Palm leaf craft is a very common craft in different parts of India. Palm leaf products are eco-friendly.
In Haryana, the craft of making palm leaf baskets was introduced by the women of Multani speaking Audh community. This craft became their means of supplementing their meagre earnings.
Traditionally, the raw materials were the locally grown date palm, phoos : a wild grass and pula : thin leaves of the sarkanda plant – these were made into coiled baskets intended for domestic use by the womenfolk of the household. The dry palm leaves, some of which are dyed so as to achieve a coloured pattern, are wound around a bunch of phoos or pula and sewn in place by threading the leaf through the lower coil; a big blunt needle is utilized to push the leaf through.
The products include a range of round bottomed, cylinderical and shallow baskets with and without lids. Some of the cylinderical baskets are nearly 3 feet high and have lids. The leaves are also plaited into strips and formed into bags and mats.
In Uttar Pradesh, Date Palm craft is famous in Allahabad and Lucknow district. Date Palm is native to the Gangetic plain and nearly every part of the tree comes handy. The fronds are woven, rolled and twisted into a variety of useful products like mats, baskets and simple trumpets. Dried fronds are tied up to make inexpensive brooms, popular all over the state.
Baskets made of date palm leaves are very much in demand during the festivals. Small baskets, also known as Bokis & Dolchis are sold outside temples to place offering for the deities. The production of hand fans and mats are very much in demand in summer, as the mat is cool to touch. Simple mats are also used for packaging material.
A tall fan palm – Palmyra is locally found in Nellore, a city on the banks of Penna River of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It yields a hard wood and sweet sap, and a source of palm wine and sugar.
The leaves are used for thatching and weaving. The central portion of the palm leaf, called moungu akku, is used in basketry.
It is woven by the women mostly from agricultural communities like the Malas and Madikas. The women artisans are supported to form a palm leaf society as a part of the welfare schemes adopted to develop local crafts and communities by non-govt. organizations and with funding support from the government.
Palm leaf strips are braided and interlaced in different ways to create a large containers for agricultural uses. The material is versatile and the local people have transformed it into various other forms like Umbrellas, hats and large baskets.
Lets talk about the Areca/Betal palm leaf craft now.
This variety of palm is grown in the Western Ghats region of Karnataka. The dry layers of sheath are harvested. These are wetted and press moulded to make caps, plates and cups. The caps are used by the local farming community. The plates and cups are used to serve food as the leaf is biodegradable and is an alternative to paper or plastic.
Palm craft is also practiced in different districts of Tamil Nadu.
Palmyra is an important and significant tree of Tamil Nadu. Programmes have been formulated with a long term view to grow and protect these trees and to develop products using the skills that help sustain rural communities.
Pulicat is a fishing town on the Coromandel Coast, which was famous in 17th century for painted fabrics and figurative panels that were exported to the Indonesian Islands. The basket weaving in the town is done mostly by the Muslim women who had formed a cooperative of palm leaf artisans in 1958. According to the oral tradition, their present craft is linked to the baskets made for the Dutch settlers in Pulicat during the period of the East India Company.
Men harvest the leaves and they are separated from the stalk and dried. The women remove the midrib and the leaf is cut into strips of varying widths. A section of the midrib is folded over and used as a die to make uniform splits used to weave baskets and containers.
The craft traces its origin to a rough palm leaf bag for storing onions which was exported in plenty from the Kulasai harbour.
Palm leaf has been used extensively for making small containers, toys and rattles for over a century. Newer products and containers are made by the coiling technique.
Palm leaf baskets for storing rice, fish and agricultural products, winnowing trays and pouches for betel nuts are made in several southern districts such as Tirunelveli, Ramanathapuram and Madurai. Of these, the woven basketry items made in Ramanathapuram for dowry have a distinctive character.
The palm leaf cooperatives in Manapad supply to export markets and to retailers in Chennai and Bangalore who have developed new designs in collaboration with craftsperson.
I came across a no. of online platforms selling the Palm craft products while gathering the data for this article. Have a look here:
Credits: Handmade in India
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