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ARTS & CRAFTS of North-East


BAMBOO AND CANE CULTURE OF TRIPURA

(about Tripura Introduction / Factfile)


The hilly frontier state has a unique tradition in arts and crafts, sculpture and architecture, textiles, wood-carving, basketry and cane and bamboo work. Bamboo and Cane is one of the most important craft of the state. The crafts spread all over the state with concentrations in the sub-divisions of Kailasahar, Dharmanagar, Khowai, Sadar, Sooamura and Belonia besides Agartala town. The articles made include mats, bags, moorahs, fruit-baskets and vases. The Craft Teacher’s Institute (CTTI) set up by the State Government has done commendable work in this field.

The State Department of Industries runs a Design Extension Centre at Agartala and the All India Handicrafts Board had established a Bamboo and Cane Development Institute, which has taken up research in the chemical treatment of bamboo. It also provides an advanced course of training in bamboo work, seasoning, preservation and craft design. The Agartala Jail too had developed furniture items. At Agartala, a private registered society and several other units have taken up the production of popular handicraft items, specializing in bamboo screens, lamp stands and table-mats.

A large number of structures using bamboo as a primary material are built in the plains of Tripura. These structures may be houses, granaries, shops, workspaces or even large warehouses. They are of lightweight construction to withstand severe earthquakes; at the same time, they are also wind resistant. The state of Tripura is famous for her bamboo screens made from split bamboo, so finely woven that they look almost like ivory. They are delicately appliqued with coloured bamboo chips.

 

A view of cane & bamboo workshop, Agartala, Tripura

Bamboo matting is a thriving industry in Tripura. Bamboo matting may be sold by the metre or converted into products. The cost per metre of the matting depends on the fineness of bamboo splits, the width of the mat and the number and colour of warp threads used per 25 mm. A number of products such as fans, lampshades, handbags and various decorative items are made from converting bamboo matting. The simplest is a wall-hanging made from a 600 mm long mat, with a picture painted on it in oil colours. Bamboo splints stiffen the ends of the hanging. Another decorative product made from waste strips of matting are flower sticks. Bamboo table-mats are one of the most popular products. They are woven on the loom in the required length and width. Finer masts have a higher labour cost. Some sets of mats have decorative oil paintings executed by the local artists.

 

A tea cosy and tray makes up another product. Semi-circular and circular fans are made from bamboo matting using the unidirectional flexible quality of the mat. Lampshades are also made from bamboo matting. It is beautiful when it is seen against the light as the texture of the mat is accentuated. Handbags of various shapes and sizes are made from bamboo matting. These generally have stiff sides with rigid construction. In addition to products made from woven bamboo mats, several other products are made at Agartala. These include turned bamboo vases and lamp stands, carved and shaped containers such as mugs and pencil holders as well as a host other novelty fabricated from shaped bamboo splints. The main emphasis here is on fabricating decorative products meant for sale in upcountry markets through various handicrafts emporia.

 

TRIBAL HILL HOUSE

Riang House

Riang tribals of Tripura build their houses with bamboo used as the primary material for construction. In some cases, even the thatched roof is made of bamboo leaves. These houses are typical hill dwellings, constructed on bamboo slits to create a large horizontal platform, the floor of the house. Bamboo posts are arranged on a square grid and inclined whole bamboo members strengthen these. A required number of posts extend above the surface of the floor platform to support the roof structure.

The plan of the Riang house is normally a long rectangle, with a covered verandah in front and an open verandah at the back. A large enclosed room is located between these verandahs. A single roof covers the front verandah and the room. The roof slopes downwards on either side.

Boards made of flattened bamboo culms are used to cover the floor of the room and to make the walls and doors. The floor of both verandahs are made from either whole bamboo or longitudinal halves placed side by side and bound to the beam structure below the floor. A single log, which is notched, forms the short ladder at the front of the house.

