Tag Archives: Bamboo

Magic with Bamboo in Assam India

Assam, North-Eastern State in India is endowed with exceptional natural beauty. It is still not polluted due to industrial expansion. The state has large forests of Bamboo and teak and other trees. Tea is famous all over the world. You will see sprawling tea gardens for miles and miles.

Bamboo is used for making many utility items. Traditional bamboo baskets that evolved through centuries of cultural and functional mediation are a response to a variety of local needs that were ingeniously satisfied by the local craftsmen. These include basket forms that are used for a variety of domestic, farming and fishing activities which are sold in the weekly markets in villages, towns and cities all over Assam. Large trays made from woven mats, structurally stabilized with stiff bamboo splits to form trays, are used for fishing and winnowing, drying, sorting and threshing grains. The fish basket has a wide mouth and narrow neck to prevent the fish from jumping out. Headgear and ceremonial rain shields are a response to the inclement monsoon that brings pouring rain for several months after summer. Rainfall is celebrated by the conversion of the everyday rain shields into a votive offering. The decorative jhappi is an appliqué embosomed rain shield symbolizing the harvest festival.

Numerous other artifacts of farming communities are made from bamboo that include a bullock cart, grain storage bins, low stools, and a distinctive construction called the Assam type house found everywhere. Assamese craftsmen use simple tools such as a dao, bill hook knife, and jigs to shape their products although they are largely based on their visual judgment. The only exception to this rule is while making the jhappi, when a bamboo mould is used.

Following are pictures of some of the artifacts made in Assam.

Below: A bamboo mould that is used for shaping the peak of the jhappi, palm leaf used for waterproofing and a semi-finished jhappi.

jappi mould

Below:Jhakoi, a fish trap with a basket for keeping fish, from Nalbari. The jhakoi is made by moulding a mat woven with bamboo splits.

fish trap

Below:Tray with open weave made from bamboo splits. It is used to catch fish living in the roots of the water hyacinth.

japi

Below: A basket for carrying agri-produce, made in open hexagonal weave construction, from Silchar.

tray

Below: Muddah, a low stool, made in Silchar has a fascinating structure made of thin splits, tied together with cane bindings to form a warped surface that is load bearing. The seat uses split cane weaving.

sitter

Below: Basket for keeping fish. The basket along with the large trays forms a part of the fishing equipment and is carried tied to the waist.

basket

Below: Dimasa Cachari basket for storing valuable cloth. The double walled construction has an inner layer woven with coarser splits, and outer layer of smoother and finer splits. The conical lid is sturdy and hinged with braided bamboo straps.

cloth basket

When Bamboo Flowers!!!

Yes, bamboo species called Melocanna Baccifera blossoms copiously approximately every 48 years. While the blossoming of flowers is heralded as spring and is the nature’s way to be happy and show the joys to the world, flowering of bamboo is considered the coming of an calamity in the North East states of India. This variety of bamboo grows densely in Mizoram, Manipur and adjoining Burma. Bamboo is a natural resource extensively used in the construction activities to build scaffolding. It helps in the conservation of soil with its strong roots and also beautifies the landscape of the area.

So, why the flowering of bamboo considered as ill omen?

When the bamboo flowers, whole bamboo jungle is filled with flowers which lead to the formation of copious quantities of seeds and signals the death of the tree. It takes many years for the new bamboo trees to grow. Since the area experiences heavy rains, with the soil having become nude, there is heavy erosion of fertile upper crust of soil.

The floor of jungle is now full of bamboo seeds which are packed with nutrients especially the proteins. Rats from the nearby places are attracted to the seeds like iron fillings towards a magnet. They gorge on these seeds and gets very hefty and indulge in the procreation. There population increases exponentially. After cleaning out the seeds, the hordes of the rats turn their attention on the provisions stored by the people living nearby. In the matter of days, they eat up every thing creating the famine.

Due to the shortage of food, the inhabitants are forced to eat anything they find in the jungle or contaminated left over food and fall ill. Thus along with the famine, a epidemic visits the people. In the past, due to the casual attitude of the government, people revolted against the state.

Many of us have heard the story of pied piper of Hamelin which charmed the hordes of rats which had made the life of people a hell and lured them to their death. May be such a pied piper was there also when these disasters occurred. But no cheating with him in the payment for his services as the governments generally do, otherwise it can invite his wrath and he can lure the innocent children and take them with him.