Bamboo and cane crafts of Assam is rich in sylvan resources and the availability of raw material of great versatility forms takes an integral part of the lifestyle and economy of Assam. The inhabitants of Assam have their own bamboo and cane products with distinctive style of creating typical designs in bamboo and cane crafts. The products of the plain districts differ from that of the hill districts in use, shape and design.
The bamboo and cane crafts of Assam have a variety of products like bamboo mats, sital pati, baskets of various sizes and shapes, winnowing trays, sieves, japi or chatta, various types of fishing implements, etc. that are manufactured in large numbers in the plains districts of the state. Items like Chalani (sieve), Kula (winnowing fan), Khorahi (small basket), Dukula or Tukuri (Big basket), Dala (bamboo tray), Duli (Assamese)or Tali (Bengali) that are big basket, Doon in Assamese or Kathi in Bengali, Dhol (big measure) are of immense importance to the people of Assam. Apart from these items the artisans of Assam create various kinds of fishing contraptions that are prepared out of cane and bamboo in different parts of the state. Some of the fishing implements widely used among the Assamese include polo, Jakai, Khalai, Dori, Chepa, Paran, Jhuti, Hogra, etc. some of the fishermen use special kind of contrivances made of bamboo and cane to catch fishes in deep waters. These are known as gui, jhuti, dingaru, thupa, hogra, etc. among the people of Assam.
Another remarkable item of bamboo and cane crafts of Assam is `Dhari` or bamboo mat. Bamboo mats created by the artisans of Assam are of various types on a commercial basis in the districts of Nowgong, Darrang and Cachar. Large-scale commercial production can be seen from Karimganj sub-division of the Cachar district where mats are locally known as `dhara`, `jharia` or `darma`, and most of the people of this state have taken up craftsmanship as their profession. Basically in the districts of Darrang and Nowgaon, such mats are produced from the dried stalks of various kinds of marshy plants and weeds. While in the district of Cachar, it is produced out of bamboo slips.
Bamboo mats are widely used for various purposes like construction of temporary walls and sheds, big pandals, roofing of country boats; dwelling houses etc. besides, domestic uses, mats are also required by big mills and factories for various uses.
A special creation of bamboo and cane crafts of Assam include the use of `muli` bamboo locally known as `muli-bazail` is used for umbrella handles. Another most popular item of Assam is `Japi` or `Chhata` (Bamboo or leaf head-gear) that is the most indispensable item of the open air workers. On commercial basis `Chhatas` are largely produced in some villages of Assam like Rangpur, Chinipatan, etc. of Cachar district and supplied mainly to neighboring tea-gardens and some parts of Nowgong district. A huge variation of `Japis` are created by the artisans that include `halua japi`, `pitha japi`, `sorudoiya japi`, `bordoiya japi`, `cap japi`, etc. These are basically produced in the districts of Kamrup, Nowgong, Darrang, Sibsagar and Lakhimpur. Nalbari and its neighbouring villages such as Kamarkuchi, Mughkuchi, etc. of Kamrup district deserve special mention in respect of manufacturing of `fulam japis` (decorated bamboo umbrellas). In earlier times in Assam, this particular type of `japis` were used as headgears for the females of noble and rich families. Following the present trends and the demand of `fulam japis` the artisans has concentrated on creating `fulam japis` with exclusive designs that are apt for home décor.
The bamboo and cane crafts of Assam include preparing musical instruments that are extensively designed with intricate curving that needs dexterity in the craft. Among the musical instruments, flute, bamboo beater, do-tara etc., are commonly used in the Bihu festival of Assam. "Gogona" is another musical instrument which is famous in Assam. Apart from these, some households produce for the market like making independent products for localized markets, making storage and carrying baskets, fishing traps agricultural implements, seed trays, mats and fencing material. Sometimes they function as subcontractors, on a piece rate basis.
The bamboo and cane crafts of Assam have attained importance due to the fact that in semi-urban areas groups of craftsperson and micro-entrepreneurs manufacture an array of products for adjacent and even distant markets. This flourishes the economic development of the state. Moreover, the product range builds on its functional origins, and incorporates decorative and non-traditional products, ranging from largely low value bamboo basketry to expensive cane furniture. Dolls and toys are an integral part of the bamboo and cane craft of Assam. Apart from human and animal figures, toy shotguns and musical instruments are crafted and designed beautifully.
The bamboo and cane crafts of Assam have gained governmental support for the expansion of the craft. As a part of the agreement, the Government of Assam will encourage, promote and support the development of the bamboo sector in a comprehensive manner, through a multidisciplinary multi departmental and multi-dimensional integrated approach to provide economic benefits to the people of the State. It also ensures enhancing employment and income generating opportunities using bamboo and cane as the prime resource. The government has announced skill up gradation and training, market analysis and support for the artisans engaged in bamboo and cane craft of Assam.
The Government of Assam is endeavouring to enhance the availability and quality of bamboo, and provide a facilitating and enabling environment for the cultivation, extraction and movement of bamboo to industries, craft groups and other users to promote the bamboo and cane craft of Assam. The government will establish Bambusetum (for conserving bamboo) at least at two locations in the State, encourage and support the development of bamboo markets and the development of grading systems for raw bamboo. The Government of Assam has also ensured that it will encourage value addition in cane (rattan) based handicrafts through improved processing, product diversification, design development and enhanced shelf life.
The bamboo and cane craft of Assam has considerable scope for development and various new products suited to modern tastes can be manufactured out of bamboo and cane that will also increase the market value of the bamboo and cane crafts of Assam. To capture the modern market and cater to the need of the consumer market, market intelligence is required. State Governments Emporia are also trying to popularize a few artistic and decorative cane and bamboo products outside the State with the intention to seize the modern market scenario. The government of Assam had launched a scheme for registration of handicraft artisans and handicrafts units to organize the unorganized and scattered handicraft artisans.