Meghalaya is the homeland of three ancient hill communities, the
Khasis, the Garos and the Jaintias. She is renowned for her scenic
beauty. Nature has affected man psychologically and in a metaphysical
sense. This has given rise to other interesting creative trends
that are characteristically symbolic, religious and pictographic.
There are a number of crafts found in Meghalaya and the significant
ones are cane and bamboo work, artistic weaving and wood carving.
However, difficulties are many. The extraction of bamboos from the
Garo Hills is a very difficult one that a man with a good experience
of the work would be necessary. Transportation poses as a hindrance
too. The most important of all difficulties is the necessary capital
required to undertake the work.
Species of Bamboo
Bamboo grows wild and some are specially grown. Meghalaya
is rich in the varied kinds of bamboo. Some species include Ryngngai,
a hard stem with thin
leaves; Tyr-a, a kind of jungle cane; Siej Shrah, a hard stem with
longer spans; Trylaw, prevalent in West Khasi Hills; Skong, a thin
stem somewhat corky bark; Siej, a small smooth stem; Siej lieh,
(a Koka Specie), Ry-ia-n, a thin bamboo with fewer leaves; Nam land,
very small tender shoot; Japung similar to a raddan plant; Kdait
(akra) and Sylli similar to Japung; Lana, a sort of broomstick,
Siej iong used as chunga, and tube for carrying water; Shken, this
has a smooth skin; Siej bri considered as an inferior bamboo; Rimet
and Riphin, these are canes. Ryngngai, this is used for constructions;
Try-a, this is used for making fences, barns and walls; Trylaw,
this is very good for factorial use and paper making; Ry-ia-in,
this is used as a string for moulding and wrapping; Kdait, this
is good for making house walls; Bamboo shoots or Lung siej, for
making condiments, is seen on the north; Straw or u Sder and Tynriew
a palm growing in the south are good for thatching housing.
Bamboo and Cane Crafts
Cane and bamboo craft occupies an important place in the economy
of the state, next only to agriculture. The artisans attend to the
craft when free from agriculture. The products of bamboo and cane
are mostly of two types, namely (i) articles required for day to
day use and of medium quality, more suited to local requirements;
and (ii) articles of finer quality, both decorative and functional,
to meet the requirements and tastes of more sophisticated markets.
The Khasis are known for creating attractive cane baskets and sieves.
The Garos are also rich in the various forms of bamboo culture.
Garo Hills are rich in bamboo and cane. Some of them include also
a few species resembling Khasi bamboo and cane. As bamboo groves
occupy a good quantum of forest lands, now further steps can be
taken to develop other small scale or supplementary mills. There
are many kinds of constructions and craft made from bamboo such
as various kinds of basket and mat making. The semi-tropical climatic
condition characterise the bamboo culture and influence the growth
of a rich variety of bamboo. Articles such as baskets (locally known
as khok or thugis) are popular. Artistic baskets known as meghum
khoks are made in the Garo Hills, and are used by tribals to store
valuable items including clothes.
Pokerwork, in which designs are burnt into the bamboo with a red-hot
pointed rod, is also done by the Garos. Khasi women in Meghalaya
wear an attractive large round hat composed of a circular bamboo
frame with a thick brim that is covered with cloth. The crown is
worked with a pretty lattice design of cane at the edge and the
top, each triangle in the pattern being tipped with a small circular
blob. Mats, moorahs and Khasi umbrellas (locally known as kurup)
are made in light and medium qualities.
The skills involved in these crafts have been handed down from
one generation to the other through centuries. Bamboo / Cane being
a readily available commodity in the North Eastern States, almost
every conceivable household item is made out of this raw material.
The items made out of Cane and Bamboo include furniture, cradles
for babies, headgears, rain-shields, baskets for transportation
/ storage of items, containers, dishes/ saucers/ spoons/ fork, fish/
animal traps, tribal costumes and related accessories, musical instruments
such as flute/ trumpet/ mouth organ/ cup violin, tobacco pipe, tribal
implements/ weapons and Mats. Babmoo/ Cane is also extensively used
for construction of traditional houses.
Costumes and Jewellery
The three major tribes of Meghalaya have distinct costumes and jewellery.
However, with the change of time as in the rest of the country,
the males have adopted the western code of dress leaving the ladies
to continue the tradition of ethnic sartorial elegance.
The Khasi lady wears a dress called 'Jainsem' which flows loose
to the ankles. The upper part of her body is clad in a blouse. Over
these, she ties both ends of a checkered cotton cloth on one shoulder,
thus improvising on apron. On formal occasions, worn over the 'Jympien'
is a long piece of Assam muga silk called 'Ka Jainsem Dhara' which
hangs loose below the knees after being knotted or pinned at the
shoulders. The 'Tapmohkhlieh' or head-shawl is either worn by knotting
both ends behind the neck or is arranged in a stylish manner as
done with a shawl.
The Jaintia maidens dresses like her Khasi counterpart but with
the additional of a 'Kyrshah' - a checkered cloth tied round the
head during harvesting. On formal occasions, however, she dons a
velvet blouse, drapes a striped cloth called 'Thoh Khyrwang', sarong
style round her waist and knots at her shoulder an Assam muga piece
hanging loose to her ankles. In contrast, the Garo women wears a
blouse, a raw cotton 'Dakmanda' which resembles a 'Lungi' and the
'Daksari' which wrapped like a 'Mekhla' as worn by Assamese ladies.
The jewellery of the Khasis and the Jaintias are also alike and
the pendant is called 'Kynjri Ksiar', being made of 24 carat gold.
The Khasis and the Jaintias also wear a string of thick red coral
beads round their neck called 'Paila during festive occasions. The
Garo ladies wear Rigitok, which are thin fluted stems of glass strung
by fine thread.
Information on Traditional Crafts, arts, handicrafts of Meghalaya