fan made of dry palm leaves, commonly used in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu and other states. It comes in various shapes, design, colors with different handle. Mostly used by the individual while relaxing - in sitting or lying positions. Palm leaf fans are also environmentally friendly and sustainable, as they are made from natural materials and can be easily disposed of without harming the environment. They are a beautiful example of traditional Indian handicrafts and continue to be popular in modern times

From many sources.