|A beautiful sikki basket|
Have you noticed the beautiful baskets carried by Tharu women on their heads during festivals and processions? The baskets made of sikki or golden grass hold a special significance – they are not only important during the festivals but also during rituals like marriage and worships. However, once a daily-use item woven in every household, the basket is getting rare these days, only to be found in some handicraft selling shops.
I remember my granny giving me puffed rice and snacks in sikki baskets when I visited them during my minpachas, the winter school breaks in the 80s. during the summer vacation, I would see most of my neighbours weaving sikki baskets in their free time. The bunds on the rice fields would have clumps of sikki grass. The banks of ponds and riverside had abundance of sikki grass. Interestingly, we could find the sikki grass even in the low-lying fields of the Kathmandu Valley.
However, it’s difficult to find sikki grass on the bunds, instead farmers have started growing lentils like black gram on the bunds to better use their land. The community ponds and water sources are vanishing and together with them the sikki grass. This has impacted the sikki basket weaving culture as well. Together with sikki grass, a softer variety of silver grass called gabaha in the local language in the southern plains is also getting rarer. Women have been using this grass to weave bigger baskets to store grains and agriculture produce. However, due to prevalence of plastic containers, the making and using of these baskets is dwindling. Not only these baskets but beautiful sikki hand fans and boxes to put jewellery and other valuable items are a rarity these days.
Despite the slump in the sikki and gabaha basket weaving, some non-government organisations and cooperatives have been training and encouraging women to take up this old tradition of weaving these beautiful baskets. They collect these baskets and sell them at handicrafts shops and even export to foreign countries.
Since sikki is considered pure, many people use these baskets while offering pooja and flowers to gods. They are also used as decorative items to decorate walls and rooms. In neighbouring India, they have been creating golden grass craft items, selling them online and exporting them. They have been making boxes of different shapes and sizes, hand fans, artistic files, dining table mats, pen stands, and gift boxes among others.
|Sikki grass products|
It is the need of the moment to diversify the sikki products and come up with better and beautiful designs to find more customers. However, the first and foremost thing we need to do is to conserve the golden or sikki grass and plant more of them near water sources where they grow naturally. Once the raw material is found in abundance and the young people are trained in the art of weaving different items of sikki grass, they will continue with this tradition of making beautiful sikki baskets. And the baskets will reach a wider audience rather than just being showcased during the festivals and processions!