Madhya Pradesh, in addition to the abundant forest reserves, is also rich with grasses, date palm trees (locally known as Chhind) and other similar vegetation.
Utilizing the naturally and locally available resources, villagers in many districts such as Mandla, Ujjain and Indore have over time mastered the art of weaving utility and home décor products made from potpourris of - date palm leaves, petioles, corn husks and stalks found across local habitations. The origins of this crafts form is traced back to the daily chore of making traditional jhadoos (brooms) woven and crafted out of matured leaves. This particular facet of rural artisan communities- brings to light the importance of ancestral and traditional legacy the present day handicrafts carry with them - almost metamorphosing from daily utility essentials to products characterized with beauty and aesthetics.
This unique selling point and versatile usage of Khajur or date palms exists where leaf weaving or some form of crocheting is a daily chore in the life of a villager. Traditional brooms handcrafted by villagers - find a refuge in almost every household where leaf weaving has a generational legacy in most of the villages.
Upon interviewing some artisans on where did they derive their color wisdoms from to master this art- some were quick to state that most of the contemporary designs and color experiments were television or media inspired; of course over and above benefitting from numerous trainings & workshops organized by the central, state and district administrations through schemes such as the Swarnajayanti Grameen Swarozgar Yojana etc.
Men and women who indulge in weaving & crocheting this dried foliage into colorful flowers, vases and other artifacts thereby underscore the importance of waste management and recycling by simultaneously highlighting the importance of natural resources and their constraints.
Thus an interdependence of livelihoods and natural resources is what one witnesses while studying artisans, men and women engaged with such distinctive crafts.
It is worth noting here that Khajur handicrafts have excellent durability. Mostly made with original matured date palm leaves, these products retain their original greenish-skin colour there by preserving the authenticity of the raw materials. However, keeping in mind the customer choices - these craftsmen experiment with petiole & leaf colour dying, adding myriad range to the already embellished spectacles leaving inherited imprints of their aesthetic sensibilities in our daily lives !
Views expressed in this article are personal.