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The craft of basket making is commonly known as ‘Tokri Bunna’ in India. Evolved to make containers for nomads to carry food and collectables, the craft is an ancient one, only after pottery. These baskets are made of grass and take new shapes every mile.

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Introduction:

Usage:

Tokri is a multifunctional container used for a wide spectrum of utilities. Traditionally, ‘Tokris’ were used as a container for storing jewelry, cloth as well as other items offered during weddings. But now they are also used to store flowers and foods such as roti, vegetables and fruits. The stored items remain fresh in these baskets due to the preservative properties inherent in the grass and the gaps left between the woven strands. Many interesting forms based on the functionality have been observed. In the coastal areas, where fishing is an occupation, baskets with pointed reed or bamboo jetting out as tools are made, these are used to kill the fish in the shallow waters as well as store them fresh within. The artisans of Ranidongri make the baskets in a very peculiar fashion too, and take them to be sold at weekly Haats in nearby villages and cities (Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra). These are usually made to function well as food storage for both raw and cooked food.


Significance:

The life span of the baskets is about one and half to two years. A unique quality of these baskets is their ability to keep the stored items cool and ventilated. It’s circular form and aesthetics is also unique to the ‘Amla’ village. The grass with which the basket is made is not eaten by grazing animals when it grows. They can eat it only when it is wet, which makes it available most of the times. These are cut during winters, dried and then worked on after making them wet.

During festive season, the men of the community flock to nearby villages, singing songs of yore and narrating stories door to door. While women of the community weave baskets which are then sold in nearby villages and cities.


Myths & Legends:


History:

Weaving of baskets is a functional craft and it is as ancient as pottery in India. The ancient nomadic food gatherers wove reeds together to prepare baskets to hold their food or other collectibles. Later, with the advent of different cultures, basketry took shape both for domestic and ritualistic purposes. Pieces of Neolithic Age pottery show that the clay molded around a basket structure. Stone Age pots were often ornamented with basket-work patterns sculpted on stone surfaces.

Although basket-work is of a more perishable nature than pottery, due to the extremely dry atmosphere and the preserving sand, it is chiefly in Egypt that ancient baskets in a good state of preservation have been brought to light after being buried for many centuries. Special patterns evolved according to the local traditions and techniques. Various styles are associated with basketry. The coiled style is the most famous one. The wicker weaving technique comes next in terms of fame. Colours are rarely used in this art, yet if the item has to look impressive, bright colours are generally preferred. Colours that are applied are most of the times are natural dyes. In Betul, this craft was believed to be spread by craftsmen who had migrated from Uttar Pradesh.


Design:

The parts of a basket are the base, the side walls, and the rim. A basket may also have a lid, handle or embellishments. A wide variety of patterns may be made by changing the size, color or by placement of a certain style of weave. To achieve a multi-coloured effect, the craftsmen sometimes first dye the twine and then weave the twines together in elaborate patterns.


Challenges:

The particular kind of grass used is found quite far away from the settlement. The craftsmen have to walk almost 10-12 kms to collect the reeds. The difficulty in obtaining grass and its slow depletion has led to less than 100 craftsmen homes carrying on the craft.


Introduction Process:

The craftsmen sort off the reeds or grass, plucked from river banks and dried, sitting in their verandahs. They then weave their circular baskets or Tokris, sometimes dyeing a few reeds to pattern the baskets. It takes one person an entire day to weave one basket.


Raw Materials:

Grass: It grows in the rains along the banks of rivers. Kaas, Fara, leaves of the palm tree are a few in use.
Pigments: The artisans procure pigments from local market to color the grass into variety of colors.


Waste:


Tools & Tech:

Chaku: These are knives used to cut the grass and are available in various sizes.
Dhrathi: This is a splicing tool.


Rituals:


process:

The craftsmen sort off the reeds or grass, plucked from river banks and dried, sitting in their verandahs. They then weave their circular baskets or Tokris, sometimes dyeing a few reeds to pattern the baskets. It takes one person an entire day to weave one basket.

