Kodaikanal Banana Fibre Bags

Banana fibre is one of the oldest materials widely used in Asia since the ancient times as per archaeological evidence discovered. In Akhanda Bharat specially, banana is referred to as the kalpa vriksha, with every part used for either culinary purposes or household uses or to make shelters.


As India is the largest producer of bananas in the world, it has taken the lead since 2014 to use banana stalks to make textile fibre to reduce the huge amounts of agricultural waste products, to create a sustainable cottage industry and to provide steady employment to marginalized communities in the rural sector.


This pilot project of the central government has seen tremendous success in the last few years in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Banana fibre is known to be strong, durable, soft and fine in texture and relatively easy to work with. Due to its varying thickness and pliability, it is used with different textiles to make blankets, carpets, rugs and durries.


Sundried banana fibres extracted from the stalks are brought to the workshop in the early hours of the morning from the fields. The fibres are thoroughly cleaned in water and then mud to remove any impurities.


The banana fibre is then carefully peeled and sliced into the required size and length. The pith of the banana stalk is removed. The strands are washed again to make them soft. The banana fibre peeled is used to make twine.


Two peeled strands of half inch width are manually twisted together and then gently pressed on a rubber sheet or surface to make the banana rope. Banana yarn is made by twisting the peeled banana strands by hand.


The banana twine is soaked in water so that it becomes soft and pliable to make bags. The artisans follow the typical crochet weaving technique to make the bags. There is a skilful combination of needle and hand movement while weaving the base and sides of the bag.


Excess banana twine is cut with scissors and the entire bag is scrutinized before attaching the handle that is weaved separately. Coasters, table mats, yoga mats and some floor mats are made by braiding the slices of banana fibre and then coiling them to make the required size and shape.


A variety of products like lamps, purses, files, laptop bags, tote bags, pen boxes, cushion covers, wall hangings, door decorations, tool bags, tea bags, sanitary napkins and others are made from this biodegradable wonder fibre.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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