Muthuvans are the most reclusive tribe in Idukki district though their skill in creating unique bamboo mats and handicrafts items with various designs was unknown outside the tribal hamlet. It is natural as they prefer to live deep in the forest of Munnar having less contact with people from outside the hamlet.
The women is barely seen outside the huts as the tribal custom prevents it and their skill in creating the unique style of mats, handbags and other household items remained unnoticed.
The Edamalakkudy Muthuvan tribal grama panchayat is accessible when one travels on foot through the mountainous terrain about 18 kms from Pettymudy. As the handicrafts items are kept indoor without knowing its value, one has to ask for it if prefer to see them. The unique design which has different rhythms when closely seen in different angles make one aware of the dedication and care taken for creating them. And the sad side of the story is that it does not create a livelihood for the poor tribal women having no way of marketing them.
Sankuvathy of Sheddukudy said that she learnt the skill from her mother and it takes four full days to create a mat. The material for making the mats also needed skill in selecting the bamboo canes as only those with a particular period of growth are selected for making the handicrafts.
The mats are so nice that one can sleep on it, she claims adding that if properly kept it could be used for a very long time. They call the mat `Kannadipaya' (mirror mat) due to its nice surface. She said that the highest price she earned was Rs 200 and the items are sold only among the tribe who are now opting alternative items available in the markets of Munnar.
Muthulakshmi, another woman in Idaliparakudy, who is a skilled artisan, said that the new generation is less interested in learning the skill from the elders. “As alternative items are available, the making of the handicrafts items used by the tribe is slowly disappearing,'' she said.
Kanniyamma Ranganath, the panchayat president said that she could not do much to help the artisans as they could not be sold outside the hamlet. “There is virtually no demand for the items in the hamlet,'' she said.
However, with the creation of the Kudumbasree Community Development Society, the handicrafts of Edamalakkudy is expected to make a market outside also. Kudumbasree tribal consultant Biju said that they were planning to provide training to the interested women so that they could make a remunerative income. He said that if properly marketed, there will be good demand for the handicrafts for their unique design. “We are planning to bring the handicrafts items of Edamalakkudy to Ernakulam where a three-day exhibition of the Kudumbasree products will be held from Monday'', he said and added that the sole purpose is to introduce a unique work of art to the general public who have never seen them.