Let's take a dive into the local craft of Manipur
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.
Natural coloured kauna grass baskets are shipped in bulk through exporters in other cities.
A kauna basket in two colours with bamboo handles is an elegant carry all for any shopper.
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.
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.
Coloured squares are created by weaving the brightly pink dyed grass with the natural strands.
Kauna grass can be dyed in industrial or natural colours.
Patterns can be brought in through colour or the layout of the weave.
Kauna baskets can have weaves that are extremely fine, hardy and sophisticated.
This is reinforced with extras strips for strength.
Looser woven patterns are used for baskets that carry bulky items that need fresh air.
The detail of a woven grass basket shows how tightly grass is woven in Manipur.
A common grass hat is worn by many weavers when working in their fields under the sun.
The woven design of this kauna basket looks like cowrie shells strung together.
A laundry basket in kauna keeps clothes fresh even while inside.
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 table mats best suit households that love natural, organic materials.
These also suit similarly inclined restaurants and other public premises for tourists.
A smart carry bag for shopping or travelers who find they have extra things to carry home.
An open laundry basket fits perfectly into a corner of a room in a home or hotel.
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.
Strips with different textures and coloured grass give a basket a distinct personality.
Each type of weave has a different name.
Nityai has added uneven tassles in kauna grass to add contemporary styling to a handbag.
Akhom Raso Singh, the talent behind Akhom Handicrafts, aspires to win an award for excellence in kauna grass weaving.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 can come in a variety of shapes for different uses.
Some are shaped with a mold and smaller pieces are made free hand.
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.
Among the variety of kauna grass bags at store places one can always spot something distinctive that was made for a special order.
Small ladies bags with leather shoulder straps and a leather bow at the clasp adds youthfulness to a simple bag.
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.
Semi-circular embroidered bags are a distinctive feature of this kauna production unit in Imphal.
Each kauna grass bag has a different embroidered design which makes each one distinctive and exclusive.
The fun of creative handwork is the variety of designs that its maker can produce according to her mood and will.
A simple semicircular clutch purse becomes a unique fashion statement when embroidered.
Becha Irangbom carries her two puppies, in a square kauna basket.
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.
A small bowl can be used to serve fruit, bread or nuts. A carry bag offers yet another design in embroidery.
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