If one were to look up how bamboo can be used in different ways, its versatility may surprise many of us.
India stands second after China in the production of bamboo in the world and Assam is the largest producer of bamboo in the entire country. There are around 51 species of naturally grown bamboo in the state and it plays a crucial role in the daily lives of the people of the region.
On World Bamboo Day today, let us read how special this plant can be.
Species of bamboo found in Assam:
The four main species of bamboo found in Assam are:
- Muli (Malocanna Bambusoides).
- Hill Jati (Oxytenanthera Parvifola)
- Kako (Dendrocalamus Hamiltoni)
- Dalu (Teinostachyum Dalloa)
Bamboo can be found all over the state of Assam. However, a few districts among others have a major concentration of bamboo. They are North Cachar Hills, Cacher, Karbi Anglong, Nagaon, and Lakhimpur.
Bamboo and its bond with the state:
In Assam, bamboo holds a special place in the lives of the people. From making furniture and other items from bamboo to its use in various rituals and ceremony, more than half of the population of the state depends on bamboo for their livelihood.
The state has a thriving bamboo industry. Assamese people have acquired immense knowledge and developed expertise while working with bamboo for ages. Bamboo products are used in almost each and every household in one form or the other in Assam. Few of the many household products include houses made of bamboo, baskets, ladders, hand-fans, mats, etc.
How NE India uses bamboo in unique ways
1. Bamboo Drip Irrigation
For the past 200 years, tribal farmers residing in Khasi and Jaintia hills of Meghalaya have used bamboo to make pipes for an effective drip irrigation system. Through this, almost 18 to 20 liters of water enters the bamboo pipes per minute and is used by the farmers to water their betel nut and black pepper crops.
To construct the system, bamboo columns are split in half and the channel is smoothened using a local chisel known as dao. Bamboo of varying sizes can be used in the system to regulate the flow of water. Different adjoining pipes also allow for diverting of water from the same system to different villages.
Jaapi is a conical hat that is a symbol of honour in Assam. This hat is gifted as a gesture of gratitude and respect, and it holds a unique place in the culture of the state. This hat is produced from tightly woven bamboo and tokou paat (palm leaves).
3. Bamboo shoot
The mere mention of bamboo shoots can make anyone salivate, as this simple ingredient adds a punch of flavour to many authentic dishes cooked in the region.
Widely used across different northeastern states, this versatile ingredient can be consumed fresh, dried, or fermented. Pickles and curries made using bamboo shoots are delicious and also nutritious as the ingredient is low on calorie and sugar content while being rich in fibre. The bamboo shoot is basically a new sprout of the bamboo plant which typically emerges in the spring season.
4. Bamboo as medicine:
Not just furniture and food, bamboo is also used as traditional medicine in Assam. From a cure for toothaches, hypertension, dandruff, body pains, etc., bamboo has many takers who believe in its healing properties.
5. Bamboo hollows for cooking
Bamboo hollows have for long been stuffed with rice or meat (wrapped in plantain leaves) which is later cooked on coal embers. The smoke from the burnt bamboo gives a special taste to the dishes.
To prepare the bamboo as a vessel, the cylindrical column is vertically split halfway from the top keeping the bottom part intact. The column is then washed and later filled with water to be kept overnight. The moisture that is absorbed by the bamboo helps in the cooking process. Later the water is removed and the small raw food parcels are stuffed into the column.
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