Craft traditions


Basketry and mat weaving is one of the very oldest of man's creations done by joining grass with grass and interlacing leaves, with the minimum of tools. In India, the grass mat was used for religious purposes like sitting down to pray, meditate or offer worship. Bamboo, cane, jute, reeds, grasses and palm leaves are used as raw material for basketry and mats.

Coiled basketry is the earliest known craft form in this genre and has an affinity with weaving.

The kangri, a willow basket with a handle, containing an earthern pot, is the most typical and indispensable part of a Kashmiri's belongings. In Ladakh, long conical shaped backpack baskets are woven out of willow, malchang, and a local grass called chipkiang, to carry everything from manure, grain and vegetables to babies.

Jute and coconut fibers are used in the southern states while leaves of date palm are used in the northern states. In most of the plains of central and northern India, window screens, known as chiks, are made of fine bamboo slates and tied with plain or coloured string in artistic designs. The tall golden-white grass is used to make mudhas and chairs.

Bihar is known for its coiled basketry using a grass locally known as sikki. The grass is used to create lovely dolls, toys and caskets.

Assam, a state with abundant raw materials, has a large variety of beautiful products like baskets, mugs for rice beer, hukkas, musical instruments, floor mats, fishing devices and handles. The basketry and the mats are very much alike in Assam and Bengal. Tripura's speciality is screens made from split bamboo. Mizo baskets, made for the carrying of rice is woven with four long bamboo splints at the corners. Arunachal Pradesh excels in cane and bamboo work with bamboo bridges and cane belts.

Orissa has some outstanding items, like articles made from what is known as the golden grass. Manipur has very unusual type of baskets, with dome shaped lid made out of bamboo.

Tamil Nadu is famed for its kora grass mats. Extremely delicate, and indeed the most aristocratic of mats in the world, are made in Kerala. Square bamboo box made here is perfectly gorgeous with black and white design.

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