What is Sabai Grass?
Commonly known as the Chinese Alpine Rush, Sabai Grass is a perennial grass belonging to the Poaceae Family. This is mainly grown in Asian countries like Nepal, India, China, Thailand, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Pakistan. In India, Sabai grass is cultivated in the southern foothills of the Himalayas.
The main use of Sabai grass is for manufacturing writing and printing paper. Ropes are also made of this grass which is very strong and durable.
Processing of the Grass
In the Jhargram District of West Bengal, Sabai Grass cultivation is an essential part of the cottage industry. In Bengal, this grass is also known as Babui Grass. The soil in Jhargram is mostly unfertile and contains rocks. But this doesn’t affect cultivating Sabai grass as the plant can thrive well under these conditions and it does not even require much water to grow.
The process of preparing the grass for making various products is quite an easy method. The grass is first harvested and then left to be dried in the sun. They are then sorted according to their lengths so that they can be packed into bundles.
To make ropes, the dried grass is twisted by hand and then a Clincher rim is used to tighten the twists of the rope. The rough edges of the twists are removed and then packed into bundles. Sometimes, the grass is braided instead to obtain a different pattern. Often the grass is colored using natural dyes. The grass strands are sorted into bunches. Appropriate amounts of dies are used to get the required color which is added to boiling water. The grass is then soaked in this water for a certain amount of time before again drying in the sun.
A wide range of products can be made from woven and colored Sabai Grass. Items like Charpais or cots, chairs, tables, baskets, and bags are very common household items made from this grass. The ropes are woven and braided into different patterns which can be used to make mats, coasters, wall hangings, and other decorative items as well.
Effect on Economy
In the villages of Jhargram making various things of Sabai grass is an important activity as it plays a significant role in providing employment to a large number of women and families. People there refer to Sabai Grass as ‘Money plant’ as it is a primary source of income for some people as well.
The tribal people of the Mayurbhanj district in Orissa also greatly depend on Sabai Grass Cultivation. Because of ill irrigation management, it is suitable to cultivate this grass in the district, and the Govt. of Odisha has also taken initiatives to promote the production of the grass in the district.
Due to various applications and uses, the production of various items and cultivation of this grass is quite common in some parts of Bengal and Odisha. NGOs in Sabai Craft train prisoners of the Civil Jail in Baripada, Odisha to make sofa sets and other furniture items. Initiatives by such NGOs and online platforms like ARTSofINDIA.in have helped to promote these unique craftworks and in return have provided employment to a lot of people.
– Madhurima Sengupta
(Writer at ARTSofINDIA.in)
Picture Source: ARTSofINDIA.in