Translated from Kokborok by Bibhuti Debbarma
Tripura’s tribal villages use bamboo in their daily lives in many ways, one of them being to create objects of daily use. One of these objects is a Doko (basket), which is made of bamboo strips. We use Dokos in many places like while collecting or carrying dry fuelwood, transporting food to and from jhum fields, collecting water, collecting vegetables, carrying vegetables to sell in the market, bringing things from the market, and more.
I’d also written about Kaselang, which is used to transport seeds to jhum cultivation sites, and Doko is quite similar to Kaselang.
Although tribals used to use Dokos in the ways mentioned above, the situation has changed today. Nowadays, people mostly make Dokos in smaller sizes to use as decorative items in their homes. The Doko makers or artisans are also fewer in number today, as people don’t want to spend time making them anymore.
Making Dokos isn’t an easy task and involves a lot of effort, from going to the jungle, cutting and stripping the bamboo, which is time and energy-consuming. Even though a few tribals still make and sell Dokos and put in all the effort needed, they are not frequently bought as people think they are too expensive to purchase. The reduction in demand is reducing the supply and the number of people skilled to make Dokos.
People make Dokos depending on the size they need and the usage. It is made only with the stripes of Wakur bamboo (Kokborok name) and it cannot be made with any other variety. After making the base of the Doko, thin and thick stripes are used alternatingly to create a beautiful pattern on the basket. The patterns are adjusted using bamboo sticks to ensure symmetry. A string is tied on opposite ends to help people carry them.
Since the Doko is made of bamboo stripes, it decomposes like every other organic material after it has served its purpose. This makes it a valuable alternative to plastic boxes, bags and baskets. Plastic is destroying the environment and bamboo products like Doko need to be encouraged to help people get easy access to a good alternative. Not only will this help the environment, but it will also encourage local artisans and businesses in tribal villages to continue making them, giving them a source of livelihood.
The children of the next generation will probably not know about Dokos. They are now usually seen only in jhum cultivations and not in villages. I hope more and more people learn about these bamboo products in Tripura and purchase them to help keep this tradition and culture of the tribals here alive.
Note: This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.