Friday, April 30, 2010

Canes Craft of Bengal and Assam

Canes or rattans are long, slender stems of certain trailing or climbing palms. In places like Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, naturally-growing cane is abundantly available.

Bengal and Assam being rich in raw materials has a large variety of beautiful cane products. The hill and the plain people, each have their own styles & designs. Apart from making baskets, cane materials are also turned into furniture items, comparatively more modern. In Assam the best known places for basketry and mats are Kamrup, Sibsagar and Nowgong, Coochbihar in West Bengal.

Cane baskets of various types are produced in different parts of the State and are used for various purposes. These are used mainly for carrying goods, storing grains and keeping valuables. Various tribes specially use the baskets for keeping ornaments and clothes with locking arrangements. In the plain districts of Assam, also a few persons keep their clothes etc. in cane suitcases. Extensive manufacture of `plucking baskets` is found in all the plain districts on a commercial basis. Generally, the tea planters purchase these baskets in big lots from time to time. Therefore, the manufacture of plucking baskets is a monopoly of a few big firms with substantial financial backing. These firms also manufacture various types of baskets used in the carrying of earth, coal etc.

In Assam as well in West Bengal, baskets are prepared in different designs and by different methods. They may be prepared of both bamboo and cane or cane alone.

The different methods of production is confined to the following types, e.g.
(1) Plaited or woven work,
(2) Wicker Work and
(3) Coiled basketry.

Plaited baskets
Plaited basketry consists essentially of 2 sets of elements i.e. warp and weft crossing each other. The baskets are prepared in different designs such as check, twilled, twined, wrapped and hexagonal. These Baskets mainly used for keeping clothes and ornaments, cane suitcases, etc. are generally prepared in this method.

Wicker work
In a wicker work, the warp is not pliable, but the weft is pliable and passed alternately over and under the warp. In this method, the warp is kept in a lesser rigidity. Plucking baskets are prepared by following this method.

Coiled basketry
In Coiled basketry the warp is arranged by cane of comfortable length. Before arrangement, such cane is soaked in water for few minutes to give it a flexible character. Simply binding coiled cane while the process of weaving is in operation, preserves the shape of the basket. Finally, the edge of the basket is stitched with a thin and flexible cane slip. Plucking baskets, ration baskets, baskets used for carrying earth, stone-chips, coal etc. are manufactured in this method,

Procedure
Weaving, twining and coiling techniques are used for making cane baskets and mats. The production of reed and bamboo involves the cutting of whole stems with a hacksaw. It is then sliced into splits of various sizes using a bill-hook or dao. Slicing is done longitudinally along the length of the densely packed fibres .A fairly smooth operation is done to retain moisture in the culm. Kerosene lamp is used to heat the cane before it can be bent into purely by hand. Occasionally the artisans use water to soften the splits.

Artifacts
Moshtha (multi-purpose floor covering), containers of various shapes and sizes tray. Floor covering mats, door mats, boxes, baskets, vases, bags, baskets, handbags, lampshades, furniture, container for drinking water, container for storing grain, lamps, lanterns, travel kit, sarki, chiks, curtains, dali, basket, pahi, tahuki, tapi, ganja , fish catching design, dhaki , big-size basket , pathia, small sizebasket, medhadambara, umbrella made of bamboo sticks

Lakshmi Casket
It is one of the oldest crafts of Bengal. The famous Lakshmi casket is double walled, cane inside, and bamboo twill work outside. This is generally covered with a red cloth on which seven decorations like floral designs are worked out of small shells. There are oval boxes, oblong jhimpis and flower baskets called phulsajis. These are beautifully decorated with floral, figured and geometrical patterns using coloured strands as also accessories such as shells, beads etc.

The coil is fixed to another by sewing strips. In this, there are two main varieties; the simple over coil where each stitch passes over the new portion of the foundation coil below, the other is where the figure of eight is worked . Here the stitch passes behind up, over and down under the preceding coil and right over the new coil. The fixing of the coil is done with bamboo splints. There is quite a wide variety in the coiled articles, ranging from rough storage jars to very elegant jewellery boxes.

Moorahs
Chairs (Stools) called moorahs are made of bamboo and cane. They are a major export item and are made in many parts of Haryana. With time and research the traditional moorah has undergone many changes in design and style. The seat is often artistically woven out of jute strings to make it more durable. A very large variety of items are made from raffia like baskets, trays, wall-decorations, children furniture being most attractive.

Cane or rattan is a kind of a climbing palm with long thin, solid and many joined stems. The stems are dried after removing the green sheath. It is extra ordinarily strong. After drying, the cane rods are cleaned and heated over a fire to make them pilable. Cane rods are used to make legs and supports and for actual interlacing cane splints are used. Low seats called mooras are made of bamboo and cane, the top being woven in artistic designs.

Rush Mats
Karai is a special kind grass growing wildly along the river banks. A peculiarity about this grass is that it can be used for the very fine varieties only when it grows wild. Every attempt to cultivate it has been frustrated because of the coarseness it develops when one tries to cultivate it.

Fine Art
This craft is a recent one and is located mostly in Shertallay and Mohamma in Alleppey district. Coarse grass is split open to remove the pith. To make a rush mat, generally 9 x 9, the pattern is first drawn out on the board with small nails. The grass splints are then guided through the nails or pins so as to fill in the pattern and each strand is bound to the other strands to ensure that the pattern does not disintegrate. These rush mats, mostly square and round, are used as floor coverings as well as wall-panelling.

Procedure
The grass is first dried for 15 days in the sun until the green colour turns to golden. The grass is made into small bundles with stone tied to each to protect them from being washed away, then left immersed down stream shaded away from the glare, with all the attendant risks when bundle are left in flowing river. This soaked grass is then to be stored in a shed. Then waste is separated from the fine fibre which is then split into thin wire-like strands for weaving. Twisted cotton yarn is used for the warp, after it has been rinsed in rice paste. The weaver sits on a low stool, to alternately press a split bamboo piece to do the necessary shedding. The warp threads actually pass beneath the sitting plank for as each weft is a separate strand it is not possible to use shuttle. The weft is therefore passed through the warp thread with the help of a long stick with a hole in it like a gigantic needle. Each grass strand, as it is to be pressed into the loom, is moistened with water. When the needle reaches the other end of the warp, the ends of grass are twisted and beaten into position by the reed, after which the sheding is provided and the weaver then starts again with a fresh strand to ensure closeness of the texture.
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