Classic and contemporary
`Purbashree' with its display of North-Eastern handicrafts and handloom is attracting one and all, writes T.SARAVANAN
PHOTOS: K. GANESAN
Visitors at the festival
Handicrafts, particularly those made of bamboo, cane and wood, leave an indelible impression on people with a taste for the chic and ethnic.
The intricate and exquisite designs and the brilliant finish of these items stem from skilled artisans of the fertile Brahmaputra valley and the land of seven sister States of North East India.The raw material for their products are found in abundance in their land of rolling plains and low hills.
Handicraft has been an integral part of the life and culture of the people of North Eastern States. It comes naturally to them. Each skilfully crafted product has the distinct stamp of the multifarious tribes the States hold as a testimony to the cultural diversity in the region. Their products done in intricate wood works, stylish cane sofa sets, basketry, tools, household implements, ceremonial accoutrements, all have generated tremendous local, national and global interest and earned the artists name and fame.
It is worth to know the effort and time spent on each product right from choosing the variety to preparing it for use. Ask Bholanath Bhowmik, a craftsman from Guwahati in Assam, and he readily explains: "Once we decide the product we wish to create, we go in search of raw material best suited for the handicraft to the forest area. It then has to be seasoned and chemically treated for endurance. Of late, people have started to cultivating on their own given the militancy problem in the State."
Each of the seven States has its own distinct variety of handicrafts. From jati cane flower vase to the woven flower vase and from heavy knitted sofa set to the maharaja cane sofa set, every product speaks volumes of the brilliance of artisans. "For sofa sets, people select the `raidang' cane variety. For weaving we go for the `sundi' cane variety which can be cut into the threads and are very effective," Mr. Bholanath Bhowmik shares.
Bamboo handicrafts are quite famous in Meghalaya, the Land of clouds.
"The syntein craft pocket in Mawsynram area comprising the villages of Ken Mynsaw, Ken Bah, Domskong, Jympiad, Mawkaphan, is famous for its skill in weaving exquisite basketry from the local variety of bamboo," he quips.
"People of North Eastern States have a very strong belief in herbal medicines and depend on the abundance in nature for any medicinal need.
ATTRACTIVE The bamboo root carving.
They believe that drinking water from a particular variety of bamboo mugs prevents acidity.
Using mats of Kouna grass (phak aronba) increases blood circulation and provides relief from body pain. The `sital patti' wall hangings have the power to absorb sounds and are found to be very effective in auditoria."
Even in textiles, the region is rich with varieties of traditional silk sarees especially the `golden muga'. For the effort the artisans and craftsmen put what they get in return is very little, as they lack good marketing strategy.
Hence, the North Eastern Handicrafts and Development Corporation (NEHDC), established in 1977 with headquarters at Shillong, helps them by reaching out to the craft clusters and stimulate production besides undertaking marketing of these unique products across the country.
It provides the craftspersons with valuable inputs like credit, raw materials, designs and tools.
Generally, handicraft and handloom varieties compete with each other for supremacy.
Textiles occupies 16.4 per cent of total crafts production in the North Eastern Region closely followed by embroidery and zari works at 15.2 per cent and the cane and bamboo handicrafts claiming 10 per cent.
The NEHDC report also highlights that monthly handlooms production of North Eastern region is 7.5 per cent of the total handlooms production of the country.
Among the sister States, Manipur alone contributes 67.18 per cent of the total exports of North Eastern region.
Sensing the export potential, now these products are also marketed abroad through NEHDC emporia and also by organising expositions and craft fairs under the brand name `Purbashree'.
The elegant and enticing `Crafts Festival' is now in Temple City and will be here till October 23.
Though it has become an annual event for past couple of years, the artisans have something new to offer each year.
This time, the unbreakable bamboo basket, appears to be the cynosure of the fair.
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