Bamboo is a versatile resource for the tribals of Tripura — they use it in some form or the other in many aspects of their daily lives. The use of bamboo in agriculture and creating tools is common in tribal regions. Kaseleng, a trumpet-shaped basket made of cane and thin bamboo strips, is one such tool used. It was commonly used by jhum cultivators to store and transport paddy seeds.
During jhum cultivation, the cultivators had to climb up and make their way across steep hills. So, in order to carry the load of paddy seeds easily, they put the seeds inside the basket and tied it on the right side of the waist. This made climbing relatively easier, and transporting the seeds more effective.
The basket is about 8-10 inches in height and has a four-inch square base. One family that depends on jhum cultivation usually has 3-4 such baskets at home. Once woven, this basket lasts for many years, as it is made of bamboo, which is a strong material. Even if it does break, it is easily biodegradable and doesn’t harm the environment or cause any soil pollution.
The bamboo is cut from the forest, making sure that it is at least one and half years old. The bamboo is then cut and split into fine strips. Two or three types of strips with minimal size variation are required for weaving this basket. Before weaving, the bamboo strips are soaked for a few minutes in water to make it flexible. This basket cannot be woven in a hurry as its strips are thin and fine, and one has to be very careful while weaving.
First, the base part of the basket is woven, followed by the sides, from bottom to top. Then, with the help of cane, two small, round handles are made and tied to the top round edges of the basket. The base is then turned into a trumpet-like shape, for which 12 thick, long cane strips and two thick, short cane strips are required. To make the base of the basket stronger, at first, the two sticks are inserted diagonally into the base and then all the 12 strips are inserted vertically around its trumpet-like shape.
Nowadays, these trumpet-shaped baskets are hardly seen, as people are not practicing jhum cultivation as often, and fewer people weave these types of baskets. These baskets are now seen only in museums. There are also a few tribal people in my village who collect them like antique pieces.
Note: This article has been written as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.