2019

Kauna Grass Craft - The People and Designs

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Let's take a dive into the local craft of Manipur

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Basket, Takhellie Sundrei, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Kauna Grass Products for Manipur
Kauna products were originally made for local utility purposes. The stem is also relished as a food. Kauna objects were usually basic in design, with a touch of colour if they were needed for ceremonial gifting. The most popular product among local Manipuris are the mats, mattresses and cushions which serve as furniture in a room where people do most socializing, working and eating while seated on the floor in the traditional style.
Kauna Grass Craft: Basket Maker, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Takhelei Sundrei is called Ima Yai, meaning ‘middle mother’ by her community, for her active work in producing and promoting kauna grass products.

She owns her own home and property, sustains her large family, and economically empowers others in Tulel Khun village.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Basket, Takhellie Sundrei, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Natural coloured kauna grass baskets are shipped in bulk through exporters in other cities.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Basket, Takhellie Sundrei, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


A kauna basket in two colours with bamboo handles is an elegant carry all for any shopper.

Kauna Grass Craft: Basket Weaver with Family, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Nityai Moirangthem, 43, sits to the left of his family. His young daughter Mona Lisa, will return from school and join them in basket making.

He sells her work and keeps her money in a piggy bank. Nityai prides himself on the excellence of his work.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A generous-sized tote bag is perfect for travel or shopping. Made by male weaver

Nityai Moirangthem who specializes in assorted textures strong, is known for his well-designed clasps that hold the handle straps firmly to the main body of the bag or basket.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Coloured squares are created by weaving the brightly pink dyed grass with the natural strands.

Kauna Grass Craft: Three Kauna Grass Basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kauna grass can be dyed in industrial or natural colours.

Patterns can be brought in through colour or the layout of the weave.

Kauna Grass Craft: Detail of Kauna grass weaves, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kauna baskets can have weaves that are extremely fine, hardy and sophisticated.

This is reinforced with extras strips for strength.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Looser woven patterns are used for baskets that carry bulky items that need fresh air.

Kauna Grass Craft: Details of Kauna Grass Basket, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The detail of a woven grass basket shows how tightly grass is woven in Manipur.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Hat, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


A common grass hat is worn by many weavers when working in their fields under the sun.

Kauna Grass Craft: Details Of Kauna Grass Basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


The woven design of this kauna basket looks like cowrie shells strung together.

Kauna Grass Craft: A laundry basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A laundry basket in kauna keeps clothes fresh even while inside.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A close up of an interior of a basket with a firmly closed base and an open upper weave, shows how intricate the weave is.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Table Mat, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kauna grass table mats best suit households that love natural, organic materials.

These also suit similarly inclined restaurants and other public premises for tourists.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


A smart carry bag for shopping or travelers who find they have extra things to carry home.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna storage basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


An open laundry basket fits perfectly into a corner of a room in a home or hotel.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Wall Clock, Akhom Raso Singh, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Newer Interpretations in Weaving
Shapes and sizes were limited until producers began to interact with city customers with more sophisticated tastes. They began to diversify, learning from designers at training workshops, and realizing that innovation and good quality basket weaving could attract more customers. Prominent weavers who have developed firm links with farmers who cultivate kauna grass, and local entrepreneurs who send samples to retailers elsewhere in the country or abroad now produce a wide range of easily saleable items that are sought after by any shopper or lover of natural eco-friendly materials.
Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna baskets, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Experimenting with shapes and sizes, this kauna basket serves the purpose of a fashionable carry bag. The attachments he creates allows the handles to be folded down.

Kauna Grass Craft: Detail of Kauna Grass Basket, Nitya Moirangthem, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Strips with different textures and coloured grass give a basket a distinct personality.


Each type of weave has a different name.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Basket, Khangbok, Thoubal, imphal, Manipur, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Nityai has added uneven tassles in kauna grass to add contemporary styling to a handbag.

Kauna Grass Craft: Master Kauna Grass Weaver, Akhom Raso Singh, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Akhom Raso Singh, the talent behind Akhom Handicrafts, aspires to win an award for excellence in kauna grass weaving.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Wall Clock, Akhom Raso Singh, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Most homes and workplaces use simple bamboo matting for walls and internal ceilings. A weaver has made a wall clock out of kauna grass. It is probably for his own use, but could become good gift, souvenir or household accessory.

