Of shawls, scarves, shades and stoles

High mountain peaks covered with blankets of snow and freezing glaciers bring on a compelling image in our mind, each time we come across the name ‘Uttarakhand’. However, there is lot more to Uttarakhand than just snow-capped peaks and rolling hills.

When it comes to traditional arts and crafts, the Uttarakhandi has been known to make some incredible handloom products, which includes wood carvings; mats, baskets, fruit bowls and coasters made out of Ringaal and Rambaans (types of bamboos) from Garhwal; pure wool shawls and stoles as well as scarves and rugs crafted by the Bhutiyas of northern Uttarakhand.

Bringing this vivid form of traditional handicrafts into limelight, the Uttarakhand Handlooms and Handicraft Development Council (UHHDC) could not have chosen a better platform than the ongoing 32nd India International Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan.
Following this year’s theme of ‘Skilling India’ and being the partner state of the fair, the Uttarakhand pavilion (at hall 6) has put on display wooden crafts, copperware and wax works, hand-woven woollen garments, silk fabrics and handicrafts made by the locals.

Being a rich source of bamboo and different kinds of plantation, the major attraction are the products made from natural fibres. Interestingly lamp shades, baskets, jewellery boxes, multi-purpose containers and other utility items made from seasonal grasses like Kans, Munj, Pateri and Sann are finding a lot of buyers.

Most of these grasses were earlier used as fodder for cattle and are now being used for making utility products. “Earlier these grasses were not of much use and were confined to local level. But now, it is being promoted by the state. Traditionally Munj grass is used for making trays (supa), stools (moorahs) and chiks. But with the improvement led by the design inputs the community is making other beautiful items of daily use,” says Pradeep Singh of Dehradun, who has a stall of Ringal handicrafts in the Uttarakhand pavilion.

Another interesting item that has been grabbing eyeballs are soft mufflers made from the natural fibre of ‘Himalayan nettle’ (a plant species).  To buy this soft natural fabric one does not need to shell out more than Rs 400 as the product is still being promoted to draw attention. Lampshades made from the Ringal wood is also an interesting item that one can buy.

Since use of natural fibres is prevalent across the state, another variety Rambaans or Sisal is also being widely used for handicraft. The plant yields a light yellow shiny fibre which is used to make variety of items like laptop bags, purses, wall hangings, hats and showpieces. Sandeep Kandwal from Pauri Garhwal says, “The concept of Rambaans crafts has been in existence since the last 20 years but it has gained prominence in the last few years. It is used to manufacture marine and industrial ropes. It’s a soft and light fabric and these days is being used to make handicraft items.” The best feature of Rambaans crafts is that they are washable.

Besides, the matchless handlooms from Uttarakhand cannot be kept aside. Handwoven woollen shawls, pankhi, tweed, mufflers and chutka (blankets meant to withstand even the coldest winter) are available too.

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