Cane and Bamboo Crafts of Manipur
- Part 7 -

By: Mutua Bahadur *

Cane and Bamboo Crafts of Manipur


People in the hills and in the valley use storage baskets profusely. These are used for storing dry fish, meat, grain, chili, cloth, yarn, ornaments, etc. The size varies according to the purpose of use. It may range from a very small basket to a big one which has a height much taller than an average person. In the valley, people in the villages now-a-days use storage baskets for storing dry fish and chili only.

Cane and Bamboo Crafts of Manipur

A similar make of the Ngarubak (Fig. 44), a small storage basket used normally for storing dry fish, is also used by the Meiteis in the form of the Lubak basket to 'contain' the image and the spirit of the household deity, the Sanamahi. The basket symbolises the presence of the Sanamahi, and it is still observed as a sacred representation of the deity who occupies a secluded place in the south-western corner of every Meitei house.

Meitei villagers cut up big bamboo poles into pieces to form smallbamboo-tubes, and after fixing bamboo-lids on the open ends, these tubes are used for storing salt and Hentak-nga (dry spiced fish). These bamboo-tubes are termed Uning (Fig.47).

Sometimes cane splits are tied a few centimetres below the mouth of the Uning. To expose the baskets to smoke and heat from the fire in which dry fish, meat and chili are stored, tribals attach long straps to these baskets and hang them down from the Lup. The Namlee is fixed in such a way that it joins together the basket and its lids, making them inseperable.

Cane and Bamboo Crafts of Manipur

All the tribal groups in the hills use a big storage basket with lid, called Tabu, for storing clothes. To enable menfolk to carry such baskets from one place to another, there is a marked place for fixing the namlee, even without any given holes or loops on the tabu (Fig. 53). Occasionally to enable carriage of the tabu from one place to another, straps meant for hand-holds are fixed on the upper portion of the basket.

Cane and Bamboo Crafts of Manipur

In order to secure the lid tightly to the body of the tabu, a long strap is separately attached to act like a lock. Tabus of the different tribes differ slightly in feature from one tribe to another. Atone time, Meiteis too used tabu for storing clothes and other materials. Tabus are used by the tribals to contain clothes, household-utensils, and other items presented as dowry when a girl gets married, and to deliver them to the bridegroom's place.

When a tribal girl gets married it is generally enquired as to how many tabus are presented as dowry. People having daughters in their family either make or buy tabus, and store them, in preparation for the eventful day. Tabus are also used to store the clothes of the officers of the land, and are carried from one village to another in the wake of the officials when they go about for their duties.

The tabu used for storing clothes has Double-Weave: an inner and an outer weave. For the inner weave, the basic form is a structure of bamboo. A layer of certain selected dry leaves is added over this structure. Cane splits are then woven above this layer of dry leaves. The objective of inserting the intermediary layer of dry leaves in between the inner and the outer weaves is to make the basket waterproof against raindrops.

The Kom people sometimes keep such baskets up on shelves in their houses. Generally the basket is kept inside a room in the house. Maintaining the form of the above basket and woven in a Double-Weave style, the Tangkhul people make small Chom baskets to keep valuable items (Fig. 54).

The tribal groups use a small strapless basket with lid for storing yarn and other valuable items. This basket, called Ngaimu, (Fig. 51) is used by the Vaipheis who have ingeniously contrived a handle on the lid to serve as a hand-hold. People in the valley use a small elongated basket with a lid to store important documents.

Cane and Bamboo Crafts of Manipur

See a gallery photo of Cane and Bamboo Crafts of Manipur here.

To be continued ....

Mutua Bahadur

* Mutua Bahadur contributes to regularly. This article was webcasted on November 22, 2011.

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