BY ARMSTRONG VAZ
The art of making baskets from bamboo and cane is dwindling in Goa. There are today just a handful of artisans in a few villages who mainly make baskets out of cane. Though there is a good market for these products, there are not many artisans or basket weavers in Goa.
The Jadhavs and Manes at Cuncolim are among the select few who still make these baskets of cane and bamboo that are in huge demand by people for everyday functional purposes.
Traditionally, the bamboo products are made by the Mhar community. But they face difficulties. Bamboo trees are becoming scare in Goa and there is social stigma of being called a Mhar.
“Mhars, today is a scheduled tribe, which sacrificed buffaloes to propitiate spirits of their ancestors and their demon deities. They ate the flesh, even bones, hence regarded ‘untouchable’ – just as cobblers, who worked on the hides of cattle,” wrote researcher Valmiki Faleiro.
Yes, the tag of Mhars hurts them admits Vilas Jadhav. “We are not Mhars from Goa, we came from Maharashtra’s Sangli district and made Goa our home some 40 to 50 years back,” says Vilas, who was born and brought up in Cuncolim.
“The Mhars tag hurts us, but we are not concerned, we have to go about our everyday life and earn our living and we earn it honorably by performing at weddings and carrying on the bamboo craft against all odds,” he added.
This group that lives close to the National Highway No 66, commonly referred to as NH 66 (erstwhile NH-17 and a part of NH-47), at Cuncolim sells their bamboo baskets by the road side close to where they live.
To craft the bamboo, the craftsmen, soak the bamboo for two or three days in sea water for seasoning, it is then sun-dried. When completely dry it is segmented. The outermost layer of the bamboo or skin is removed completely. The pith inside is removed and used as fuel. The bamboo is then cut into strips. These strips are further cut into splits that are used for weaving the basket. The baskets are made only with the inner part of the bamboo.
The tools used are basic and include the Koyto – large knife and the sun or small blunt knife. To colour the splits, chemical colours are boiled in water, and the strips are left in this solution for half an hour and then dried.
Goan artisans make a variety of baskets of all shapes and sizes with utility value like baskets, boxes, flower vases, winnowing trays, chicken baskets, grain baskets, partitions, fans, and mats.
Some of the bamboo baskets they make are Konni or fish basket, kurponn or rice strainer, kanyo or mat placed below the dantem (stone grinder), ervond or large cane basket, samli or cane pouch, dhali or small basket, aino or fan, sup (in the middle) or alternative way fan, vorli or container to wash rice and patto or mat besides several other items.
The Jadhav and Mane families live in eight houses in Milleavaddo, Cuncolim and settled here some 50 years ago coming from Satara region. Earlier they used to stay in huts but now live in laterite stone houses and are voters in the constituency.
The Jadhavs and Manes have two bands that perform at Hindu weddings, Palkis, and Divjas and they charge Rs 30,000 for a day’s performance.