The grass is harvested in winter and the peel of the stalks are left out in the dew for about 3 days for the color to lighten. Some splits are dyed brightly to pattern the baskets; these give the Ranidongri baskets their characteristic touch.

To make the baskets, the reed is first split and shaved. The grass splits are then made wet with water for ease of use and effective fit. A helical spiral is made from grass splits and pointed palm leaves are then coiled over the length of the grass spiral. The subsequent pitches of helix are also stitched together with the help of palm leaves, which results in a semi-spherical shape of the basket. No thread or other material is used for the construction of baskets. While coiling with palm leaves, the artisans place dyed leaves at regular interval to create the characteristic pattern in their baskets. 


Cluster Name: Ranidongri-Betul

Introduction:

Their sounds like the sound of the earth, their dancing like the moves of a bird. They sing the welcoming song to invite us in their house, while we sit around their mud-clad, simple but beautiful courtyard, engulfed by the depth of their voices and eyes equally. There are places where guests are treated like Gods. Ranidongri in Betul district is one such village, with population less than 1000.
district Ranidongri-Betul
state Madhya Pradesh
population 1392 (2020)
langs Hindi, Oriya
best-time August-March
stay-at village rest houses or stay at Puri
reach Chandanpur village is 14 km from Puri on NH 203 ( Puri-Bhubaneswar Road), a right turn to reach Raghurajpur (1-2 km from Chandanpur)
local Small Village
food home made food

History:

The village was inhabited by native farmers and there is no written or documented historical data on this village. Though, the villagers pass on the tales of their ancestors verbally.

Geography:

Ranidongri is a village in Amla Tehsil in Betul District of Madhya Pradesh, India. It belongs to Narmadapuram Division. It is located 27 KM towards the East from District headquarters Betul and 193 Km from State capital Bhopal. Ranidongri is surrounded by Multai Tehsil towards the South, Betul Tehsil towards the West, Ghoradongri Tehsil towards the North, Prabhat Pattan Tehsil towards the South. Other nearby cities to Ranidongri are Sarni, Multai, Betul, Shendurjana.

Environment:



Infrastructure:

There is a gravel road which cuts off from the main asphalt road and reaches to the village. Several clusters of houses with conical roofs covered with clay tiles come in view while entering the village. There is no consistent supply of electricity or water supply in this village. The village depends on the wells. All the major facilities such as schools, hospitals, banks, post offices and shops can be availed from the nearby cities and villages.

Architecture:

Traditional materials for construction are used, for example mud, grass, bamboo, stones and clay tiles. Almost every part of home is made by hands without the use of any construction machinery. The size and shape of structure is decided as per family size and members. A platform is common to all the abodes which is used for various domestic purposes. Building one's own house for shelter is a prevalent tradition in Indian villages, but nowadays 'Pakka makan' of brick and cement has become a status symbol. Hence many new constructions can be seen in this village.

Culture:

The inhabited area of the village can be divided in two parts, in one part famers and other upper caste families live while the other part is accommodated by families belonging to lower castes and social groups. During festive season, the men of the community flock to nearby villages, singing songs of yore and narrating stories door to door, the people listen to them with great interest and in return give them money and other commodities as gifts. Some families even invite them to their ceremonial celebrations, where Ranidongri men perform all through the night. This is how they support their families. While women of the community weave baskets which are then sold in nearby villages and cities.

People:

Majority of population is engaged in agricultural activities. Sing song stories of great men and women from our history and mythology are taken to many surrounding districts by the men of this village, seeking for their livelihood while the women continue weaving in the compound. Men wear Dhotis and Bandi (vest) or Kurta and a waist jacket. Women wear Sarees in typical Marathi style. These days however a major population of the youth has taken up dressing in T-shirts and pants.

Famous For:



Craftsmen

List of craftsmen.

Documentation by:

Team Gaatha

Process Reference:

Visit and interview people at Ranidogri

Cluster Reference:

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