Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Japi made of bamboo- The ethnic identity of Assam

Bamboo and leaf headgear is the most indispensable item of the open air workers. Such ordinary headgears are produced throughout the State. ‘Chhatas’ on commercial basis are largely produced in some villages (e. g. Rangpur, Chinipatan, etc.) of Cachar district and supplied mainly to neighboring tea-gardens and some parts of Nowgong district. The products are generally carried on shoulder loads to the nearby ‘hats’ and sold to consumers in retail or to middlemen in bulk.

Many varieties of ‘Japis’ such as ‘halua japi’, ‘pitha japi’, ‘sorudoiya japi’, ‘bordoiya japi’, ‘cap japi’, etc. are produced in the districts of Kamrup, Nowgong, Darrang, Sibsagar and Lakhimpur. Nalbari and its neighbouring villages (such as Kamarkuchi, Mughkuchi, etc.) of Kamrup district deserve special mention in respect of manufacturing of ‘fulam japis’ (decorated bamboo umbrellas). In olden days, this particular type of ‘japis’ served as headgears for the females of noble and rich families, but now it has become outdated. Productions of ‘fulam japis’ are now only intended to serve as items of drawing-room decorations.

 This traditional headgear (japi) is made of strips of bamboo and a special kind of dried palm leaves locally known as ‘tokow-pat’. The manufacture of ordinary ‘japi’ does not require any special skill. First of all, the selected bamboos are split into small strips of required sizes. Then the strips are woven in open hexagonal design into a circular disc with a dome in the centre for the head to fit in, putting a few dried ‘tokow’ leaves (previously cut into required sizes) in between two such discs and finally sewing them securely with yarn and fine strands of cane. Thus, the manufacture of ordinary ‘japi’ is completed.

A japi is more advantageous to the cultivators and other open air workers than the conventional umbrella, because the cultivator after putting it on can tie the strings around his chin leaving his hands free to work in any position-standing, squatting or stooping. ‘Japi’ can also be called a poor man’s umbrella, because of its cheap price.

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