(Last Updated on : 03/07/2013)
The bamboo and cane crafts of Manipur have a huge variety that range from traditional from modern creations. The raw materials required for the bamboo and cane crafts of Manipur are amply found from the forest resources that are grown in Churachandpur, Jiribam, Tamenglong and Imphal districts. Some of the bamboo and cane items that are hugely prepared in Manipur are sofa sets, Murhas, mats, basketry, tray, chair, table, flower vase, ashtray and other decorative and utility articles. The screens of Manipur consist of beautiful room dividers stage and 'mandap' backdrops. They are delicately woven and crafted out of bamboo and cane.
Moreover, Manipur is also well known for its beautiful baskets created by the tribal people for their own use. Intricate patterns with dyed bamboo are worked on these baskets. The basketry of Manipur has a special feature that includes bamboo fish traps, which are so exquisitely crafted as to be almost sculptural. Another variety of baskets, the chengbon (a square body of checks and squares in black and white, and rest on four prominent legs and are used for storing clothes) have a domed lid made of bamboo. Excellent reed mats and cushions are also woven in Manipur, locally known as 'kounaphak'. Another type of double-weave mat known as 'phak' is woven in the state. These as well as the mats and baskets are in much demand outside Manipur.
The bamboo and cane crafts of Manipur include making exclusive baskets. Among them baskets that are widely used in Manipur as well as other states are measuring baskets, Miruk, Filtering Baskets, Container Baskets, Conical Baskets etc. In the remote areas of Manipur, long bamboo tubes hollowed out sufficiently, are used for containing drinking water. These are stored inside the house, often piling one upon another. The tribal people of Manipur and the adjacent areas use a container basket called 'Rashakok'. This basket is finely woven in the open weave style with thin bamboo splits. The womenfolk in the valley use a bowl-shaped fishing basket named as 'Long' to catch fish in shallow water. The body of 'Long' is woven with bamboo splits. Baskets woven in the pattern of diagonals filled in to the texture of the open hexagonal weave are represented as effigies of fowl in death rituals, which the people in the hills conduct in the memory of their forefathers.
Apart from the utilitarian items, the craftsmen create headgears and ornaments out of bamboo and cane splits. Tribal people use a headgear, woven with cane splits, which is made to fit neatly like a cap which is worn while performing tribal dance. The bamboo and cane crafts of Manipur include making 'Khudangyai' or wristlet and 'Khubomyai' or anklet respectively. The anklets and wristlets, besides being a form of decorative ornament, serve as protective gear in battles, fights, etc. Another popular craft made out of bamboo and cane is the basket-effigies that are used on the occasion of a "Feast of Merit" to inaugurate a newly-built house, and also in rituals performed to drive away evil spirits. Some of the tribal groups put up effigies made of bamboo that represent human skulls. These are placed on the verandah of the house among the inhabitants of Manipur. The local people at the time of the Umanglai Haroaba (Festivities of the Sylvan Deities) place brass masks, representing the Umanglais inside baskets made of bamboo splits. The baskets with brass masks are worshipped as images of the Deities.
The bamboo and cane crafts of Manipur incorporate making musical instruments.
The Lambang tribals contrive cut tubes of a small variety of bamboo to make a flute-like-wind musical instrument called 'Puleh'. The Maring tribals use a similar musical instrument called 'Toutri' which is called 'Theibe' among the Koms. The Thadou tribals of Manipur cut three tubes of different lengths from the same bamboo stem and the tubes are separately blown with the mouth to produce different musical notes. Another musical instrument is 'Relru'. Many of the tribal groups configure fine bamboo splits or Paya to make an interesting musical instrument that is played with the mouth.
Another distinct style of the Bamboo and cane crafts of Manipur is the bamboo-umbrella or 'yenpak', worn or borne on the head to ward off heat and rain while going to work and even when working in the paddy-fields. The types of 'Yenpak' varies from 'Yenkhrung,' 'Salaitep' and 'Yengoi'. Totems in the form of tall bamboo poles decorated with three to nine circular bamboo rings, draped with cloth cut in geometrical shapes, are a marked feature of a tribal society of Manipur. These totems are known as Shattra. These exclusive totems are also used in rituals connected with "shifting of ponds, "shifting" of temples, etc., and in death ceremonies and "Phiroi"(first death anniversary), etc. Still the combs offered to the Deities for rituals, ceremonies, etc are still made of bamboo, a distinct example of bamboo and cane craft of Manipur. In the hills, some of the tribals groups still use bows and arrows made of bamboo. Cut bamboo pieces are used for making smoking pipes. Tables, chairs, seats, etc made of cane are used profusely. Apart from these items certain toys such as Pichkari or toy water-pump, toy wind sails, etc. are also made of bamboo.
The bamboo and cane crafts of Manipur has an exclusive style and the items created range from utilitarian to stylish décor items from musical instruments to effigies. An array of variety is observed in the creation of the artisans of Manipur.