DC travel diaries – exploring Bamboo crafts in Chitrakota and Navatoli

On the seventh day of June 2017, as I was doing an in-depth study of the much known Indian arts and crafts, with an eye on my laptop’s screen, my heart filled with an unknown melancholy and my spirit started craving for some adventure. Being an active part of team Direct Create, I have always seen my inner self as a part of some creative journey which lets you travel and expedite, with your own sense of explorations and discovery. And just like that, I set out with my backpack to Ranchi, also known as ” The City of Waterfalls” – with the objective of witnessing the craft wonders and reviving the golden Indian heritage.

Ranchi is the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand, and now it is the most populous city of the state. It is located in the southern part of the Chota Nagpur plateau, which is the eastern section of the Deccan Plateau.

Once a dense forest area, Jharkhand with the abundance of wood, is blessed with an amassment of bamboo knacks, handmade by the best Indian artisans. Wild Silk, lac, bamboo, sal and palm leaves and other forest produce remain vital to craft production here, sustaining a way of life lived in intimate dependence of nature.

For exploring those knacks and marvels to the best, I went to two small villages – Chitrakota and Navatoli.

Navatoli in Ranchi
Chitrakota in Ranchi
Close up of a bamboo
A regular day in a village in Ranchi
Somewhere in the Navatoli village

 

Bamboo grows abundantly in the Jharkhand region and has been traditionally used to fashion utility articles of all kinds. In the tribal way of life, bamboo finds versatile expressions- from storage containers of all kinds to bows for hunting, from fine combs to tappa, huge baskets,for carrying hens. People walking on roads carrying fish in a kumni,fish net, is a common sight in the villages here. Entire villages in the Jharkhand region are made of bamboo craftspeople- the men usually cut the bamboo and split the stalks, while women weaves mats and baskets.

     

Bamboo trees
    
Various bamboo products in the making in Navatoli and Chitrakota

 

Various bamboo products

Traditional items adhere to basic designs and are generally devoid of ornamentation. Local knowledge is exploited to maximize the potential of the material. For instance, the length between two nodes determine the quality of bamboo- greater lengths are preferred for basketry. Two qualities of bamboo are used – ropa with longer fibres is more pliable and is used for baskets and containers; while kathi with short, strong fiber goes into making skeletal structures and products.

The tropical, clumping species of bamboo has exceptional green credentials. Needing relatively few nutrients to grow, it thrives on degraded lands, restoring them into functioning forest ecosystems. The result is flourishing biodiversity and habitat connectivity, improved ecosystem services such as water and soil quality, and climate change mitigation.

 Bamboo, the green gold has the potential to fuel the economy of the region and benefit those who dwell  on the periphery of development. The mere visualization of the bamboo crafts gave me an honest insight to the reach of India in the area of creativity. It has been around for 30 million years but is still going strong. A symbol of durability, strength, resilience and flexibility, this green plant has stood the test of time standing tall and green all year round.

This wonderful expedition offered everything from eye-catching views to the exquisite making process of phenomenal bamboo crafts. The hospitality and support offered by the local artisans and weavers turned up as major assistance in leaving no stone unturned.

The basic realization I attained through this trip was that wandering across the villages and looking at a couple of tourist attractions can never give you the whole experience that travel ought to. One can gain the best from travelling only when he/she interacts with locals, explores the regional crafts , get to know about the phenomenal stories behind them, eats the regional cuisine, and enlightens their mind with the remarkable history of that place.

 

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