Published On: May 7, 2023738 words3.7 min read

What is Kauna Grass?
This type of perennial grass commonly known as Kauna grass is mainly found in the foothills of the Himalayas in the northeastern part of India. This grass grows up to two meters in height and has a wide-spreading root. In Manipur, it is produced as a crop along with rice as it has various uses and recently it is also being exported. The stems of this grass are cylindrical in shape and have a spongy structure which enables them to be weaved into various things. These grass reeds are harvested thrice a year and hence are quite profitable as well.

Processing of the Grass
As this grass needs a lot of water to grow, farmers cultivate the Kauna Grass along with Rice. The grass is harvested whenever it has reached its full height which is about 6 feet. After harvesting, special care is taken to dry these grass reeds properly as moisture in them may cause molds in the finished products. Also, special care must be taken while drying them as they catch fire very easily from any slightest source of heat. Usually, the grass is spread out everywhere in the household to make sure plenty of sunshine is received. The insides of the reeds contain a spongy structure. It is said that the spongier the reed, the better the quality of finished products. The fully dried reeds are then used in their natural form or are dyed to weave various things.

To make any product, first, the reeds need to be woven into a flat oval or circular formation which makes a strong and firm base. Then, the spokes of grass from the base are directed upward. This part is called the Warp. The warp is then interwoven with another portion known as the Weft. Simple weaving tools are used to make the patterns and textures as per requirement. The grass strands are woven very tightly to ensure a firm and durable structure. 

Sometimes, to make various shapes, a reference mold is used and the reeds are woven around it to get the required shape. To make items in bulk, molds made from plywood or tin are often used.

Finished Products
The Kauna grass can be used to make a variety of products. The most commonly made products are baskets, mattresses, bags, etc. Materials like glitter, leather accessories, and embroidery are often added to enhance the appearance of the finished products.  The trendiest products among Manipuri Locals are mats, hats, mattresses, and cushions that are often used as household furniture. 

Effect on Economy
As mentioned earlier, farmers cultivate Kauna Grass along with rice. The grass needs a freshwater ecosystem to sustain itself. Hence, freshwater ponds are also used for fishing. The grass is harvested three times a year, and along with fishing, the farmers have plenty of food and resources to fulfill their basic needs. On average, a family earns around Rs.12000 a month from making decorative items of this grass. Overall, the Kauna Grass has provided a stable source of income for the women of Manipuri villages as the demand for products increases these days.

Current Scenario
Traditionally the products made of Kauna Grass were used for household purposes like farmer hats, cushions, mattresses, mats, and other pieces of furniture. Even the designs were kept simple for personal use. For ceremonial purposes, some colors and decorations were used. But today with the abundance of crops, it has been possible to export raw materials and finished products worldwide. The baskets and bags made from weaving Kauna grass reeds have become very popular souvenirs among foreigners who want to bring a piece of our country along with them, as weaving combined with traditional embroidery patterns gives a very sophisticated look to the finished products.  In an article by Hindustan Times in January 2023, it is mentioned that Beach Bags for Women is an essential accessory to compliment your beach attire in style and it has various perks like being spacious, durable, and environment friendly.

Today it is easier to export and reach out to farmers as we have better connectivity, and technology has also helped us get access to these items at our fingertips. Recently has organized workshops to educate the women of Manipur about this beautiful art of weaving and the finished products are available for buying directly from their online platform.


Writer: Madhurima Sengupta

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