Bamboo products of Assam
8th Feb 2011
Bamboo has played an important part in the lives of the people of Assam. It has been an integral part of the cultural, social and economic traditions of the State, and is an important component of the wealth of Assam. From the time immemorial, Assam produced many articles of bamboo, wood and cane. The Forests of Assam are filled with bamboos from which various products are made. Out of all the regions Assam, the North Chahhar Hills, Mizo Hills, Mikir Hills, Nowgong Hills, and Lakhimpur District are very famous for their Bamboo and Bamboo products. The inhabitants of Assam have their own bamboo products with distinctive style of creating typical designs in bamboo crafts. The products of the plain districts differ from that of the hill districts in use, shape and design.
The bamboo crafts of Assam have a variety of products like bamboo mats, baskets of various sizes and shapes, winnowing trays, sieves, japi or chatta, various types of fishing implements, etc. that are manufactured in large numbers in the plains districts of the state. Items like Chalani (sieve), Kula (winnowing fan), Khorahi (small basket), Dukula or Tukuri (Big basket), Dala (bamboo tray), Duli (big basket), Doon, Dhol (big measure) are of immense importance to the people of Assam. Apart from these items, the artisans of Assam create various kinds of fishing contraptions that are prepared out of cane and bamboo in different parts of the state. Some of the fishing implements widely used among the Assamese include polo, Jakai, Khalai, Dori, Chepa, Paran, Jhuti, Hogra, etc. some of the fishermen use special kind of contrivances made of bamboo and cane to catch fishes in deep waters. These are known as gui, jhuti, dingaru, thupa, hogra, etc. among the people of Assam. Another remarkable item of bamboo crafts of Assam is `Dhari` or bamboo mat. Following are some important products of bamboo:
Japi: The japi, the traditional sunshade continues to be the most well known of bamboo items. The big hats like the Bordoiya Japi and Sarudoiya Japi are the most beautiful products of bamboo. It has been in use since the days when the great Chinese traveler, Hiuen Sang came to Assam. Visitors were welcomed with japi, decorated with colourful designs and motifs.
Dhari: Another remarkable item of bamboo and cane crafts of Assam is `Dhari` or bamboo mat. Bamboo mats created by the artisans of Assam are of various types on a commercial basis in the districts of Nowgong, Darrang and Cachar. Large-scale commercial production can be seen from Karimganj sub-division of the Cachar district where mats are locally known as `dhara`, `jharia` or `darma`, and most of the people of this state have taken up craftsmanship as their profession. In the districts of Darrang and Nagaon, such mats are produced from the dried stalks of various kinds of marshy plants and weeds. While in the district of Cachar, it is produced out of bamboo slips.
Chalani (sieve): It is woven with fine bamboo slips in a crisps-cross way, keeping some open spaces between the different slips as required for different purposes. The chalani is a round-shaped disc-like object and its diameter varies from 1½ ft- 3½ ft. It is used sieving rice, paddy, tealeaves, etc. and for washing fish.
Kula (winnowing fan): It is prepared out of flat bamboo slips for winnowing purposes in different sizes and shapes. Twilled design is used for a kula. The edge of the kula is made strong by fixing of two sets of one-inch wide bamboo pieces wrapped up in flexible cane strips.
Khorahi (small basket): Khorahi is made of fine bamboo splits for washing rice, vegetables, fish, etc. It is a small basket-like thing with provision to allow water and dirt to pass out. The Khorahi is woven in plain and square form but is gradually bent in a round form at the time of final stitching by flexible cane slips.
Dukula / Tukuri (Big basket): The shape of a dukula is exactly the same as that of the Khorahi, but the size and process of preparation is a bit different. The required shape of a tukuri is made by bending the bamboo splits forming the warp gradually when the process of weaving with the weft is in operation. Fixing two or four flat bamboo strips strengthens the edge. The last stage is to stitch the edge along with those flat bamboo strips with some flexible cane slips. The size of a dukula or a tukuri is much bigger than that of the Khorahi and is used for carrying as well as keeping paddy, rice, etc
Dala (bamboo tray): Dala is prepared out of flexible bamboo slips in twilled design. The shape of a dala is exactly like a disc with various sizes for different purposes. The edge around the dala is stitched in the same way as that of the edge of a tukuri or dukula, but the bamboo rims used in the edge of the dala is about 1½". The dala is used
specially for rearing silk worms and for winnowing in addition to other domestic purposes.
Duli (Assamese) / Tali (Bengali) - Big Basket: The duli or tali is used for preserving paddy. The process of weaving is almost the same as that of a tukuri but the size of bamboo slips used is more flat and flexible. The dulis are much bigger than the tukuri and the shape is a bit different too.
Doon (Assamese) Kathi (Bengali)-Measure: It is prepared in an almost conical shape with fine bamboo strips for measuring rice or paddy. Its holding capacity varies from 2 seers- 3½ seers from place to place. A ring is attached at the bottom to enable it to stand on the ground.
Dhol (big measure): The process of preparation of dhol is just like that of the doon. However, it is much bigger in size. It is used for measuring paddy only. In the Cachar district, it is known as pura. This is not generally bought or sold in the markets.
Polo: It resembles the shape of a dome with short stem of about 6" diameter open at the top. The diameter at the bottom varies from 2 ft-3½ ft. and even upto 4 ft. and the height varies from 2 ft. to 3 ft. It is prepared out of small bamboo strips fastened with fine and flexible cane slips. Polo is used for fishing in shallow water. The man who uses it hold it by the side of the stem, presses its rim on the mud, then pulls it back and lifts above or up to the level of water and again presses it as before while moving on through water. Whenever any fish is caught, he puts his hand inside through the stem to catch hold of the fish; julki is a small polo prepared in the same fashion.
Jakai: The jakai is a species of wicker work shovel that is either dragged along the bottom or placed on the water bed to catch the small fishes which take refuge in it when the weed is trampled. It is prepared with bamboo slips, which are locally known as dai. Jati bamboo is specially used for making this particular implement.
Khalai: The khalai is also prepared with bamboo strips. The strips required for the weft are very long, while those for the warp are short. The khalai is woven in the shape of
an earthen kalasi or pitcher. This is used for temporary keeping of fishes during hand-net fishing.
Chepa: The Chepa is made of some prepared bamboo rods according to required size. These are woven in a roundish fashion with jute string or soft cane slips. A bamboo-made valve locally known as par (Bengali) and kal (Assamese) is fitted in the middle of the chepa to allow the fishes to enter inside with no scope for going out.
Dori: Fishermen in the rural areas of the state manufacture dories of various types. A dori is generally rectangular. It is prepared out of small bamboo strips woven with flexible cane slips. A trap is fitted with a dori in such a way that a bamboo-made screen is prolonged inwards from either side of the oval mouth and the pointed splints of the two sides interlock together.
Parans: These are various cages or basket traps made of bamboo splits used for catching fishes. There are two kinds of parans, namely (i) uba paran (vertical cage) and (ii) pora paran (horizontal cage). These are provided with one or two valves or trap doors through which fishes can be easily trapped.
Bamboo Musical Instruments
Flute is a commonly used musical instruments made out of bamboo. Besides this, other musical instruments like bamboo beater, do-tara etc., are used in the Bihu festival of Assam. Gogona is another musical instrument shaped from a thick bamboo outer split, so that one end forms the handle while the other end can be struck by fingers when the instrument is held against the mouth.