Basketry and Cane Articles

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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 earthen 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. These are sometimes described as “root carvings”.  Mizo baskets, made for the carrying of rice, are 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 made from what is known as the “golden grass”. Manipur has very unusual type of baskets, with dome shaped lids made out of bamboo. Tamil Nadu is famed for its kora grass mats. Kerala is also known for extremely delicate and very aristocratic mats.

Wood inlay, which developed and flourished through Mughal influence involves the placing of small parts of ivory, plastic, horn, metal pieces or other types of wood into carved surfaces of wooden items. This is found in various parts of the country such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Karnataka is famous for the inlay work of rosewood. Surat in Gujarat is famous for its framed marquetry work known as Sadeli. Bhavnagar in Gujarat is famous for its large sized chests known as pataras. Kerala is famous for its decorating wooden chests and boxes bound by brass bands. Its jewel box called netturpetty is an excellent example of this work. The classical style of woodwork like painted cradles, boxes and ganjifa, the traditional set of playing cards are painted with religious and mythological figures.

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