Golden Grass Handicrafts

Very few things are more than seven years old here…

October 28-29, 1999. The century’s most devastating cyclone pounded Orissa on India’s Bay of Bengal coast, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction. Travelling at a furious speed of 280 kilometers per hour, the storm, accompanied by blinding rain, uprooted trees and electric poles, destroyed homes and communication towers. With rivers in spate, it flooded huge areas in almost all the coastal districts. The worst havoc was wrought in the Ersama and Balikuda blocks of Jagatsinghpur district where the cyclone made its landfall and the surging sea waves swept everything away as far as 30 kilometers inland. Nearly 10000 men, women and children perished in the catastrophe and hundreds of thousands lost their homes and livelihood. It was in this framework that a group of artisans came together to weave the strands of their lives together.

Unnayan began in the area after identifying 25 artisans. Weaving golden grass was a traditional skill… women would weave articles of household use with Kaincha. Unnayan brought in professional designers, who trained the artisans in techniques of contemporary design.

This input transformed kaincha weaving into an economic activity that gave these women a source of income. It transformed Kaincha into the Golden Grass handicraft that you find in markets today.

Golden Grass (Vetiver zizanoids), or Kaincha, as it is known locally, derives its name from its natural golden colour. Found in the wild in parts of coastal Orissa, Kaincha grows to a height of about 6 ft.

Kaincha collection is a labour intensive process and is usually undertaken by women who often have to swim through neck-deep water to reach areas where the grass flourishes. After collection, the flowering portion at the top of the stem is removed. The remainder is carefully splintered into two pliable strips.

These strips are sun-dried till they assume a warm golden hue. Artisans wishing to incorporate more colour in their work, dye the strips at this stage. The dried strips are the raw material used to weave Golden Grass handicrafts.

The grass is split into two even strands and left out to dry. The women use their teeth to split each stem along its length.

Once split, the strips is dried in the sun. Drying imparts the distinctive golden colour to Kaincha.

Drying “ripens” the kaincha from a bright green to a warm yellow.

A few strands dyed in contrasting bright colours were, at times, woven into traditional handicrafts to offset the rich golden colour of Kaincha and to highlight intricate patterns.

Chemical dyes that were locally available were often used.
Nowadays, artisans prepare and use natural dyes. They often experiment with non-traditional colour combinations!

Golden grass weaving today, even in its market-oriented avatar, retains its roots as a home-based industry and requires very little money to establish. Locally available material and existing skills are leveraged to generate income for a family. The production process requires simple, low-cost tools. Even the most intricate weaves require little more than a needle with a wooden handle and a shaving blade.

Market-economics lean towards the products that are massproduced, where complex equipment is used to produce standardized cheap goods. Kaincha production remains an artisanskill – the results are intricate handicrafts, not “goods”. Unnayan affirms the need for maintaining this tradition while simultaneously working towards creating a market for Kaincha.

Artisanship and Handicrafts
To be called an artisan, one requires a high degree of proficiency in one’s chosen skill…

To be called an artisan, one requires profound knowledge of one’s traditions; deep understanding of design…

To be called a handicraft, a “product” requires the artisan who made it to feel proud about his or her creation.

Perhaps the golden sheen of every Kaincha article comes, in part, from this pride: of the artisan who fashioned it. And perhaps partly because it is aware that it is a handicraft, not a product.





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Contact Us

Coordinating Office
HIG- 185, Kanan Vihar Phase - 1
PO Patia, Bhubaneswar – 751031
Orissa, India
Ph - +91-674-274-1112, 274-1198
Fax- 0674- 2743033 (attn: Unnayan

Field Office -
Unnayan,At- Tambakhuri, Po. Rajghat, District. Mayurbhanj, Orissa, PIN: 756030.
Ph: +91-6781-237841