Origin: The Reed plant is indigenous to Manipur. For centuries, in Meitei culture reed or Kouna is connected to deity Phakamgba. Legend has it that it is the reincarnation of deity Phakamgba. Therefore, the inhabitants of Manipur hold a deep spiritual and emotional connection with Kouna.
Originally belonging to Thoubal district, Kouna is strong and elastic. The humble artisans have been dipping their hands in this paddy straw tinted grass. Historically, kauna mat is famous for curing backache once the patient lies on it. It is also used a herb to cure fever
India embraces a strong ancient craft heritage that speaks of resource optimisation, waste management and sustainable material usage. This grass craft symbolizes the same.
Present Day: The cultivation of Kouna has reached new heights. Today reed mat have a huge demand in India as well as in international market. U.K, U.S, Germany, France, Switzerland, UAE are customers of this mat. The main reason being, apart from its aesthetic appeal this craft is also eco-friendly, non-pollutant and biodegradable.
The Government is also adopting various steps to encourage this craft. Recently, a 15-day-long Livelihood Skill Development Programme on the crafts of Kouna (water hyacinth ) was launched under the sponsorship of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Around 30 women participated in the training program.
A large number of entrepreneurs are collaborating with artisans and helping them discover new market opportunities. They are infusing different design elements in the craft and increasing its fashion quotient.
Procedure: Kouna cultivation calls for a smaller investment in comparison to paddy. Once planted, it helps in earning higher income and products for approximately 25-30 years.
The tools employed in the crafting procedure are hammer, nails, needle and knife. Firstly, 2 to 4 inches of steps above the stump are cut. This is followed by drying them in sunlight for one day and roasting it for 2 days. The resultant is a golden yellowish colour. Post this, the reeds are bundled and stored. For 10 to 15 minutes, they are wet. Next step is to chop the reeds against the size of the moulds. Sized reeds are woven around the mould. Once all the reeds are folded, the extras are removed.
Bring Home Reet Mats of Manipur: Visit the North East emporium to buy these environment friendly mats. You can also buy them online from a plethora of handicraft websites.