Kauna Grass Craft: Section of Kauna Grass floor Mat, Akhom Handicrafts, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A spread out phak or floor mat/mattress made of kauna grass is cooling, soft, supple and spongy.

They are long lasting and suitable for rough use as well. Almost every Manipuri home will have at least a pair if not half a dozen.

Kauna Grass Craft: Detail of edge of Kauna Grass Mat, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The surface of a kauna phak, a floor mat or mattress, is textured yet remarkably smooth and supple.

A fine design like this is used for the bride and groom to be seated at their wedding, and for other ceremonial occasions. It is the most prominent, important and widely used item in kauna grass.

Kauna Grass Craft: Detail of edge of Kauna Grass Mat, Akhom Handicrafts, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


The edge of a common phak, is decoratively finished. The strings knotted at the edge are always in an odd number being considered auspicious. Fifteen knots are the most auspicious.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Footwear, Akhom Handicrafts, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Footwear is a fairly new innovation and perfect for beaches, inside aircrafts and to pad around at home.

Cool and comfortable, they keep the soles of the feet well aired and free of allergies that come from plastic and rubber.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna grass articles, Akhom Handicrafts, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Kauna grass can come in a variety of shapes for different uses.

Some are shaped with a mold and smaller pieces are made free hand.

Kauna Grass Craft: Woman with Kauna Bag, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


A young mother working at the Women’s Income Generation Centre in Thoubal sports a kauna bag herself as she goes with a small passenger to fetch stock on the little cart attached to her bicycle.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Basket, Women Income Generation Centre, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Among the variety of kauna grass bags at store places one can always spot something distinctive that was made for a special order.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Basket, Women Income Generation Centre, 2019-06-22, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Small ladies bags with leather shoulder straps and a leather bow at the clasp adds youthfulness to a simple bag.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Carry Baskets, Eta Kouna Craft, 2019-06-21, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Embroidered Kauna Grass Bags
This is one craft where there is no gender inequality. The women are more active and prominent in this field, especially if the men have work outside the home, but both sexes participate in basket weaving as they wish. Most weavers are creative by nature, and unskilled women who wish to generate income for their family easily learn how to make basic baskets with the malleable grass.
Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass ladies Shoulder Bag, Eta Kouna Craft, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


A wide range of attractively hand embroidered handbags, carry bags, shopping bags and purses are created by Becha Irangbom’s unit named Eta Kauna Handicraft, at Wanghkhei in Imphal.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Carry Basket, Eta Kouna Craft, 2019-06-21, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


Semi-circular embroidered bags are a distinctive feature of this kauna production unit in Imphal.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Carry Baskets, Eta Kouna Craft, 2019-06-21, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Each kauna grass bag has a different embroidered design which makes each one distinctive and exclusive.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Carry Baskets, Eta Kouna Craft, 2019-06-21, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The fun of creative handwork is the variety of designs that its maker can produce according to her mood and will.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Clutch Purse, Eta Kouna Craft, 2019-06-21, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A simple semicircular clutch purse becomes a unique fashion statement when embroidered.

Kauna Grass Craft : Kauna grass basket, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Becha Irangbom carries her two puppies, in a square kauna basket.

Kauna Grass Craft: Puppies in Kauna grass Basket, Irungbam Becha Chanu, 2019-06-21, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Puppies, playfully named Happy and Silent by Becha, model a freshly made carry basket made of kauna grass. They are an intrinsic part of the work unit in Imphal.

Kauna Grass Craft: Kauna Grass Baskets, Eta Kouna Craft, 2019-06-21, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti


A small bowl can be used to serve fruit, bread or nuts. A carry bag offers yet another design in embroidery.

Kauna Grass Craft: Weaving a Kauna Grass Basket, Rena, 2019-06-20, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about Kauna grass craft here:
-Environment
-Process
-Marketing

Dastkari Haat Samiti
Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Subinoy Das
Artisans: Becha Chanu, Takhellie Sundrei, Moirangthem Nityai
Ground Facilitation: Ankit Kumar, Sarju
Documentary Video: Subinoy Das, Jaya Jaitly
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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