The beautifully woven traditional bamboo mat of tribal communities of Kerala - Kannadippaya (bamboo mirror mat) - with unique ‘kannadi’ design, will soon make its way into the Geographical Indications GI registry.
The Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) which has been working on the project for the last two years, is all set to file an application to get the coveted tag for the traditional mat. “The GI tag will provide an international market exposure to the traditional produce of the state, apart from boosting the local market visibility and opportunities,” said Dr Syam Viswanath, director KFRI.
This traditional mat woven only by tribal women, using slivers from special reed bamboo (thin-walled bamboo) ample in the forests of Western ghats is famed for its unique designs, appealing excellence and light refractive properties. The charm and health benefits of this natural sleeping mat are also famous as it provides warmth in cool season and a cool effect in summer.
Further, it is believed that those sleeping on this eco-friendly mat will not be susceptible to rheumatism and back pain.
A well finished kannadippaya – the square designs woven uniquely on this mat are called as ‘kannadi’ - reflects light differently due to unique arrangements of warps and wefts, creating different designs when viewed from different angles.
C. R. Elsy, former head of the IPR Cell of KAU, said the tribal weavers of the Kannadippaya inherited the craft from their parents especially from mothers to daughters passing from generation to generation. However, like many other traditional crafts, this craft was also struggling for survival due to lack of patronage.
Hardly around 60 weavers have been active in the weaving of this natural mat. First, it is difficult to master the skills involved in the crafting of the mat like making the kannadi designs on the mat, which is kept and preserved by tribals without any written documents. Second, like many other traditional products, the arrival of cheap plastic mats had dealt a severe blow to the market prospects of this natural mat of late, said Ms. Elsy.
“The craft will be a thing of past if the remaining tribal women abstain from the art of weaving. And it is against this backdrop, the University has decided to save the product by registering it with GI registry. Once the applications are submitted, the experts will meet the tribals engaged in the weaving for verification of the application details and upon convinced about the uniqueness of the product, the GI tag will be conferred under the Geographical Identification of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999,” said Ms Elsy.
Kannadipaya is widely woven by ethnic groups viz. Oorali, Mannnan, Muthuva and Kadar tribes mainly from Idukki, Ernakulum, Pathanamthitta, Palakkad and Thrissur districts. Other indigenous communities including Ulladan, Malayarayan, Malayan and Hill pulaya are also rarely engaged in its weaving.
The reed used for the mat is being sourced from interiors of forests in Idukki and nearby districts and can be easily identified by tribal people.