Resources Research

Culture and systems of knowledge, cultivation and food, population and consumption

Posts Tagged ‘weaving

The baskets of old Bihar

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“Baskets used specially by the sower are called generally ora, ori or oriya (sometimes made partly with the fibre of the leaves of the tal palm); also we meet, to the west, chhainti, and to the east chhita (a large one), chhiti (a small one), or dauri. South of the Ganges they are also called in Patna batta (also in Shahabad), daura, or dauri (sometimes made of the culm of the silk grass, andropogon muricatum), in Gaya (also in North-East Tirhut) pathiya (also used for feeding cattle), and in South Munger khanchiya. The only difference amongst all these is that in the case of the daura and dauri the bottom is woven of bamboo slips, like a mat.

“There are likewise several other kinds of baskets, used indiscriminately for this and other domestic and agricultural purposes. Thus, small straw grain-baskets are changeli or changeri, and sometimes dali or daliya, especially towards the east. In Patna and South Munger they are called batri. Another very similar basket (but still smaller) is called very generally maunni or mauniya, also batta in Patna, Gaya and South Munger, and phuluki in East Tirhut. A large open basket made of split twigs of bamboo generally woven up with the fibre of the leaves of the til palm is called tokra, dhaka, dhaki, ora or chainta. A smaller variety is called ganja, tokri, dhakiya.

“When the bottom is very finely woven, so as even to hold water, it is called oraisa. The dhama is an open basket made of rattan. The khaincha or khancha is a large coarse basket made of twigs of cytisus cajan (rahar) or tamarisk (jhau). South of the Ganges we also find deli. A smaller basket of the same kind is known as khanchi (also khanjhi in North-East Tirhut), khanchiya, khacholi, pathuli (Gaya), nonihari (Patna), or (South Bhagalpur) damhariya. The dagra, dagri, also called South of the Ganges daura, dauri, or (South Bhagalpur) dala, is a large shallow basket. These are all made of either bamboo twigs or slips, except the daura or dauri. In Shahabad karui or doki, and north of the Ganges sikahuti or sikauti, is a little basket made of the stalks of the munj grass.

“A broken basket is chhitai, or in Gaya chhatna, or in South Bhagalpur chhitna. The jhampi or jhampiya is a little basket with a lid. It is also called punti or pautiya (being then generally made of munj grass) and petari (made of bamboo or rattan). A larger kind is called jhampa. The lid of all these is called pehani or jhamp. Thaicha or changor, or in Shahabad thaincha or thincha, is a kind of large open basket. Phuldali is a flower-basket, saji is one with a handle. In North-East Tirhut mator is a basket used by betel-growers.”

From ‘Bihar Peasant Life, Being a Discursive Catalogue of the Surroundings of the People of that Province‘, by George A Grierson, printed in 1885 at The Bengal Secretariat Press, Calcutta.

Carpets and climate change

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What does climate change have to do with Kashmiri carpets? A lot, as it turns out. Here’s why.

A few days ago I met Firdaus Ahmad, who with his brother manages two handicrafts shops in the hill station of Panchgani, in the hills of western Maharashtra. You can find shops like those of the Ahmad brothers in most hill stations and tourist spots in India, for domestic tourists are very likely to wander in and buy a few of the items on display to take home as gifts or keepsakes.

Firdaus Ahmad and his carpets

The Ahmads stock carpets too and these tend to be the highest priced goods in the shops. The most common size is 5×3 feet (left picture) which currently costs around Rs 2,300 (you can bargain, naturally). There is a larger size and a couple of smaller sizes.

“It is getting more difficult to find new stock, that’s why we have to keep what we have carefully so that it doesn’t get spoilt,” said Firdaus. Why more difficult, I asked.

“The younger generation doesn’t like to do this work much any more,” he said. “They want education.” Surely they could have education and learn a traditional skill at the same time, I suggested.

“Yes, but there’s also less snow now.” What did that have to do with carpet weaving, I wanted to know.

Papier-mâché boxes and decorations

“There is less snow because the winters are less cold. In earlier years, there was so much snow we would stay indoors most of the day in the winter months. That’s when the families and all family members would sit down to do carpet weaving and other handicrafts all day.”

Firdaus said that the handicrafts work done through the three coldest winter months – when the snow outside had piled high and movement was limited – was often enough to sustain the families for the rest of the year. Smaller works are made out of papier-mâché, the distinctive lacquered boxes and balls, leather and wood (right picture).

“Less snow now means the younger ones want to be out more and spend less time at home working on these,” he said, gesturing at his stock of carpets. “It is climate change, this less snowfall. It is bad for our handicrafts.”

Written by makanaka

November 27, 2009 at 11:13