FIELD/HOUSE FENCES OF TRIPURA

Field fences of Tripura

Simple open-type field fences seen in the plains of Tripura are made of longitudinal splits of bamboo with interlacing horizontal and vertical members spaced well apart. In order to achieve a strong structure with an economical use of materials, combinations of whole bamboo, longitudinal halves, quarters and splits of smaller dimensions are used. Bamboo culms cut to suitable lengths are anchored in the ground and used as posts. These are spaced apart, and horizontal members of longitudinal halves are held between the posts. These may be either be lashed on to the posts or attached through a housed joint, where the horizontal member penetrates the post through a hole cut in it.

The interweaving of members eliminates the need for binding, thus saving on labour and avoiding the use of any special binding material. When binding is done, cane splits, lengths of wire or some locally available fibre rope is utilized. Bamboo splits twisted to make fibrous ropes are also used as binding material.

 

House Fences

Fences around houses in the plains of Tripura use bamboo boards made by flattening whole culms, 50 to 75-mm in diameter. The fences are of the closed type, with the boards woven closely packed together without any gaps. The plain weave, the twill weave and occasionally a decorative variation of the twill pattern are used. These fences are usually extended above human height. The fence is supported by whole bamboo posts anchored in the ground and spaced apart as necessary. Great care is taken in making these fences.

 

BASKETS

 

Bamboo & Cane marketing basket, Tripura

 

Open Weave Carrying Baskets

Jamatia Firewood Basket

The basket is used by the Jamatia of Tripura for carrying firewood. It is made of entirely of bamboo outer splits, about 7 mm wide and 1.5 mm thick. The basket has a square base of diagonal 330-mm, rim diameter of 390-mm and a height of 540-mm. Above the square base the sides narrow down slightly into a waist before flaring outward to the rim.

 

Closed Weave Carrying Baskets

Riang carrying Basket

This is a closed-weave basket used by the Riang tribe of Tripura to carry grains and for general-purpose marketing. Both men and women use this basket, though the sizes may vary in each case. The female basket is however smaller. It is made from bamboo splits while small quantity of split cane is used in the binding details.

The basket has a square base of diagonal 340-mm and the sides flare out near the rim. The rim diameter is 480-mm and the basket is 470-mm in height. The base of the basket is woven in twill pattern.

Shallow Carrying Baskets

(i) Tukri from Agartala: The tukri is a shallow basket used by the Bengalis of Tripura. The basket has a square base, and the sides flare out sharply to a large circular rim. The corners of the square are not that pointed and the base square is quite flat. The tukri from Agartala has a rim diameter of 390-mm and the diagonal of the base square measures 220-mm. The height of this basket is 150-mm.

(ii) Karawala Tukri: The karawala tukri is a Tripura Bengali product. It is identical in construction to the tukri of Agartala with the exception that four strong handles are attached to this basket. The karawala tukri is used for carrying construction materials. This basket is made from split bamboo, while the handles are of split cane. It has a square base of diagonal 210-mm and the sides flare up sharply to a circular rim of diameter 425-mm. The height of this basket, excluding the handles, is 170-mm. The handles are called kara, is made by using a pair of stout cane splits.

(iii) Laii: The laii is a small bamboo basket used by Tripura Bengalis for washing rice. It has a square base of diagonal 220-mm and the sides flare outwards to a circular rim of diameter 320-mm. The height of this basket is 140-mm. Two sets of warp elements, made from wide splits of bamboo interlace to form the base square. The weft is a double-start spiral interlacing the warp in a 2-up-2-down twill structure. The rim is strengthened by a single ring of split bamboo bound to the inside surface of the side weave by split-cane binding.

 

Small Storage Baskets

(i) Sempa Khari: The sempa khari is a small basket shaped like a square-based prism and used by the Tripura Bengalis to store small objects. The basket has a square base of diagonal 160-mm with vertical sides forming a square rim. The height of this basket is 65-mm. It is woven from coarse inner splits of bamboo using the diagonal weaving method.

(ii) Date Basket from Tripura:

This basket is used to store dates and is carried suspended from the waistband. The basket is woven from coarse bamboo inner splits using the diagonal-weaving method. It is shaped like a deep rectangular pouch open at the top. The base is a straight line from which the sides bulge out.

