Manipur Arts and Crafts

Bamboo, a forest resource in Manipur is abundantly grown in Churachandpur, Jiribam, Tamenglong and Imphal districts. Manipur is the largest producer bamboo products after Tripura in the entire north east. Some of the bamboo products are sofa sets, murhas, mats, basketry, tray, chair, table, flower vase, ashtray and other decorative and utility articles. Production of cane articles have been reducing because of scarcity of cane due to Jhum (Shifting) cultivation widely practiced in the hill areas.

Stone carving is a traditional craft of Manipur. In Bishnupur district utility items like bowls, candle-stands, grinders, flower-vases, stone glasses, and plates… are made. Manipuris has a custom of constructing an engraved memorial stone for their deceased describing their achievements and good deeds near the village. So stone carving was popular even from earlier days.

Kauna is a type of reed usually grown in the wetlands and marshes.  Imphal valley of Manipur is the centre for kauna crafts. This is often used for making mats, Chairs, cushion, coasters, bags, moorah… Those products are in great demand in Manipur.

Wood Carving is also a craft popular in Manipur. Due to absence of proper transport and communication with other parts of India, craftsmen had to depend on wood as material for making various articles of utility. The main products are wooden tray, spoon and drum…

Textile weaving is a house hold industry in Manipur. Coarse cotton cloth and silk is woven on the looms. Cotton thread is imported in large quantities. Cotton yarn is dyed with red, yellow, green, orange, black and pink colours. Artistic designs are arranged horizontally and vertically by producing stripes and geometrical blocks. These blocks are filled up with geometrical designs of smaller components. The rhythm of colour bands is maintained. This craft is also known by the name of Laichamphi which means cotton cloth. However, loin loom weaving caters to the local demands and requirements only.

In Manipur Dolls and Toys are made from different materials like cloth, cotton, clay, wood and bamboo etc. They have a charm of their own with their traditional outfits. Dolls include characters like Radha Krishna, Khamba and Thoibi… Toys include caricatures of various animals and birds.

Hand Embroidery is a popular craft practiced by both men and women folk in Manipur. There are about ten different varieties of embroideries. Namthang-Khut-hut, Khamenchatpa Kabui, Singh Nangpan (Flag Design) Motrangphee (Temple Design) are some of the main embroidery designs. Tablecloth, bed-cover, handkerchief, T.V. covers… are the major products. Prominent legendry figures and animal motifs are stitched with perfection. Hand Block printing is another popular craft in Manipur. Printed pillow covers and bed-sheets are common products.

Longpi village is famous for age old pottery making locally called Longpi Ham. The material used in Longpi is made from a mixture of Black serpentine stone and weathered rock which are mixed in a three to one ratio. The strength is provided by the Serpentite rock and the weathered rock acts as a binding agent. The paste formed from these is then rolled by hand into desired shapes. The structures of saucer cups, kettle, frying pan, fruit bowls, cooking pot etc are put in a kiln and set on fire for around five to nine hours till it reaches 900째 C. After which it is polished with local leaves called pasania pachiphylla (scientific name) which provides the luster to its surface. 

There is no use of chemicals, machines or wheel in the making of this pottery and hence it is very hygienic. It is also known to prevent morning sickness for pregnant women.

Besides its medicinal values, it holds an elite status in Manipur and is used during major occasions like marriage and Luira festival. With a black background and few motifs, this art form expunges the “great divide” of practicality and ethnicity. An absolute must for eco – friendly enthusiasts!