 

Small Baskets for Other Functions

(i) Turi: The turi is a small semi-spherical basket made from bamboo and used by the Tripura Bengalis to contain puffed rice. It has a diameter of 170-mm and is 80-mm in height. The rim is strengthened by sandwiching between rings made from thick bamboo splits and this rim is bound in a decorative manner using split-cane binding.

(ii) Cattle Muzzles: In the plains of Tripura, muzzles woven from bamboo are used to restrain cattle from grazing in the rice fields. These are woven like dish-shaped baskets using a variety of construction methods. It has wide bamboo splits forming the warp, which is arranged to radially overlap at the base. The weft uses three splits of bamboo taken together and twisted to hold the warp elements between twists, as it spirals steeply around the side. The rim is self-strengthened.

Large Storage Baskets

(i) Grain Storage Basket from Tripura:

The grain storage basket in Tripura has a large square base with the sides tapering out to a large circular rim. These baskets are made by professional craftsmen and sold at weekly bazaars. They are plastered with a mixture of cow dung, clay and rice husk before being used to store grain.

NATIVE FURNITURE

Mudah from Tripura: The Tripura mudah is a low stool made of bamboo and split cane. Bamboo is used in the body and rim structure; while split-cane is used in binding all elements and in the seat weave. The body of the mudah has a structure suitable for the use of relatively thin members to support the huge loads. This is achieved with the help of a large number of thin members supporting each other. Elaborate binding detail gives the mudah strength of construction and decorative weaves are used in the seat and the rim covering.

FISH TRAP & FISH BASKET

 

(i) Sudha: This is a fish trap used by the Jamatia tribe of Tripura. It is basically a net suspended from crossed splints and is held in both hands so that the front of the net is inclined towards the body and against the flow of water. Fish that swim into the net are scooped up out of the water and stored in the basket.

The net is a rectangular bamboo mat woven in an open-twill weave. The longer edges of the mat are held between two pairs of splints and these extend beyond the mat on one side. The splints are crossed at an angle of about 30 degree and the short arms of the cross form the handles.

(ii) Dulla: This is a fish basket from Tripura with a square base and is woven in an open basket weave with 15 strips of bamboo, 7 in one direction and 8 at right angles to them. The strips extend outwards from all sides of the base so that they can be turned up to form the stakes for the body of the basket. The distance between the stakes is varied according to the required shape. This basket has a narrow neck.

 

RAIN SHIELDS & HEADGEAR

Pathla: The pathla from Tripura is a rain shield. The top cone has a base of 230 mm with a height of 110 mm, and the circular shade that is angled slightly downwards, has a diameter of 550 mm. A pentagon made up of five elements, each of which has three strips of bamboo, encircles the apex of the cone. The subsequent hexagons on the cone are also made with three strips to each element. Five wide interlocking strips of bamboo strengthen the apex of the cone. These strips are held in place by introducing them into the weave on the cone.
MISCELLANEOUS PRODUCTS

 

(i) Woven Animal Forms:

In Agartala, a few craftsmen prepare small woven animal forms from fine splints of bamboo. They are intended both as toys and as decorations. The forms are evolved by either weaving or braiding uniformally fine splints.

(ii) Bamboo Whistle from Tripura:

Tiny bamboo whistles are made from small diameter culm lengths. The main tube has a node at one end that is tapered to form a cone, before a small hole is pierced near that node. A mouth-piece using a short length of whole culm is wedged over the conical end leaving a small gap of air to pass over the hole in the main tube. A whistle gives off a shrill sound when blown.

SMOKING PIPES

 

Riang Hookah

The Riang tribe of Tripura uses a large hookah to smoke tobacco. It is made of three parts. A clay bowl is connected by a short bamboo tube to a bamboo water container. The container part is a fairly large diameter whole culm and the length includes two internodes. The central nodal diaphragm is knocked out, while the lower node is retained to become the water container. The short bamboo tube made from a small diameter bamboo penetrates into the container to end below the water level. The other end on the other hand, receives the clay bowl in which the tobacco is burnt.

While smoking the hookah, the Riang tribal cups his hand over the open end of the container leaving a small gap between his hand and the edge of the opening. The mouth is applied to this gap in order to draw smoke, which first passes through the water stored inside the container.
 

 

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